We have a simplistic binary explanation for sluggish execution of development projects. The other way of putting it would be the trading of blames between the implementing authority and the external funding agency should any project hit a snag. The former usually complains of disbursement delays on the part of a lending institution cluttered with formalities whilst the latter put it down squarely to the poor implementation capacity of the recipient country.
In the resulting see-saw of recriminations, if you like, we have had the misfortune with carry-over projects intruding into the list of new development works, sometimes with overlapping labels. What's more to the point, they entail a tell-tale mismatch between the physical and financial targets, let alone the quality shortfalls and time and cost overruns affecting development works.
As if that was not enough, a huge pipeline bulge worth US$18 bn stands testimony to unutilised, conversely undisbursed, development funds. For this unfortunate phenomenon we need to look inwards; basically set our house in order rather than wasting our breath on 'fit- all-size prescriptions of multi-lateral financing institutions, barring of course some notable exceptions. We have to perfect our implementation machineries with fixed-term directors, delegated powers to them, and supervised sequences by the Implementation, Monitoring ,Evaluation Division(IMED)-all for the sake of assured outcomes.
But there is a magic bullet to hit the bull's eye, as it were, of loan disbursement, utilisation and project implementation in an exemplary synchronization of dynamics. You discover a problem-solving formula in the ADB's '2016 Development Effectiveness Review released at the 50th Annual Meeting of ADB's Board of Governors in Japan's port city Yokohama last Friday.
We can rejoice in the fact that Bangladesh comes first on a list that includes China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam accounting for '66 per cent of all sovereign project and result-based lending disbursements' in the last year.'
Bangladesh's placement at top of the pile is because she scored the highest disbursement ratio of 23.4 percent of the total disbursed amount ofUS$823 million.
It is worthwhile to mention that as of December 31 last year, the ADB's cumulative lending to Bangladesh stood at US$18.3 bn besides $252.4 million in technical assistance and $787.10 million in grants.
Although the ADB is heartened by an improvement in the ratio of disbursement to the lending target, yet as much as 34 percent of the ADB lending goal remained unmet. This puts one in context about a country's obligation and capacity to absorb money on offer. Thus, our finance minister AMA Muhith while welcoming the appreciation of the ADB's Board of Governors noted, (Yes,)"Bangladesh is the star performer of the ADB loan utilisation, but we have a huge amount in the pipeline."
What deserves to be especially highlighted is the better performance was made possible by the concerted efforts of the ADB's South Asia Department. including the Bangladesh Resident Mission and those of the recipient country/countries.
The director general of the ADB's Strategy and Policy Department Indu Bhushan underscores the essence of the two-way traffic: "ADB will continue streamlining its operations so that it can deliver development solutions more quickly and effectively, while continuing to scale up finance for the region."
The contributing factors to perfectly coordinated outcomes have been aptly summed up in the ADB report thus: "Close monitoring of project implementation progress, strong collaboration between project team leaders and executing and implementing agencies in promptly resolving implementation issues related to procurement and safeguards, and focus on strengthening the capacity of executing agencies."
This tested strategy can now be build up on to optimise utilization of ADB's funds. On the horizon is the upcoming China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which, according to ADB's chief economist Yasuyuki Sawda, is seen as not a competing but a partnering bank to ADB.