Bangladesh could achieve only a little more than half of the targets set by the World Bank Group for 84 projects and programmes in the last four years, says a draft performance review report of the World Bank Group.
The government’s prolonged processing requirements, delayed procurement and weak capacity are the major reasons behind the slow implementation of the projects, according to the report.
The multilateral lender has already given Bangladesh $10.06 billion under the Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for five years from fiscal 2015-16.
With the funding, it set some targets in sectors such as energy, transport, social protection, education, job creation, health, and climate and environment management.
Under the CPF, the lender will provide $12.26 billion from fiscal 2015-16 to 2019-20.
The WB has already given Bangladesh $7.79 billion in the last four years. It will provide $2.2 billion in the current fiscal year.
Earlier, the WB gave Bangladesh $8.38 billion from fiscal 2010-11 to 2014-15 under the CPF.
International Finance Corporation (IFC), a sister concern of the WB, already provided Bangladesh with $1.8 billion in the last four years. The amount was $783 million from fiscal 2010-11 to 2014-15.
The WBG’s another concern, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, gave the country $474 million in the last four years.
The WBG now proposes extending the tenure of the partnership framework for one more year to June 2021 so that Bangladesh government can deliver results.
Yet, the overall risk to achieving the CPF objectives in the next two years remains high, says the draft report sent to the finance ministry last month for its opinion.
“Investment operations [of WB-financed projects] have faced implementation delays due to a range of issues, including the government’s prolonged processing requirements, delayed procurement, weak counterpart capacity and high turnover of project staff.
“This has slowed disbursements, increased the cost of supervision, delayed achievement of results, and required frequent project extensions,” the WBG points out.
In Bangladesh, the reforms that involve changes in legislation and institutions often take more time than initially envisaged, it mentions.
“This may be due to the need for broad stakeholder consultation, relatively weak inter-governmental coordination, and the government bureaucracy.”
Beyond enacting laws and changing policies, the biggest challenge is implementing reforms, it added.
Politics and governance, institutional capacity, fiduciary management, and environment and social issues are among the factors that pose high risks to achieving the CPF objectives, according to the report.
The security situation and governance environment continue to pose significant risks. The WBG raised concerns in 2016 over potential deterioration of security and the political situation.
Security concerns rose sharply following the Holey Artisan Bakery attack in July 2016, which impacted the WBG’s field work and operations. With the government support, precautionary measures were taken to ensure WBG staff security.
While the recent general elections resulted in a landslide victory for the ruling party, political tensions remain, it said, adding that the WB is mitigating the political and governance risks to CPF implementation through continued investment.
Institutional capacity and accountability issues remain a challenge to implementation, notes the report.
Though some progress was made in strengthening fiduciary capacity, fiduciary risk remains high in case of CPF implementation.
Environmental and social risks remain high, the report said, suggesting continued effort to strengthen the capacity of the government and the private sector.
Lack of staff capacity to address land acquisition and resettlement issues also delayed implementation of some operations.
STATUS OF CPF OBJECTIVES
The power generation capacity and access to clean energy are among the targets that the country has achieved.
As of the end of January last year, WBG-funded projects added 2,531 megawatts of electricity, out of the target of 2,800MW, to the national grid, the report said.
The IFC financed the first liquefied natural gas import terminal in Bangladesh, increasing the natural gas supply by 20 percent.
There was some progress in maintenance of rural roads and bridges, but the project to improve river transport connectivity is off track, said the report.
It found mixed progress in improving basic services in urban areas.
The performance of municipalities in delivering services has improved, but there has been limited progress when it comes to increasing the number of beneficiaries with improved living conditions in select urban slums.
The report said there was progress in enhancing business environment. But the gains were fewer in regional trade.
With the WB and IFC support, $1.8 billion in direct private investment was made in 17 special economic zones at the end of 2018, surpassing the target.
The IFC supported 232 garment factories to improve their working environment, raising productivity and providing better access to jobs for women.
However, less progress was seen in facilitating cross border trade.
“Continued effort is needed to improve the investment climate,” it mentions.
Also, there has been progress in social protection area.
While access to education is improving, progress in ensuring its quality is inconclusive.
Some 700,000 out-of-school children were enrolled in primary schools, and 10.3 million poor students from 215 poorest upazilas are receiving stipends at the secondary level, surpassing the target.
But the WB’s contribution to improving quality of education could not be measured because relevant data was not available.
The country also achieved some targets for improving access to quality maternal and infant health services.
Mixed progress was made in climate and environment management area.
The target for improving disaster response is on track, and the country is expected to achieve the target for increasing the number of people with access to multipurpose shelters in vulnerable coastal districts.
“Improvements have been made in most areas measured by the WB’s World Governance Indicators -- except for indicators related to voice and accountability,” the report says, adding that the country’s overall governance scores remain lower than regional averages.