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2011 - World Bank - Managing Road Assets


2011 - World Bank - Managing Road Assets

Maintaining roads is rarely seen as important.  It attracts neither the funding nor the expertise that in highway agencies around the world gravitate to big new construction projects.  And yet, prolonged neglect of maintenance can become costly and disruptive not only for road agencies, which have to spend more to rebuild roads once they have begun to fall apart, but also for road users, who suffer discomfort, slower speeds, and higher vehicle wear and tear on bad roads. 

As a major lender and source of technical guidance to highway agencies in developing countries, the World Bank has long struggled to help client road maintenance departments –who widely lack institutional capacity—to design, fund and implement road maintenance efforts that are timely and run a minimal risk of corruption.  In 1988 the Bank published a policy paper on this subject that drew attention to the alarming magnitude of the problem in developing countries, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, and recommended a new approach for tackling the endemic institutional weaknesses it identified. 

Now members of the same team that wrote that policy paper more than two decades ago take a fresh look at the age-old problem.  They examine how far the prescriptions offered then are still valid today, and to what extent recent developments warrant a rethinking of the recommended approach.  Key findings are that the core logic favoring outsourcing to contractors still holds, to create improved incentives and managerial flexibility supporting minimization of total life-cycle costs.  However, contract structure, risk allocation, duration, and governance environment can greatly affect performance.  Longer-term contracts can be structured to reward sustained performance and facilitate the requisite funding, but vigilance against corruption is a constant requirement.  Modern information and communications technologies offer much promise in supporting greater transparency and accountability.  Ultimately, the commitment of the nation’s leaders, public and private, to the integrity of the systems will remain a fundamental determinant of their effectiveness—and the condition of the nation’s roads.

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Created Date: 25-06-2019
Last Updated Date: 21-03-2018