A report released by ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department (IED) says that the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) support for the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Program has been effective in promoting subregional economic cooperation through physical connectivity, but it should now put a greater focus on non-infrastructure elements.
The report assesses the extent to which ADB’s support for the GMS Program during 2012–2020 contributed to the development of the subregion.
It finds that ADB’s institutional support was critical for the program. Over the review period, GMS countries together mobilized nearly $56 billion to finance more than 130 projects and achieved tangible results in improving infrastructure in the subregion’s economic corridors.
ADB committed $5.3 billion in loans and grants to support the program and mobilized $2.7 billion of cofinancing.
ADB operations performed well at the country level but achieved varied results across sectors supported at the subregional level.
ADB made strong contributions to improving the road network, tourism, and community health, but less to other objectives such as market integration, production processes and value chains, and improving environmental conditions.
IED Director General Emmanuel Jimenez, said: “The GMS Program shows that regional economic cooperation can generate benefits beyond those that would accrue if left only to actions of individual countries.”
In addition to road infrastructure, the report finds ADB can enhance the program’s benefits by focusing on the complementary of softer elements of physical connectivity to facilitate trade and the movement of people across country boundaries.
Given emerging risks to the subregion’s growth, Jimenez added: “Ramping up ADB support for regional public goods that require deeper cooperation among the GMS countries, especially in relation to public health and climate change, can have huge payoffs.”
According to the report, the link between country priorities and desired regional objectives could also be strengthened.
ADB Principal Evaluation Specialist and the report’s principal author Binh Nguyen, said: “The selection of pipeline projects without a genuine adherence to regional needs can result in projects that focus on national interests rather than transboundary benefits. ADB needs to strengthen the regional development results with a clear link between country-level results and regional outcomes, together with greater efforts on results monitoring and reporting.”
ADB’s support for the GMS Program spans nearly 3 decades with the bank playing a key facilitation role. Strengthening the balance between national and regional needs; coordination across GMS working groups; cross-thematic links; and engagement of stakeholders, including the private sector in GMS deliberations, are areas where further improvements could be made going forward.
The report recommends that ADB prepare the new regional investment framework based on clear and consistent selection criteria; ensure sector strategies are aligned with GMS Economic Cooperation Program Strategic Framework 2030; strengthen the monitoring and reporting of the development results of the GMS Program; and broaden the participation of regional and global organizations and the private sector to maximize their involvement.
It also recommends ADB to provide support for knowledge and institutional capacity building to enhance the effectiveness of the GMS institutions, and to improve the regional impact of ADB-financed projects with greater regional focus in project design and implementation, results monitoring, and use of more diversified financing instruments.
About Independent Evaluation at ADB
ADB’s Independent Evaluation, reporting to the Board of Directors through the Development Effectiveness Committee, contributes to development effectiveness by providing feedback on ADB’s policies, strategies, operations, and special concerns in Asia and the Pacific.