The past ten days I have spent in the Solomon Islands with the RDP team on the 11th Joint Review Mission, led by Erik Johnson the Task Team Leader for the World Bank. Working on the mission led me to reflect on a few possible lessons learned for future work in projects like RDP, here and elsewhere.
Here are some preliminary thoughts. I would be interested to know how others see the issues and whether they would agree, or it they see things differently... Any views?
Community consultations, prioritisation, and decision-making have generated significant benefits in terms of community empowerment appear to constitute the most important features of the ‘improved mechanisms’ for delivery of rural infrastructure services and that merit replication in future projects.
While contributions to investment costs in terms of materials and labour from the community have heightened the commitment of community and generated a sense of responsibility for the assets that have been created, the delegation of procurement responsibilities to the community level has been quite onerous in terms of costs associated with procurement procedures and the the logistics of follow up.
Community-level procurement as part of the delivery mechanism for community-level infrastructure has significant drawbacks overall in terms of effectiveness and efficiency judged on the basis of real project costs, quality, timeliness, and rate of completion.
By respecting the exsiting policies and procedures for lending to small and medium scale enterprises of the private sector banks it worked with, RDP adopted ready-made, fully functioning and sustainable ‘mechanisms for the delivery of services’ that had been previously developped by the partner institutions, that is private sector banks, and tested over time at their own cost.
Grants to businesses provided through the supplementary equity facility were highly effective incentives to businesses, motivating them to mobilise significant amounts of own other resources and resources from banks.
Channeling resources to rural areas in the form of grants for small scale businesses through banks shifted the transaction costs for the delivery of financial services, investment planning, and implementation from government to the private stakeholders who were well- suited to absorb those costs from both equity and efficiency perspectives.
The high financial costs for the delivery of technical services in rural areas through the public sector, that is MAL, makes long-run sustainability of those services very unlikely in the absence of external funding.
Provincial institutions are not motivated to reconcile and seek to integrate top-down priorities established by government with bottom up priorities established by rural communities.
Provincial institutions likewise are not motivated to take an integrated or holistic approach to rationalising the use of financial and human resources available at the provincial level to support the agricultural dimension of rural development from disparate sources.
Disconnect in planning for use of resources results in inefficient resource allocations and have perpetuated weakness in the mechanisms for the delivery of technical services, especially to smallholders in agriculture. These disconnects occur due to a lack of interface between top-down and bottom-up planning processes. They are also tend to occur as a result of the fact that planning processes and decision making is done independently for each of the various sources of funds, especially for MAL at the province level.