ADB stops loan for $23m Balochistan project

Islamabad: A $23 million project launched to revamp the technical and vocational education system in the most underdeveloped province, Balochistan, has failed to make a difference due to differences between the provincial government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) over a set of reforms.

The ADB had approved “Restructuring of the Technical Education and Vocational Training System Project” for Balochistan at an estimated cost of $23 million. The Manila-based agency had to provide a $16 million loan, but disbursed only $4.04 million due to poor performance of the borrower and the lender’s country office. Interestingly, most of the expenditures were made on procurements.

The ADB had to prematurely terminate the loan due to extremely poor progress.

Ismail Khan, spokesman for the ADB’s country mission, said the project had been financed from a concessional financing facility, thus carried no commitment charges on the undisbursed amount.

“The project was too ambitious and complex for an underdeveloped area with difficult socio-economic conditions,” reads the evaluation report. In short, the project was irrelevant and ineffective.

The performance of both the ADB and the Balochistan government was termed “less than satisfactory”.

The project had been designed to address serious socio-economic problems like low education level, high unemployment and high poverty in the most underdeveloped federating unit that was also facing problems of insurgency.

The project’s aim was to create a vocational training system to produce graduates with skills that would help them get employment. The targeted population mainly comprised women and those from rural areas of the province.

The project was supposed to establish two polytechnic schools for men and one for women and three training centres for women. However, none could be established as provincial authorities awarded contracts at three times the estimated cost, leading to their cancelation.

Consultants for the project could not be hired after the ADB’s Office of Anticorruption and Integrity rejected the shortlisted firm due to serious concerns.

The evaluation department noted that the project had many shortcomings due to poor design and overambitious reforms. The project design heavily relied on private sector cooperation without realising the lack of a vibrant private sector in the province.