Building Capacity to Develop and Manage Roads in Lao PDR
Complementing a Bank-financed project, transport officials and provincial governors from Lao PDR visited South Africa to learn from its national roads agency and other organizations. Delegates increased their skills in road administration, asset management, and public-private partnerships. Laotian officials leveraged know-how to introduce pilot PPPs and identify ways to improve the country’s road administration agency.
Lao PDR sought to modernize its road network to facilitate trade, stimulate economic growth, and ensure regional integration. Since 2000, the Laotian Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) has worked with partners to develop and implement improvements in building, managing, and maintaining roads. In 2010, Laotian officials developed the Bank-financed Road Sector Project (LRSP), which finances national and provincial corridors and provides technical assistance (TA) to the MPWT.
To complement the LRSP and build Laotian road officials’ capacity, the World Bank organized a workshop in Vientiane in October 2011, focusing mainly on governance, procurement, and financial management. Officials identified skills gaps in road administration, road asset management, and public-private partnerships (PPPs). They also realized they needed to enhance buy-in on ways to strategically manage the sector amid a decentralization program.
Tapping their global experiences, Bank transport specialists proposed a study tour to South Africa. Laotian officials could learn from its innovative approaches, including involving the private sector, to managing, operating, and maintaining its vast road network. Through this exchange, Laotian officials sought to build their technical skills, deepen consensus among officials on new directions, and identify next steps.
Key agencies sharing their experiences were the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), which manages over 19,000 kilometers of roads using concessional contracts and tolls, the Department of Transport and Roads in Gauteng Province, and South Africa's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The Laotian delegates included the Minister of the MPWT, four Provincial Governors, the Director General of the Department of Planning and Cooperation, and the Director of Vientiane Department of Public Works and Transport. The exchange had three phases:
- Preparation: In July 2012, participants from both countries met via videoconference to identify the Laotian officials’ learning needs and plan activities for the visit.
- Study tour: From September 1 to 8, 2012, the delegation visited South Africa. They engaged in meetings and workshops with managers of SANRAL to learn about its operations, systems for managing road assets, and use of PPPs with concessionaires to build and maintain roadways. Participants met with officials from Gauteng to explore how to develop and apply PPPs at the provincial level. They also met with CSIR staff, who emphasized the possibility of establishing a transport research center in Laos that could attract private investment and promote knowledge sharing.
- Follow-up: After the study tour, delegates worked with Bank staff to prepare a report outlining lessons from the visit and recommendations for moving ahead.
The exchange increased the capacity of Laotian officials to strategically manage the sector and develop and maintain roads in three key areas:
- Road administration: Laotian officials gained a better understanding of strategies and organizational arrangements for managing the roads sector, particularly by assigning planning, strategic management, and policymaking responsibilities to the MPWT. They also raised their awareness of efficient ways of allocating managerial and operational responsibilities among national, provincial, and local governments.
- Asset management: Delegates increased their know-how to develop and implement programs for monitoring and managing roads, such as systems leveraging information and communication technologies (ICTs) to collect road data and enable planning and budgeting.
- Public-private partnerships: Delegates increased their skills to develop and implement PPPs to construct, manage, and maintain roads, including toll roads.
In addition, the exchange strengthened consensus among MPWT managers on a path to reform. After the visit, MPWT prepared a pilot PPP road project, laid the groundwork for strengthening road asset management, and provided trainings on road planning and contract management at central and local levels.
- World Bank specialists, especially those with contacts and experiences in participating countries, can play effective and valuable roles in brokering, designing, and implementing knowledge exchanges.
- A carefully designed exchange – one that involves the right participants focusing on the right areas at the right time – can foster policy dialogue between the World Bank and government counterparts, and possibly drive concrete results, such as the PPP pilot project in this exchange.
World Bank specialists, including those engaged in the Laos Road Sector Project, leveraged their contacts and project experiences to broker and design this exchange. Bank staff from CMUs and Country Offices provided additional support, such as coordinating with counterparts in the Laotian Ministry of Transport and SANRAL, participating in the preparatory videoconference, giving advice to the Bank Task Team on hiring a local consultant to facilitate the exchange program, and preparing the program. The exchange was largely funded by the South-South Facility, with co-financing from LRSP.
The South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) took a lead role in organizing this exchange. SANRAL is a state-owned enterprise overseeing South Africa’s road network, which includes toll roads and over 8,000 large bridges and culverts. SANRAL funds, maintains, operates, and rehabilitates roadways and also manages procurement through PPPs and performance-based contracts.
The Department of Transport and Roads in Gauteng provides road infrastructure and integrated transport services in the Province.
South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is a leading research and development organization in Africa. CSIR undertakes research in transport engineering and transport systems.
The exchange revealed needs for additional technical assistance to bridge capacity gaps at central, provincial, and local levels.
Therefore, the MPWT invited the CEO of SANRAL to Lao PDR for a week in February 2014. Officials shared lessons on road asset management and PPPs with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, Provincial Governments, and MPWT departments. The CEO visited Vientiane and Borikhamxay provinces and advised their Governors.
The Bank also mobilized resources from the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility for a PPP feasibility study, which recommended a PPP pilot for two sections of the No. 13 National Road.
The Laotian delegates included high-level officials with roles in developing and implementing policies and programs in the roads sector. Each had influence over the direction of reform and follow-up activities.
- Mr. Sommad Pholsena, Minister, Ministry of Public Works and Transport
- Mr. Math Sounmala, Director General, Department of Planning, Ministry of Public Works and Transport
- Mr. Khamla Lingnasone , Governor, Oudomxay Province
- Mr. Khammeung Phongthady, Governor, Vientiane Province
- Mr. Pan Noymany , Governor, Borikhamxay Province
- Mr. Khampheuy Boutdavieng, Governor, Sekong Province
- Mr. Thenekham Thongbonh, Director of Vientiane Department of Public Works and Transport
The following Bank staff also participated in the exchange:
- Ms. Keiko Miwa, World Bank Country Manager for Lao PDR
- Mr. Sombath Southivong, Infrastructure Specialist, World Bank
Laos Road Sector Project (P102398)