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Date: 2023-12-08 Page is: DBtxt003.php L0700-PP-Place

PLACE is central to everything ... it is where people live their lives.
It is where organizations operate and where pollution originates.
PLACE - where everything comes together

A TPB note from the 1980s:
It has become apparent that projects being funded by the World Bank, the United Nations and others are not having significant long term impact ... in fact many are simply failing to deliver on the goals that were used to justify their funding. When I researched this in the field, it became apparent that many of the projects were not failing because of an inherent problem with the project, but because there was an assumption that other things would be working, when in fact, these other things were not working very well or completely missing.

The community development projects that worked were ones that had a multi-sector approach and addressed all the issues in a particular place.

Every place is different. This meant that considerable flexibility needed to be available in order for the project to implement successfully. Most projects lacked much flexibility, and most of the funding institutions made it difficult if not impossible to change the project design after negotiation and during implementation.

Many projects lacked mechanisms to inform decisions makers about performance until it was too late. I did many project evaluations long after the project had been completed ... and no matter what the outcome of my analysis, it was essentially a waste of time. One could argue that the evaluations would be used to improve project design in the future, but any such feedback was minuscule.

For many years the UN system adjusted the budget for the project to equal the actual expenditures for the project so that ALL projects came in 'on budget'. This was common practice for years and suggests that the UN system had little or no understanding of how management oversight and budget control should work! This was one of many examples of how the UN administrative system was dysfunctional

A tale of two cities

In the early 1980s I was given an assignment by the UN to analyze some projects being implemented in the Equatoria Region of Sudan.
The regional government was based in Juba, by far the biggest city in the region with a population of around 400,000. A smaller town, Yei, was closer to the border with Uganda, and stressed by a community of more than 200,000 refugees who had fled from violence in Uganda. The distance from Juba to Yei was around 85 miles.
Using conventional economic wisdom, it would be expected that Juba as the the center of regional government would be more prosperous than Yei which was stressed by an influx of refugees from Uganda, but the opposite was the case. This was explained by the economic reality that Juba was all about government administration and Yei was all about agriculture. UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) helped the refugees for a short period providing some essential agricultural inputs. In addition, the town made land available for cultivation. In the time it takes for a crop to mature ready for harvesting, the refugees became self sufficient and became contributors to the economic life of the town ... including paying the somewhat informal taxes that were imposed on all sorts of commerce. I had thought that these charges were an informal albeit well organized rip-off scheme, but I was given unusual access to the accounts of the Yei adminsitration and it was impressive how these revenues reached the town administrators and were accounted for. All of this because the refugees had been enabled to become valueadd contributors to the community ... so much so that the town was able generate electricity for essential services like the hospital. In fact I was allowed to observe an emergency operation in the local hospital ... an appendectomy ... successful, though carried out by an older experienced male nurse! Bottom line ... Yei was a thriving town because of the people who were adding value into the community, By contrast, Juba, was operating entirely because of the subsidy flowing from the Central Government of Sudan that was usually the minimum that was possible, Much of the money from the Central Government that came to Juba eventially ended up in Yei in exchange for food that had been harvested by the refugees!
The lesson from all of this is that there are huge differences in economic performance between different places, and that the conventional expectations are maybe not correct!

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