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Projects, Projects Everywhere: But Who Knows How To Run Them?

By W.A Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

Dr. W.A Wijewardena

There are projects all more than but numerous of them are failed projects

Human history is replete with projects enabling civilisations to deliver marvellous creations through them. But many of them have been failures appropriate from the design stage. Sri Lanka’s current history is marred by a plethora of such failed projects due to errors in design and style. Of them, the Hambantota Harbour failing to attract big draft ships due to low depth of the harbour, the Mattala Airport with a runway perpendicular to the headwinds forcing airlines to shun it and the Diyagama International Sports complicated with a running track slightly shorter in depth than the international requirements so that no international sports event could take spot are some striking examples.

The latest addition to this project failure is the acclaimed public private partnership involving the Hyatt Hotel project in Colombo in which expenses have doubled due to profligate economic management, an problem involving the failure to observe economic policy governance.

All these troubles in projects could be overcome if all these involved in public projects – politicians, bureaucrats, project managers and civil society – are conversant with the 1st principles of projects.

Now those initial principles have been codified in a comprehensive manual variety text by a Sri Lanka born academic – Nihal Amerasinghe – previously at the Asian Improvement Bank or ADB and now a professor at the Asian Institute of Management or AIM in Manila, the Philippines. The title of the text is ‘Design, Appraisal and Management of Sustainable Improvement Projects’.

A manual by an knowledgeable practitioner

Nihal Amerasinghe is an aptly qualified academic cum practitioner to write a text on project management. His long career has been with ADB whose vocabulary has practically nothing but projects. Having completed a degree in agriculture at Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka, he has acquired two Master’s degrees in economics and environment from Manchester and London Universities, respectively, followed by a doctorate in economics from the latter. He is presently at AIM disseminating his wisdom as an academic. Thus, Amerasinghe is a combination of practice with theory, the foremost requirement for somebody to write a manual on a complex topic.

The logical organisation of the manual

The 25 chapters in Amerasinghe’s book have been presented in 5 components: The very first component talks about projects and improvement, the second about project identification and design and style, the third about project feasibility and appraisal, the fourth about project implementation and control and the fifth about the project completion and evaluation.

The chapters have been planned in such a way that they could be mastered by interested readers separately as individual essays or together as a single text to acquire the desired information on project management.

3 critical flaws of improvement policy

Amerasinghe starts his book by analysing three critical flaws in improvement policy planning attributed to Romanian-American Economist at the University of California at Berkeley &#8211 Irma Adelman.

A single is the reliance on a single contributor to maintain economies at low development referred to as ‘monocausalism’. Over the years, many such crucial contributors have been identified but removing them from economies has not led to economic development demonstrating that growth is a multifaceted activity. The second flaw is pursuing a single goal in development such as rising per capita income as had been done in Sri Lanka throughout the administration of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Amerasinghe says that such pursuits have brought in greater worries to countries such as inequality in earnings distribution, weakened democracy, loss of cultural identity, overconsumption of organic sources and environmental degradation and so on.

All these have been the outcome of Sri Lanka’s reported larger financial development in the previous handful of years. The third is the most serious flaw in policy: that is, believing that organic systems move on a straight line enabling a nation to attain a pre-planned financial growth without any derailment.

Sri Lanka’s Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance have been well-known for generating such linear economic development forecasts to uncover that actual realisations have usually been at variance from the projected path. That is simply because all all-natural systems are non-linear primarily based on such laws as the law of result in and impact, the law of impermanence and the law evolution. It is therefore of importance that Sri Lanka’s policy authorities discover one particular or two lessons from Amerasinghe.

Improvement is not just economic growth but numerous much more

An essential element highlighted by Amerasinghe is the meaning of sustainable development which need to be the aim of all nations right now. Drawing on Nobel Laureates Gunnar Myrdal and Amartya Sen, he has initial presented a wide definition of improvement that encompasses social, political, cultural and humane aspects of living in addition to financial factors. Then, he solidifies development by incorporating the notion of sustainable improvement drawn basically from the Brundtland Commission headed by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

If you want to sustain, take pleasure in nowadays with out harming tomorrow

According to Brundtland Commission, sustainable development is the meeting of the requirements of the present generation with no compromising the capacity of the future generations to meet theirs. It requires two generational equities: Intergenerational equity exactly where resources are passed onto the future generations in affordable conditions and intragenerational equity exactly where the exact same transfer requires spot amongst distinct segments of the present generation.

Any public project must take into account this wider idea of development and the need for making such development a sustainable one particular. The ad hoc projects implemented in Sri Lanka in the recent previous beg the query whether or not these aspects have been deemed at all at the style or implementation stage.

The impact of a project is the essential criterion of accomplishment

Public sector projects are normally appraised by public authorities in terms of the cash spent or the output developed. A classic instance is the Central Bank Annual Report or the Annual Report of the Ministry of Finance which have tended to assess the good results of projects in terms of cash spent on them. But Amerasinghe says that the crucial assessment criterion need to be the outcome of a project that leads to making an impact on the economy. The influence must not only be sustainable but also bring in ultimate human improvement by expanding the possibilities offered to them as human beings.

Easy project management has now turn out to be a complex method

Amerasinghe has supplied a very intriguing account of how projects evolved from 1950s to date. In its evolution, the scope, design and style, management and ultimate aims of projects as well have expanded significantly from six straightforward objectives to 47 complex ambitions.

Amerasinghe has presented the six basic objectives in a six-sided polygon: financial, technical, political, administrative and managerial, environmental and social and financial are these issues. Then, he builds around these six issues distinct parameters or essential sub issues which have been added to the goals of projects in each and every of the subsequent phases of their evolution.

What truly began as a basic operation of project management in 1950s has evolved these days to a really complex structure that is not easy for ordinary project management folks to comprehend. Amerasinghe calls this complex structure the ‘conundrum of 2000’. It includes virtually all the broad aims which a modern day society aspires to attain in its social cultural, political, economic, legal, administrative, monetary and spiritual spheres. There is a justification for this broad therapy, since it is taxpayers’ cash which is being utilized for public projects.

Nevertheless, if a discipline becomes too complicated, the most likely outcome would be the comprehensive disregard of those added parameters when actual project management workouts are conducted. Even when they are reckoned, the project management nonetheless runs the threat of their not getting treated seriously. They just turn into a want list in the minds of the project practitioners.

Amerasinghe too has raised the concern by questioning whether the project management has turn out to be much more powerful more than the years. But he notes that according to the observations of significant project financiers, namely, ADB and the Planet Bank, project efficiency has enhanced regardless of the complexity built into project targets. Only the projects implemented under the sponsorship of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Europe’s counterpart of the World Bank, these ambitions have been only partially successful.

Project steps are also time involving intricate processes

Project cycle too is a 13 step complicated approach, according to Amerasinghe. There are seven steps to be completed top up to project approval: identification, design and style and formulation, feasibility analysis, project appraisal, project choice, negotiation and ultimately approval. These are also complex processes and when it comes to establishing countries, there is no property primarily based experience obtainable to complete them successfully. Hence, in a lot of situations, external help has to be solicited and such external help is generally extended by the project financier himself major to a conflict of interest.

Soon after the approval, there are 6 processes to be completed: project activation, implementation, supervision, monitoring and reporting, completion, evaluation and follow-up analysis and action. Amerasinghe has given a detailed description of actions involved in each of these various methods. This is where projects fail since in creating nations, the political authorities which have arrogated powers to themselves for initiating projects can’t wait such a lengthy period to have project approved and a additional period to full the project. Therefore, many measures are overlooked comparable to the disregard of the broad goals involved in modern day projects. Politicians who go by election cycles and not the natural cycles demand that projects are completed in time for them to industry at elections though the accomplishments are half-baked and bound to fail shortly.

A excellent instance is the infrastructure projects undertaken by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration in the final 5 to 6 years. Amerasinghe has been emphatic on evaluating the outcome and the effect of projects which have to be done after the completion. These two aspects are mostly disregarded in almost all the projects implemented under political patronage.

Numerous pitfalls of development organizing

Organizing has been regarded the saviour of several establishing countries which have failed to maintain a reasonable rate of economic development and decrease poverty by way of continuous financial advancement. A single question which critics of governments normally raise is ‘where is your program?’ and they opine that ‘without a program, how can an economy grow?’ Therefore, all creating countries have resorted to meticulous arranging which they emulated from the experiences of the former Soviet Union. India had a rolling preparing method in each 5 year period with emphasis for the state to make critical investments.

Whilst admitting that several establishing countries have organizing capability today than just before, Amerasinghe has laboriously documented the reasons for the failure of development plans. They arise from external forces, shortcomings of preparing procedure itself and due to difficulties which planners would run into in strategy implementation. Crucial external forces are the lack of peace, wars, natural calamities and increases in planet prices that derail plans. In the arranging approach, frequently identified causes are the inadequate preparation like capacity, lack of credible data, disregard of the significance of governance, corruption and most importantly failure to discover from prior errors.

Program implementation is hindered, according to Amerasinghe, due to budgetary constraints, ownership problems, conflicts, bureaucratic inefficiencies, damaging political interferences and failure to properly monitor plans. These are essential concerns but can be resolved if due recognition is paid to capacity improvement and management of politicians. But a single of the issues in development organizing is the availability or mobilisation of sources as displayed by Sri Lanka’s Five Year Strategy in 1971.

Without having resources, the targets and objectives of a strategy are just want lists. If a country’s government is infested with a weak budgetary circumstance and the private savings are insufficient to finance the planned activities, resorting to foreign financing becomes critical for arranging. But if a country does not have a good governance structure, the mobilisation of sufficient foreign funds will be a problem.

An crucial manual enriching the toolkit of project practitioners

The rest of the book is a detailed manual of project style, appraisal and management. Amerasinghe has drawn on his wealthy practical expertise in these regions to make his manual a comprehensive document. A project practitioner does not have to turn to any other document to design and style and implement a project successfully. It is a self-contained manual with elaborate explanation of steps to be followed, checklists to be marked off and methods to tackle delays and issues.

The practical use of the manual has been enhanced immensely by the colourful illustrations that have been added to chapters for straightforward understanding of the complicated processes involved. There are a lot of exercises which the practitioners have to work out in order to self-test their finding out. There is a step by step developing up of answers to crucial issues, a novelty that one particular finds in a manual. Each chapter begins with an introduction that would guide the user what to count on from it. After presenting the body of information, it ends with a summary of essential points helping the user to revisit his learning outcome.

The manual on Design and style, Appraisal and Management of Sustainable Improvement Projects by Nihal Amerasinghe is a timely addition to enrich the toolkit of project practitioners all through the globe.

*W.A Wijewardena, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, can be reached at [email protected]

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