April 01, 2006

World Bank Releases Draft 2007-2015 Transport Strategy for Consultation

The World Bank’s Transport Sector Board is updating its Strategy for the 2007-2015 period and plans to finalize the Strategy sometime in 2006.  The purpose of the update is to articulate how the Bank’s approach to transport and development is evolving; to identify planned adjustments to priorities and approach; and to explain these adjustments to its development partners and other stakeholders in the Bank’s work.

The Bank has made a consultative draft of the emerging document available for downloading.

ITDP was pleased to see increased emphasis on urban transport issues (e.g., enhancing the role and quality of public transport, improving travel demand management, and addressing the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians).  We support the draft strategy’s increased attention to social and environmental issues like road safety and vehicle emissions.  In addition, ITDP fully supports efforts to reduce corruption and poor governance in the transport sector.  Furthermore, we agree that partnerships across the transport sector are important, as is data sharing, provided that it disaggregates for gender and age to allow a more complete understanding of travel patterns.

Clear recognition is also given to the fact that roads alone will not solve mobility and development needs in poor countries if problems in the vehicle supply sector are not addressed.  However, the draft strategy’s discussion of the importance of transport to health care was disappointing in that it does not recognize that basic mobility plays a critical role in delivering and accessing health care services.  In rural areas especially, higher transport costs, greater distances, poorer road conditions, and the lack of even the most basic means of transport all contribute to under- or non-utilization of health services and, subsequently, higher mortality rates.

The main weakness of the draft is that it ultimately fails to lay out a compelling vision of how the World Bank’s lending can truly address many of these critical areas where the World Bank has been largely inactive in the past.  The World Bank is well suited to large-scale infrastructure lending.  Support for Bus Rapid Transit, reflected in the policy, is a very favorable development, and it is easy to see a clear and compelling role for expanded World Bank lending in this sector.

However, in other areas for which there is no associated large infrastructure loan, it is not intuitively clear what the World Bank can and will do to improve, for example, corruption, travel demand management, road safety, health care service delivery, non-motorized travel, or improvements in the vehicle supply sector.  Without a clearly articulated strategy for how the World Bank, with the tools at its disposal, can and will actually intervene in these sectors and help reach poverty reduction goals, we fear the result will be an expansion of road sector lending, with some good urban transit projects, but no action in the other areas that the draft strategy identifies as being important.

The Transport Sector Board welcomes external contributions from those with an interest in transport and development either through comment directed specifically at the draft strategy, or views about the Bank’s role in the transport sector more broadly.  Comments should be submitted with name and contact information in writing to transportstrategy@worldbank.org by April 30th, 2006.  All information will be treated confidentially by the Transport Sector Board.

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