DFID's Role in Building Infrastructure in Developing Countries - International Development Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 121-148)

Q121 Chair: Good morning, gentlemen. I am glad that you have introduced yourselves to each other. As the last evidence session indicated, we recognise that infrastructure, or the lack of infrastructure and the need for it, is a crucial part of the development needs of poor and developing countries, especially but not exclusively in sub­Saharan Africa. Even if it is not seen to be one of those subjects that excites the wider public, it can transform lives. I wonder first of all, for the record, if you could introduce yourselves and say who you are.

Robert Petts: I am Robert Petts. I am a consultant in the road sector, and I have worked in developing countries for about 35 years. My primary interests are in the application of appropriate technology and use of local resources to achieve a sustainable road sector, which I think at the moment we are not achieving.

David Ward: Good morning, Chairman. My name is David Ward. I am the Executive Secretary of the Commission for Global Road Safety. I am also Director of the FIA Foundation. The FIA Foundation is a charitable foundation—it has been working for nearly 10 years—and we promote road safety and environmental protection in the road transport sector. The Commission was set up in 2006 under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent and the chairmanship of Lord Robertson. The main work that we have been focusing on through the Commission has been the growing road injury problem, particularly in developing countries, which account for 90% of road fatalities.

We also do quite significant work on environment issues, and there is quite a crossover. We are supporting something called the Global Fuel Economy Initiative with the International Energy Agency and UN Environment Programme. On a similar basis there is a very strong sustainable transport dimension here, where increasing road safety will have the co­benefit of improving the sustainability and environmental effectiveness of road transport.

Q122 Chair: The Committee, in its visits over the years, has had quite a bit of experience of roads in developing countries, or the lack of them, in terms of the traffic, the condition of the traffic, the way it operates, and obviously the state of the roads themselves. Indeed, if you look at perhaps the two biggest countries in sub­Saharan Africa, Sudan, certainly southern Sudan, and the DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are virtually no roads in a huge territory. I suppose the basic point is: how important do you see the development of that infrastructure being to the development of the economy of those countries, and indeed the delivery of even the MDGs, and how do you think roads compare with other forms of transport? Ironically, people might say that railways and airports and air links excite people. Where do roads fit into the infrastructure priorities?

David Ward: Do you want to lead on that?

Robert Petts: Yes. If we look at sub­Saharan Africa, I think we have had 100 years of the motor car age, and 15% of the roads are paved.

Q123 Chair: 15%?

Robert Petts: So do we have to wait another couple of hundred years until we have a fully functioning road network?

Q124 Chair: That is presumably 15% of a very small length of road. The actual volume of road is in any case smaller, is it?

Robert Petts: I think, if you look at sub­Saharan Africa, there are about 2,000,000km of roads that are unpaved, and about 300,000km are paved. This is the current state. You can get from city centre to city centre quite easily, but once you get off those main routes, there is a serious problem of all­weather access.

David Ward: I want to just reiterate that. This whole discussion is quite well evidence­based now. The work of the Africa Commission, and the work of the Millennium Project, led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, identified very clearly the contribution that road infrastructure can make to achieving the MDGs. That is really unarguable. If you look at internal costs of trade for many African countries, the internal costs are huge because of lack of road access to ports and so on. One can demonstrate very powerfully the economic effects of road infrastructure to support the development aims of the region and also achieving MDG goals, even those that you might call the "soft" investment elements of education and access to healthcare. All of these things will be increased by improved road infrastructure. All of that is quite well established now.

I think in the late 1990s there was a move away from infrastructure. That was shown to be a mistake. There was a sense that the private sector would take over in the late 1990s in increasing infrastructure investment. That did not happen. Around the mid-2000s and the Gleneagles Summit there was a much clearer understanding, reflected in the Africa Commission Report, that infrastructure did matter a great deal, and now we are seeing quite a substantial increase in road investment.

It is beyond my expertise to discuss the merits of road versus rail versus air, but one has to confront the extraordinary reality of the pace of motorisation going on in developing countries at the moment. In the next decade, and in the decade beyond, we will see the motor vehicle fleet of the world double, and then triple. It is happening faster, in fact, than most forecasts that have been presented. For good or ill, we have to deal with this huge increase in motorisation, which has many positive benefits in terms of mobility and economic benefits, but significant costs as well in road injuries and the environment. It is getting the balance right in that area that is critical. This is where the UK has a unique contribution to make, because we are very successful in road injury prevention, and also we have been quite innovative in environmental transport initiatives. I think at the moment we are missing a big opportunity to link that sustainable transport message with the infrastructure effort of the development community.

Q125 Chair: We will certainly come on to that. Before we do, who do you think is taking the lead in delivering on road infrastructure? The UK is not a major investor in infrastructure, and has limited road programmes. I am very well aware of the Chinese, Indians and Japanese, and also the multilateral organisations. Does it matter? Who are the big players, and where does the UK fit into that? Where should it fit into that?

Robert Petts: The multilaterals lead in the road sector. If you look at the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank and the EU, road transport funding is a major part of their programme. I think for the Asian Development Bank it is up to about 25% of total funding. It is quite substantial.

Q126 Chair: Sorry to interrupt, but clearly the UK's contention is that they are major contributors to these banks.

Robert Petts: Yes.

Q127 Chair: Therefore they may turn around and say, "That is what we do," although as Claire Curtis-Thomas has said, they do not follow it through, perhaps.

Robert Petts: Yes. I would like to add that the @ASLINK@bilateral@AFLINK@, in the last 10 years, have tended to go away from roads, and especially rural roads, which is unfortunate. Even there, if you look at bilateral funding, there is DFID funding going to roads, and funding from other bilaterals going to roads. I think the total, by my estimate, is something like $14 billion a year being invested in roads in developing countries, so it is quite substantial. The one unfortunate thing with the MDGs is that transport is not mentioned in the goals, or even in the support mechanisms to achieve the goals. That has skewed some of the aid away from transport. There are issues like enterprise development and employment that transport can contribute considerably to, which are basically overlooked.

David Ward: I share that answer. If you take the seven largest development banks, the World Bank and the regional banks, they are committing upwards annually around $5 billion a year for road rehabilitation and new roads. It is a very substantial proportion of their work. The emphasis on China now is fascinating, because China is becoming the largest player in this field, particularly in Africa, but they themselves are struggling with the same problem domestically. They have, after India, the highest level of road casualties. The concern that I have is that maybe they have not yet caught up with the challenges of safe road design. They may be exporting some of their own problems.

Chair: Bad practices, yes.

David Ward: When it comes back to this relationship between what DFID should best do bilaterally versus multilaterally, I think because DFID is such a significant contributor to the World Bank and the other major development banks, it can create a very significant multiplier if it really follows through with the development banks. Last month, the seven major development banks launched an initiative on road safety. I can give the Members a copy of the document they launched. It was launched by President Zoellick on behalf of the seven banks, committing to a completely new approach to the road safety aspects of their investment. It is a very significant initiative, and one which DFID should strongly support, because it follows through on the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. It is completely crazy that the multilaterals do not share common road safety impact assessment procedures. At that level there is a large gap in the way that they work. They should not all be developing their own systems. They should have a shared system and a shared commitment to act together. Very often, in some parts of the world, they are in multi­partner projects. I think that is a very significant opportunity for DFID.

Q128 Mr Gyimah: You have obviously put your finger on the issue. DFID has only a handful of road­building programmes internationally, and in Africa only in the DRC. It would be interesting to get your views, firstly, on whether DFID is right to be deferring to donors, especially multilaterals, and what more it could do in the sector. Alongside that, what are the strengths and weaknesses you see of road­building programmes carried out by some of these multilaterals, for example the European Commission?

David Ward: I think it does make sense. Because of the nature, these tend to be large­scale infrastructure projects, and because they are often partnerships with other development banks, and indeed with the private sector as contractors, it does make sense for DFID to put more weight on the multilateral effort. Also, frankly speaking, the influence of the World Bank in terms of processes and procedures in these countries is probably greater than an individual donor acting on its own. Spreading this across all the development banks on this harmonised basis that I was referring to—and the Paris Declaration is the key policy framework for that, agreed in 2005—makes a lot of sense. There are examples I can give you.

The Commission for Global Road Safety published a report last month, which I will send to you, and there were a couple of case studies in there from Bangladesh and from Kenya on the road safety angle, which show the deficiencies that are occurring with new roads. The sad reality is that very often new roads are worse in terms of road injury than the old, less maintained, broken­up roads. An example is the Dhaka to Sylhet highway, which the World Bank upgraded at a cost of $150,000,000 in a project between 1999 and 2005. After completion, over a 10­year period, road deaths have risen by 57%.

Q129 Chair: Is that because people are driving faster?

David Ward: Very frequently. There is another example of that in Kenya, which is specifically, the evidence shows, related to an increase in speed. That was an EU project of $60,000,000. It was a fairly small stretch of road on the northern corridor, a 100­km stretch. After the project was completed, road fatalities on that stretch increased threefold. This is a very common problem. It is interesting when you look at the project requirements, the explicit goals very often set out in these projects are to raise the prevailing speed on the road, paradoxically very often raising it to a level that guarantees fatality for pedestrians. There is an example I saw recently in Orissa in India, again a World Bank project that is being championed as one of their Good Governance projects. The specific goal is to raise the speed exactly to the level that guarantees the death of vulnerable road users. There are no safeguard policies systematically shared by the development banks to show that it may be important to speed through the traffic on efficiency grounds, but what you need is measures that at the same time will show that, if you are going to increase prevailing speeds, you need to introduce countervailing measures to ensure that there are separations from vulnerable road users that are built in at the design stage. This is not being done systematically, and very often it is presented to countries as a cost.

I will give you another concrete example, in Moldova. Moldova is having its entire road network rehabilitated, in a joint project led by the World Bank, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, EBRD, EU and so on. I had the opportunity to talk with the project leaders just a couple of weeks after the first­ever Ministerial Conference on Global Road Safety, where all these institutions had come and pledged their support. I then asked them what was happening in Moldova, and they all looked a bit embarrassed and said, "The road project there has no road safety component." I said, "How is it possible that you are signing off on a multimillion dollar road project with no road safety component?" They said, "The country never asked." By complete coincidence, to do with the fact that my wife was until recently the Director of the John Smith Fellowship Programme, we ended up meeting the Moldovan Foreign Minister a couple of weeks later, and I had the opportunity to raise with him this issue. He said at the time: "I remember signing this agreement, but nobody ever raised road safety with us."

We looked into it, and it turned out that the whole way this was presented was, "If you want to increase road safety, it will cost you this much. It is this many extra barriers: it is this, that and the other." Not surprisingly, there was a trade­off between kilometres rehabilitated versus safety improvements, presented, I think, in a totally false way, not emphasising that over the lifetime of this project, the casualty burden that you will be imposing on the country is in fact a very significant cost. Fortunately, the Moldovan Government requested—specifically as a result of all of this—to reverse this, and now the project is having the road safety bit put in.

Q130 Mr Gyimah: Thank you for that. That seems to be a classic issue with any construction or building project: if you do not ask for it, you do not get it, and the constructor says, "You never asked for it. That is why we never built it." What about the issue of road maintenance? What do you see as the main factors behind properly maintained and efficient roads, and what programmes of intervention have you seen that have worked in road building?

Robert Petts: Road maintenance is the big outstanding problem for developing countries. The last contributor was talking about roads being constructed but with no maintenance capacity in place to maintain them, and we have to move towards life cycle costing, so that we do not just look at the initial costs of things. A very important question to ask is, "Is there a maintenance capacity in place?" If it is not, you can be sure that that investment will deteriorate very quickly and will not fulfil what the economists would like to see us achieve.

Maintenance is a serious issue, and not just on the main roads, but on tertiary roads and access roads. It is unfortunate that in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s we, as a sector, promoted the use of gravel roads, because it was nice and cheap. It gives you instant improvement, but it is a wasting surface. It is a very high maintenance surface, and in the majority of cases there was no funding for maintenance, and there was no capacity to carry out the maintenance. This is something that has gone against road transport as a sector: we build bad roads that are not sustainable. Fortunately, with research that DFID has funded, we have now documented a whole range of alternatives to gravel, including natural stone. There are over 20 alternative options. If you remember in history, we had Telford and McAdam, two great British engineers with innovative ideas. These techniques are still very valid for some situations. There are alternatives. The trouble is that that knowledge has been researched but not rolled out.

David Ward: One area to look into is, as I mentioned, the explosive growth in vehicles. There is the classical economic theory of internalising external costs, and of course motor vehicle growth is occurring because around developing countries it is very closely linked to the growing phenomenon of the global middle class, however you define the global middle class. Essentially, one way of looking at it is that, as soon as someone has some disposable household income above looking after their immediate basic needs, what they tend to do is try to buy greater mobility, and very often that is in the form of a motorcycle or a vehicle. In the end the solution lies in capturing some resource from that choice that the community are adopting, and hypothecating it to road funds that can also cope with safety. In the long run that will be the only way to get sustainable resources internally in these countries. Not so much in the least developed countries, but certainly in middle­income countries there is ample internal resource, if it can be captured to that end.

Of course, a big issue that you raised earlier is the good governance/corruption issue. This is a huge issue within infrastructure and also in road safety, and it links to issues of police enforcement, vehicle registration, all those sorts of areas, as well as the delivery of infrastructure projects. One of the things that we feel quite strongly is that a better way of doing road safety auditing and assessment actually helps counter corruption in road investment projects, because you can engage with the community much more directly. It is a very important thing to do. One slight concern I have about allowing engineers and civil engineers to dominate this whole area is that there is a tendency to grab the standards off the shelf, build the roads, and not properly engage with the communities that will be living around them. Too often you see upgraded roads that drive right through villages, and they do not bother to consult about where the local market likes to situate itself, and where people do like to cross roads, and how you handle that. If you engage in a very transparent and accountable way, through public consultation, you help mechanisms to resist corruption, because you have engaged very transparently in that process. In terms of resourcing, I think my colleague was absolutely right that, in the whole MDG process, transport was a missing link and has fallen through the cracks. One of the ways of putting it back is to integrate it into other policy areas. The whole agenda of good governance is very relevant to all of this infrastructure agenda and to sustainable transport.

Q131 Mr Gyimah: Just one final question. You are right that transport is the missing link as far as the MDGs are concerned, but the physical lack of roads is more of an issue for rural rather than urban dwellers. What do you see as the main challenges as far as building rural roads are concerned? That is where you can really make a difference, presumably, in delivering some of the MDGs.

Robert Petts: The issue of technology transfer is a big issue. We build our roads in a certain way in the West because our labour is very expensive and credit is very cheap. That is the inverse in developing countries. The local private sector, even, has great difficulty in accessing credit. If it does, it may be 20% or more. Labour can be between $1 and $10 a day. The whole basis of our engineering is different, and unfortunately not many people appreciate that. The approaches that we use may be very appropriate for main roads in developing countries, where you want to invest quickly and get the job done quickly. But for rural roads, it is totally inappropriate.

The big sophisticated machinery that is used for big roads is very difficult to support in rural areas. If you travel around Africa you will see graveyards of public works departments with vehicles and equipment just lying there. There are alternatives. We can use labour. We can use tractor equipment. Tractors have a lot of uses in the road sector. We can build roads with them. We can maintain them. They are much cheaper than heavy plant, so with a combination of labour and tractor equipment we could solve the problems of rural road building, especially in Africa.

The techniques are proven, but again I come to this point that that knowledge is not rolled out. People are not aware of it: there is no training and no demonstration in these techniques, and in overall terms, if we go in and build a traditional bitumen road, as we know it here, it will cost $100,000 to $500,000 a kilometre. We can go in and build, using these alternative surfaces, even engineered earth roads, put in appropriate structures, and we can build roads for $10,000 a kilometre, using the local community and using local labour. There are options there, but as I say, the knowledge is not rolled out.

David Ward: I would be a little uncomfortable about saying that one was more important than the other. The reality is that half of the world is now living in urban environments, and that is becoming more and more the case. Of course there is a linkage between these two things, because sustainable cities are an essential task to try to promote. You only need to visit those, as I am sure you do, to see the levels of congestion and chaos and significant road injury to vulnerable road users, pedestrians and so on, particularly children in Africa. On the other hand, if rural areas are, from a transport point of view, regarded as backwaters, it in some ways accentuates the drive towards urban lifestyles. I do not think that it is good to juxtapose one against the other. You have to do both, unfortunately.

Q132 Jeremy Lefroy: One thing that has often distressed me in seeing the construction of roads in developing countries is the approach to the property beside the roads. What has often happened is that people have been sold plots by the wealthy or the local government officials, perhaps, which are actually within the road reserve. They are then marked with a red cross and knocked down without any compensation. To me, there are some basic human rights being affected here. You have people who thought that they were buying a plot of land. They put all their worldly goods into building a small house, and the Government comes along, knocks it down, pays them no compensation, and they are left completely destitute. I have seen that done by Western contractors with Western money. Is there any way in which we can guard against that, particularly where titles have been given by authorities, or certainly by powerful people, whom the poor thought were legitimately entitled to give those titles?

Robert Petts: Yes. As you say, this should not happen with our money.

Q133 Jeremy Lefroy: It does.

Robert Petts: Yes, it does, and it is very difficult. I think that there is an argument for stronger post­project audit of issues like this, so that at least people think twice about doing it beforehand. I feel that the road sector has a bad reputation for corruption, that there is not sufficient transparency. I would say that multilateral agencies need to spend more resources on post­project audit to actually see if the development aims were met, whether it was cost­effective, and whether it was value for money. These sorts of issues, taking people's property, should come into consideration.

Jeremy Lefroy: Right.

David Ward: I agree with where you are going, but I think it needs to be very broad. What I feel most emotional about, when you look at the violation of fundamental human rights, is when we either directly or through a multilateral bank have "improved" a road where schoolchildren have to run the gauntlet every morning and every afternoon. That is an incredible violation of both MDG goals of getting to school and education. We have made a very powerful film, which I would urge you to have a look at, with Kevin Watkins, in Nairobi. He sits in a classroom with a small number of schoolchildren, and says: "How many of you have been involved in a road crash?" Three­quarters of them put their hand up. It is breathtaking. I think we have to broaden this whole agenda in terms of what we are doing with our money, whether it is multilaterally or bilaterally, to ensure that we do not cause this incredible harm, whether it is stealing property or stealing lives.

Q134 Jeremy Lefroy: In your experience, do these projects tend to give sufficient attention to local employment, whether rural roads or trunk roads? Are there benefits for the poorest? You have just referred to the importance of road safety for school children, but are there other benefits?

Robert Petts: On the main road projects it is very difficult to incorporate what I would call a labour­intensive approach. These are large projects. They are wanted very quickly. Recruiting and training up labour in an African environment—

Q135 Jeremy Lefroy: What about project management, as opposed to employing lots of people? On the major roads, you have the opportunity for project management and engineering skills to be transferred.

Robert Petts: Yes, most certainly. Those are skills that are needed in developing countries. Where most people look to create employment is in the labouring and skilled trades. For instance you can look at the simple act of putting in a structure. The whole sector usually puts in a reinforced concrete structure. In that case, you have to bring in shuttering skills, usually from the capital city, and steel fixing skills, usually from the capital city, whereas in most communities there are masons who could build with stone or brick. These options are not allowed in the national specifications. That opportunity for creating local employment is missed.

Q136 Jeremy Lefroy: One thing that occurs to me, and I am certainly no engineer, is that in developing countries you have very intensive rainfall, and clearly the roads need to take that into account. Certainly the roads that I have seen recently have been better able to take water away quickly than some of the ones I have seen in the past. I remember one particular rural road project where they were destroyed within three months, simply because their capacity to remove surface water was inadequate. I have often felt that the opportunity for creating local water reservoirs or dams coming off these major infrastructure projects is not used. There are places where you see these massive quantities of water coming off during the rainy season. The water goes away and is not captured, and then during the dry season, particularly in rural areas, you have missed the opportunity for having, effectively, rural reservoirs for livestock or even for a village water supply. I have not seen the two, the water and the road sector, work together very much. I do not know if that is pie in the sky.

Robert Petts: No, I think that historically you are right. There is a move towards trying to consult with the community on what additional facilities could be put in. You have this opportunity with a contractor coming in with skills. They are road skills, but they are basically infrastructure building skills. This opportunity can be taken to add small dams and water harvesting facilities. This really comes down to the brief for the designer. I think that it is quite a simple step to take, but it comes back to whoever is funding the project, whether it is the national Government or the aid donor or the multilateral agency. What do they want to include in the package? I would say that it is a fairly easy step to make.

Q137 Hugh Bayley: Listening to what you have had to say about sustainability and what Claire Curtis-Thomas was saying earlier about that and about town planning, it seems to me that there is a mindset in Africa certainly where the public sector tips in huge sums of money, thousands or millions of dollars in road building, but there is no attempt to obtain a rent from businesses, or from those using the services of the road, which would possibly pay for upkeep. I do not expect a small rural farmer, who is bringing his beans or maize to market, to pay a rent, but a brewery or a paint factory might. What opportunities are there to allow those who use the roads, and who profit from using the roads, to make a contribution to road building and road upkeep?

Robert Petts: I have seen various attempts at tolls on rural roads, and they just do not work. It is basically very corruptible, and the amount of money raised is not sufficient to even carry out basic maintenance in most cases.

Q138 Hugh Bayley: But if you build a housing estate in Britain, as a developer you are required to put in roads to certain standards.

Robert Petts: Yes.

Q139 Hugh Bayley: So if somebody is developing an industrial estate, for instance, is it feasible and practical for some public body to require infrastructure to be provided? In the UK, planners would require a developer to pay a sum of money for infrastructure development. It might be building a local school. It might be many things.

Robert Petts: In the urban situation, that is quite feasible. My work is mostly in rural areas, and the rural poor just have no capacity to pay for anything much. They are living day to day, hand to mouth. Where I think that there is capacity or potential to lower costs and involve them is by sitting down with them. If you sit down with a rural community, normally roads are the first priority that they want. They want an all­weather road. Do they have anything to pay for it? No, but they have their labour. If you look at Vietnam, a very successful developing country, there is a law that states that either 10 or 12 days per year have to be donated by each adult to community works, and it usually goes into roads. That to me is a system that avoids taxation, if you like: you give your labour instead. There are examples like this.

I think that there is a lot of potential. If you look at the rural road situation, what do you need? You need skills. You need materials. Materials are locally available. You need labour and maybe a little bit of equipment. The local labour could be provided, either voluntarily or at a subsidised rate by the community. Maybe a local trader, a well-wisher or an NGO could provide the equipment. You could develop a system for rural roads that is a partnership to achieve low­cost, sustainable access.

Q140 Hugh Bayley: Turning to road safety, over and over again you have said, "Why is this not built into road construction?" You used the interesting example of Moldova, but are there examples of developing countries that have been able to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on the roads?

David Ward: Yes, definitely. Of course it is difficult to separate out. Classically, road injuries occur within a dynamic system of what the road user is doing, what the vehicle is doing in terms of safety, and what the road can do. The perfect system is when the roads are forgiving of human error, errors are limited because road users are behaving quite sensibly, and the vehicle offers the maximum crash avoidance potential, and so on. In countries that get a grip on that, it offers huge benefits. We are one, and famously also the Swedes, now, who have a fatality rate of three per 100,000. In South Africa it is 33 per 100,000, just to give you a range.

Last week we launched the first ever United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety. I am very proud that the Commission proposed this first and persuaded the UN to adopt it. Countries are now taking action. Vietnam is one example. It is not in infrastructure but Vietnam has pioneered helmet-wearing legislation, and enforced it and had a 14% reduction in fatalities. Seatbelt wearing in Costa Rica is another example. Malaysia, for example, is investing a lot in improved road infrastructure. One example is a major road in Kuala Lumpur. They have created a dedicated motorcycle lane, so that all of the two­wheeler transport does not mix at all with the four­wheel transport. On that stretch of road, there was an 80% reduction in injuries. You can, by design, gain these sorts of improvements.

Coming back to the funding point, I think that in urban environments there is scope to capture resource from users. I was in Nairobi last week, looking at the Chinese building flyovers. Nairobi will be transformed over the next few years because of Chinese­built flyovers. Flyovers are easily chargeable with tolling technology, and I think the elites in these countries are extremely frustrated about their traffic jams. I think that you will reach a tipping point. The congestion in Nairobi is stunning. You will reach a point where they will say: "Yes, I would like to have a bit of road charging to manage this flow." There are huge urban planning issues. I come back to the point that infrastructure and sustainable transport should be an area that DFID takes seriously. It needs to resource that expertise in a sensible way within the headquarters so that it can effectively guide the work of the multilaterals, where we put a lot of resource in, to make sure that they are transferring that approach in their country­by­country loan programmes.

Q141 Hugh Bayley: Are the Chinese better than Western donors on building infrastructure to standards that reduce road accidents?

David Ward: I fear not. As I said, in terms of road injuries, China has the second worst fatality rate in the world. At the moment, in human history we are doing something unprecedented. We are doubling the vehicle fleet in the shortest timespan that the human being has ever experienced. These countries are experiencing environmental and road safety impacts of rapid motorisation that we took 30 or 40 years to cope with. They are compressing it into 10 years. China is the most spectacular. I was there in December, and in Beijing you no longer see bicycles. It is a modern, industrial city, full of cars and massive traffic jams.

Q142 Chair: The difficulty is that you do not see very much at all, because of the smog.

David Ward: Exactly. Air quality and all of these issues come together around the issue of sustainable transport. Infrastructure, defined broadly, needs to gets all of these issues right. It is a huge challenge. For climate change reasons, environmental reasons and good governance reasons, the UK should be doing a lot more.

Q143 Hugh Bayley: I will tell you what frustrates me. There is a lot of hand­wringing going on here. We are saying that we are very bad with our own development projects, we are not transferring knowledge, there is not enough priority given by ministers in developing countries to road safety. The situation, you have just told us, is going to get worse, at least in terms of traffic volumes. What steps should be taken by donors and by in­country Governments if they wanted to increase road safety?

David Ward: We are reaching an interesting tipping point. A lot of countries did not take this issue seriously, because it was all invisible. I think that is changing now. It is interesting in a country like Bangladesh: if you go and look at the newspapers in Bangladesh, every single day there is a report of a road injury. Recently they lost quite a senior minister in a road crash. It is affecting the elites, so you are seeing a changed attitude. Last year, when we got the UN General Assembly to debate this issue of a decade, the resolution was sponsored by 100 countries. That is more or less a record in terms of UN endorsement. We have been very pleased with that. We proposed the Ministerial Conference in 2009. At that Ministerial Conference, the atmosphere was extraordinary. We had 80 countries, 80 ministers show up. There is a new interest in this problem, and the donor community is catching up with what is going on on the ground. It is the first time ever, for instance, that the President of the World Bank has addressed this issue specifically, at a meeting with all the other development banks, in Washington last month. We are seeing a whole new level of interest in this, and I think there does need to be a catch­up. The good news is that there is a lot of positive experience around. This is a solvable problem to a large degree. That is why it is extremely important that the UK does commit to it.

On the theme of hand-wringing and moaning, I cannot escape without raising a pretty considerable concern. In 2009, the UK Government came to the Moscow Ministerial Conference, the first ever Ministerial Conference on this subject, and made a very modest pledge from DFID, jointly agreed with the Department for Transport, of £1,500,000 to the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, which is coordinating this multi­donor effort. Because the UK was making that specific donor pledge, it was given pride of place in that plenary opening, accompanied by President Medvedev and all the restt. It was a very impressive commitment. The UK Government has failed to honour that pledge. At that time I was chairing the World Bank Facility, as we were one of the donors to it. DFID took over from me as Chairman and has failed to send any civil servant to attend the meetings. We had a meeting in Washington last month, and there was nobody from DFID there. They are re­assessing this commitment. I find it quite astonishing, in the context where DFID has no cuts, that the new Government is even reviewing this. How can you go to an international conference on a subject like this, make a commitment like that, and then forget about it because of the change of Government?

Q144 Chair: Have they given any indication as to why they have not followed up?

David Ward: They are reviewing their policy priorities. It seems to me extraordinary. This is to the multilaterals. It is £1.5 million, so it is a small amount of money, but it would help to energise this process of the MDB initiative. It is exactly in line with the Paris Declaration: in fact it is trying to get more value for money out of our contribution to the multilaterals. Yet DFID, in its wisdom, has decided to reconsider something that it made as a public commitment. This surprising even in terms of our bilateral relationship with Russia andDavid Cameron is going to visit Russia, and the Russians were enormously proud of this conference. They hosted it, drawing attention to the fact that they have a huge road injury problem of 25 fatalities per 100,000.

Q145 Chair: Obviously the Government is closing down its Russia programme, and I wonder whether there is some confusion within the mind of DFID that this is focused in an area where they are closing the programme down. I think that what you have identified obviously is something that the Committee can take up directly with the Department.

David Ward: Can I just say that I think the problem is that internally they have not worked out the proper role of infrastructure in development? It is as simple as that. They have not worked out importance of infrastructure, and are not seeing it in this wider remit, contributing to the MDGs and so on. It is not that we should necessarily be taking a lead bilaterally, but we should be taking a lead in policy and agenda­setting within the MDBs.

Q146 Chair: You have basically answered that section. I just wanted to check something before I bring Hugh Bayley back in. You seem to be implying two things. One is that DFID maybe should consider doing some direct projects, where it can demonstrate some degree of expertise in road safety—not necessarily on a large scale, but enough to influence. The second is that they should use their substantial influence over multilaterals to exact standards. Just in passing, the £1.5 million in there is part of that. Is that a fair summary of what you think they could do?

David Ward: Absolutely, yes.

Q147 Hugh Bayley: I just have a last couple of questions to you, Mr Petts. Can you say what you think the key achievements have been of the AFCAP programme?

Robert Petts: I have been on the periphery of the programme. AFCAP is a programme looking at rural access and at road transport access for a number of African countries. One of the major projects within AFCAP has been to totally revise the standards for roads in Ethiopia. This is something that a number of African countries are saddled with: they have standards, specifications and procedures that were largely inherited from colonial times. The problem there is that in those times, of course, equipment was relatively cheap. Fuel was cheap. Bitumen was cheap. The parameters are very different now. AFCAP's role in totally overhauling the manuals is close to completion. I think it is very important. It is something that needs to be done in a lot of other African countries. It has been a very collaborative operation between the local experts and international experts, which is very important in any development project. I cannot speak for the other AFCAP projects, because I am not aware of them.

The fear I have, and hear in feedback from colleagues in national road authorities, is that there is not a clear future of the sort of research work that DFID has been doing. AFCAP has a horizon of two years to run now. There is no other knowledge generation and management programme. That is a pity because DFID, ODA before it, and its predecessors have spent over £100,000,000 on transport knowledge research, and there is a great fear amongst the people out in the countries that that knowledge is not being protected or rolled out. This is one of the issues that I would suggest the Committee should look at.

Q148 Hugh Bayley: Should funding in this area of transport knowledge continue after 2013, and if so is AFCAP the right channel for funding?

Robert Petts: AFCAP is basically generating knowledge. It is compiling it. There is a whole process. Those are the first two steps. You then need to disseminate the knowledge so that everybody can get access to it. That is not just via website but in hard copy. That needs to be addressed. Then there is the whole issue of making people aware, and accepting it. Often you cannot just plug the knowledge in and use it. You have to adapt it to local conditions. You have to train for the new processes, because the road sector, like any other sector, is resistant to change. You need this whole process of acceptance, training, demonstration of good practice, and then final embedment. DFID in the past have been the foremost international agency in creating knowledge on safety and on all aspects of roads and transport in developing countries. The other agencies recognise this, but my fear, and the fear of a lot of stakeholders in the sector, is that DFID are moving away from it, and that post­2013 there is nobody to carry on.

Chair: Can I thank both of you for your evidence? You have helped focus both on the quality of infrastructure and the road safety dimensions and how important they are, and specific roles that DFID could usefully play that they are not currently doing, or where there has been a little bit of backsliding as well. I think it is very helpful. The Committee will openly admit that this is an area in which no Member of the Committee claims to have any great expertise, but we do appreciate that it is perhaps an underreported and underappreciated dimension of development that it is right for us to examine. Can I thank both of you very much indeed for coming along, for the written evidence you have given us, and also your oral evidence? I think it has helped us a great deal. As I said at the outset, we do experience roads in developing countries, and indeed in all cases have had some quite interesting experiences, which make you realise just how difficult and unsafe those conditions sometimes are. Thank you very much indeed. I think it has been very helpful.

David Ward: Mr Chairman, thank you very much.

Robert Petts: Thank you.


 
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