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rural roads

Do better roads really improve lives?

Eric Lancelot's picture

How can improved roads change peoples’ lives? How much do people benefit from road projects? Answering these seemingly simple questions is, in fact, much trickier than it appears.

We recently concluded an impact evaluation to measure the socio-economic impacts of World Bank-financed municipal road improvements on poor rural households in the state of Tocantins, Brazil. After 10 years of study, what were the results and lessons learned? And how did we go about conducting the evaluation?

The study followed a methodology traditionally used in impact evaluations in the social sector and was based on a precedent in Vietnam. Throughout the state, one of the least-developed and least-populated in Brazil, most municipal roads are unpaved with inadequate maintenance. The World Bank’s municipal roads project helped construct 700 concrete bridges and 2,100 culverts crossing rivers and streams, providing year-round access to remote populations that once couldn’t access municipal centers during rainy season.

The anticipated result chain of the project was as follows: improvement of physical accessibility would contribute to increase travel demand to markets, schools and health services. This would, in turn, contribute to improved education, better health and increased business opportunities. Finally, it would result in long-term household income growth.

Our study aimed at measuring these impacts through a “difference in differences with matching,” a method that compares a treatment group (population benefiting from the interventions) and a control group (population that does not), while ensuring similar socio-economic characteristics (or comparability) between groups. An “instrumental variables estimator” was then used to confirm the robustness of the results.

The results show positive socio-economic impacts to rural residents, as well as provides for several policy implications:

Small changes, big savings: Innovation at work on Indian roads

Ashok Kumar's picture
One of the key issues in transportation is the ability to get both the wonderful advantages that a new road brings to a village, while being cost effective and environmentally and socially responsible. For example, when a village in India finally gets a paved road, life becomes freer, safer, and more prosperous. A new road that connects a rural village opens the local economy to new opportunities.

​Additionally, farmers can travel farther to sell their produce and get better prices, children can go to schools more easily and, migrants who go elsewhere to work can come back to their families. For many years, this transformation was limited to larger villages. Until the year 2000, only about 300,000 Indian villages — half of the total amount of villages — had a main road. In recent years, state and federal governments have grown increasingly ambitious and are now working towards the goal of providing road links to even the smallest of villages.

The problem with rural transport is that it is rural, the solution is in branding

A major constraint with developing and maintaining rural roads is the fact that they are, unfortunately, rural. The areas where they are needed are often difficult to access, logistics become complicated, local contracting capability is limited, engineers are few and far between, and younger engineers especially, are not keen to leave the urban environment.

The Story behind 50 Years of Transport Investment in the Poorest Countries

The International Development Association (IDA) is a vital, yet oddly lesser known, arm of the World Bank Group. Briefly, IDA receives donor remittances and a portion of interest payments received from World Bank lending programs and disburses these funds as interest-free grants and subsidized loans to the poorest countries in lieu of traditional lending.

Building Climate Resilience into Timor Leste’s Roads

Chris Bennett's picture

The only thing worse than taking 5 hours to drive 106 km along winding and often damaged mountainous roads, is the realization that having reached your destination you have to turn around and repeat the trip to get home. That was in the forefront of my mind as I sat in the very quiet town of Ainaro, south of the capital in Dili.

In Ethipia all roads lead to development

Anna Barbone's picture

In the 1990s, the government of Ethiopia knew that a major expansion of the road network was a sine qua non for its development goals―namely, (a) advance the private sector; (b) upgrade and expand essential infrastructure; and (c) conserve the environment.