USAID-Tarabot worked in partnership with the Government of Iraq to improve capital investment planning through a range of capacity building and institutional reform measures. With this assistance ministerial and provincial partners are better equipped to select and plan investment projects that maximize value and impact in service delivery, and ensure local projects are coordinated and in line with national priorities.
The National Development Plan 2013–2017 lays the groundwork for consistency and coordination in national development. It was developed by the Ministry of Planning with substantial advisory and technical support from USAID-Tarabot, including improving the gathering and analysis of statistical data, drafting the plan, and developing a monitoring framework to evaluate progress in its implementation.
The new National Development Plan incorporates central ideas from its predecessor, the National Development Plan 2010–2014, developed with the assistance of USAID-Tatweer, and is updated to reflect changes in the Iraqi economy and expanded economic goals. The Plan will channel US$357 billion in capital investments, of which US$75 billion is expected to come from private investments, into 5,861 development projects approved by the Ministry of Planning. The investments promote the sustainable handling of oil revenues and a diversification of Iraq’s economic base, while reducing the percentage of the population living in poverty, raising the level of enrollment in schools, upgrading health infrastructure, improving the quality of life for vulnerable groups, and promoting sustainable environmental practices–all priorities in line with the Government of Iraq’s central policy agenda.
USAID-Tarabot strove to improve the capacity of the Government of Iraq to screen and select projects based on cost-benefit analyses of economic, social, financial, spatial, and environmental considerations to improve project planning and to maximize the positive economic and social impact of the capital investment budget. To this end, USAID-Tarabot delivered a capacity building program to ministries and provinces consisting of three phases: 1) studying current planning processes and identifying weaknesses; 2) aligning project selection with National Development Plan goals, developing selection criteria, and providing on-the-job training; and 3) applying project selection criteria in the development of project plans or lists. Projects selected had to meet 58 points of criteria in the areas of economic (14), social (20), spatial (6), environmental (2), and financial (4) considerations, as well as 12 criteria involving project definitions, descriptions, and alternatives.
USAID-Tarabot provided technical assistance for the development of project plans from the Ministries of Construction and Housing, and Municipalities and Public Works using project selection criteria. Additionally, Tarabot continued its assistance to the Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs, Electricity, and Agriculture in developing midterm investment plans that serve as broader strategies for how to prioritize their project planning. USAID-Tarabot’s planning reform initiative worked with 10 ministries (Municipalities and Public Works, Labor and Social Affairs, Construction and Housing, Health, Agriculture, Electricity, Transport, Industry and Minerals, Trade, and Youth and Sport) and five provinces (Ninawa, Babil, Diwaniyah, Muthanna, and Basrah). A total of 578 governmental officials were trained in the use of project selection criteria.
Project planning in Iraq has historically suffered from poor coordination, resulting in the redundancy of projects and poor matching of national objectives and the needs of citizens. This is partially a result of a dual budget system, in which ministries build infrastructure in the provinces using national capital investment funds while governorate offices implement their own projects through a separate regional development fund. Under this arrangement, ministries and governorate offices implemented projects independently of one another, with little to no coordination.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Provincial Affairs, USAID-Tarabot helped to establish Provincial Projects Steering Committees in Babil, Basrah, Diwaniyah, Muthanna and Ninawa to promote coordination in planning. These committees brought together officials from the line ministries, governorate offices, and other provincial stakeholders to discuss and select projects that would be most beneficial for the provinces. The five provinces completed the three stages of the USAID-Tarabot capacity building and on-the-job training program, and submitted project lists developed through the steering committees using USAID-Tarabot’s project selection criteria. These lists demonstrate improved coordination among stakeholders, and more closely reflect national and local development goals. The graduation of these fully operational committees in October 2013 marked an important transition in USAID-Tarabot’s work with its provincial counterparts to improve capital investment project planning in the provinces, and to promote horizontal and vertical coordination among different governmental planning stakeholders.
Among the initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Planning and Tarabot to support the implementation of the NDP is the Iraq Development Management System (IDMS), a comprehensive web-based application, available in Arabic and English, which facilitates the management the whole cycle of government and donor-funded development projects in Iraq. The system will serve as a reliable and credible source of information on the distribution of development projects according to sector, location, and implementing institution. The IDMS feeds information for the decision-making process in planning, and will illuminate project implementation performance by ministry, sector, or individual projects. This information will allow government officials to make wiser decisions with its capital investment resources, and to better identify and address any weaknesses in implementation, thus contributing to greater efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the allocation of development funds.
USAID-Tarabot trained targeted staff members from the Ministry of Planning and 57 other entities to update and enter project information into the system, query the system for information, and generate reports on capital investment projects and their implementation progress. The IDMS is a central component of the range of integrated initiatives undertaken by Tarabot with the goal of better equipping GoI partners to select, plan, and implement investment projects.