In 2006, Fujian Province lagged behind the other coastal provinces in transport infrastructure. The density of higher class roads was less than half of that in the neighboring Guangdong and Zhejiang, and the percentage of unclassified and lower class roads was substantially higher. In the 207 poorest villages, the unclassified and lower class roads were often impassable in the rainy season and transport costs were high.
The Fujian Provincial Government developed an investment strategy to improve the road network to support social and economic development. It aimed to double the expressway network by 2010 and triple it by 2017, upgrade 8,600 kilometers of national and provincial highways to Class II or higher standard to enhance the connections among cities and counties and integrate them with the expressway network, and improve about 35,000 kilometers of non-paved Class III and IV rural roads as part of the Rural Roads Improvement Program in 7,500 administrative villages by 2010.
The project adopted the “Sector Wide Approach” for the first time in China. A “Sector-Wide Approach” is an approach to support a country-led program for a coherent sector in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
Rural roads improvement component was approved based on a databank with to-be-built rural roads, and projects were selected from the databank, withdrawal applications were made in batches after construction was completed, and audit and inspections were carried out. This approach improved the works quality and accelerated progress, as well as simplified the World Bank’s prior review and disbursement procedures.
Although World Bank financing represented only about 20 percent of the resources required for the rural roads improvement component at preparation stage, the project design sought to build upon and improve the existing framework through employing better practices in social and environmental safeguards, procurement and fiduciary arrangements, and technical engineering quality among counties, townships, and villages. The disbursement approach and the monitoring and financial reporting procedures were designed to apply innovative mechanisms and can be replicated in similar investment initiatives in China.