Back to cover

Results and Performance of the World Bank Group 2023


This is the 13th annual Results and Performance of the World Bank Group (RAP) report. The RAP comprehensively reviews evidence from the evaluation and validation work of the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG). It assesses the development effectiveness of the World Bank Group, including the World Bank, comprising the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

The analyses and methodologies presented in this RAP were guided by three principles: continuity, innovation, and symmetry. The report embraces continuity by building on previous RAPs, innovation by incorporating novel data and evaluation methods, and symmetry by conducting similar analyses across different Bank Group institutions. In particular, this RAP focuses on the evolution of project performance ratings across the three institutions. It also examines development outcomes underlying project performance ratings and assesses the validity of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks tasked with measuring them. Furthermore, it investigates the relationship between the validity of indicators and project performance ratings. Lastly, this report analyzes the factors that affected the implementation and performance of Bank Group projects, particularly within the context of the pandemic. Since results and performance across Bank Group institutions are not comparable because of differing mandates, project restructuring arrangements, and project evaluation and rating methodologies, this RAP’s findings are presented separately for each institution (for more information on evaluation approaches, see chapter 1 and appendix A).

This is the first RAP with a substantial number of projects that were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. World Bank, IFC, and MIGA projects faced many obstacles during implementation, especially disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of Bank Group projects reported pandemic-related implementation challenges, although most of these projects began implementation well before the pandemic started. As a share of project time length, Bank Group projects' exposure to the pandemic was rather limited, especially for the World Bank: on average, 14 percent of World Bank projects' lives occurred during the pandemic compared with 24 percent of IFC investment and 27 percent of MIGA guarantee projects’ lives. As a result of the limited exposure of these projects to the pandemic and the presence of a sample selection bias in the RAP sample, this RAP does not fully capture the impact of COVID-19 on projects’ performance. It is likely that project cohorts in the forthcoming years will exhibit a more accurate depiction of the far-reaching consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

World Bank

Project Performance

World Bank projects maintained or improved their performance ratings, as evaluated by IEG, between fiscal year (FY)21 and FY22 despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both the average outcome and Bank performance ratings of the 181 investment project financing (IPF) and Program-for-Results projects in FY22 remained at 4.3 on a 6-point scale, as in FY20 and FY21—the highest average since FY12. IPF and Program-for-Results projects have seen an upward trajectory in M&E quality ratings, with the share of projects rated substantial or high increasing from 60 percent in FY21 to 63 percent in FY22. The average outcome rating for 17 development policy financing projects in FY22 also remained constant at an average of 4.0 on a 6-point scale, and the overall Bank performance ratings improved with an average rating increasing from 4.3 in FY21 to 4.6 in FY22 on a 6-point scale. Nevertheless, development policy financing performance ratings should be interpreted with caution because of the limited number of projects in the RAP sample (for more information on distribution of ratings, see chapter 2 and appendix B).

From a longer-term perspective, World Bank project performance ratings for IPF projects closing in FY20–22 also saw an improvement from previous years. This RAP’s in-depth analysis of 273 IPF projects revealed that projects exposed to the pandemic and closed during FY20–22 exhibited higher performance across all project ratings compared with projects that closed in FY18–20 and were not exposed to the pandemic. Efficacy ratings of intended development outcomes have also shown consistent and statistically significant improvement from FY12–14 to FY20–22. This is particularly noteworthy as the size of the average International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and IDA net commitments has been increasing since FY12.

Explaining Project Performance

The limited exposure time of projects to the pandemic and the presence of a selection bias in the RAP sample help explain the World Bank’s positive and healthy performance rating trends. All World Bank projects in the RAP 2023 cohort were exposed to the pandemic to some extent during their project lives, and a vast majority reported being negatively affected by it. However, many projects were already at an advanced stage of implementation when the pandemic began, minimizing the severity of their exposure. In addition, the RAP 2023 cohort may have an overrepresentation of successful projects with higher ratings because projects for which teams completed both an Implementation Completion and Results Report (ICR) and an Implementation Completion and Results Report Review (ICRR) relatively quickly after the project closure tended to have higher ratings than projects that delayed their ICRs and ICRRs. This pattern also applies to the rating trends and occurred in previous years, but it is even more likely to occur in this RAP cohort because of the evaluation cutoff date of December 2022. An exploration of the latest Implementation Status and Results Report ratings on progress toward achieving project development objectives in FY22 confirms this pattern. Projects with ICRRs completed and included in this RAP have higher average Implementation Status and Results Report ratings than projects with completed ICRs but in-progress ICRRs and even higher ratings than projects with uncompleted ICRs (see figure A.3). Therefore, the trends of project performance ratings should be interpreted carefully as they are likely to change downward in the future. This is especially true as more projects with extended exposure times to COVID-19 are evaluated and incorporated into the project rating trends (see appendix A for more details on the limitations of the data).

Despite the projects’ limited exposure to it, the COVID-19 pandemic was the most salient challenge for World Bank project implementation during FY20–22. According to the ICRs, COVID-19–related lockdowns and mobility restrictions led to economic downturns and disruptions in public services and institutional operations. Most projects reported implementation delays caused by supply chain shortages and other logistical challenges, which had an impact on civil works components of projects. The pandemic also led to the postponement of in-person project-related activities and, in some cases, the reallocation of project funds.

Other contextual, stakeholder, and project-related challenges not directly attributed to the COVID-19 crisis seemed to be more exacerbated in the RAP 2023 cohort than in previous years. In particular, the low technical and organizational capacity of implementing agencies emerged as a key implementation constraint, especially in projects that failed to adequately identify and mitigate institutional capacity risks.

More project adaptation and timely restructuring also helped limit the impact of implementation challenges on project performance. Project restructurings, in the form of adjusted closing dates and results frameworks, were more common among FY20–22 projects than in previous years. These restructurings may have helped projects adapt to implementation challenges and respond to unexpected shocks, including those related to the pandemic. Furthermore, the timeliness of these course corrections mattered. Projects that made course corrections earlier in the project cycle had a higher likelihood of achieving their intended development outcomes than projects that adapted later, and, as a result, the early adapted projects received higher efficacy ratings.

The World Bank’s improved M&E facilitated project adaptation and helped provide sufficient evidence on project achievements; however, some M&E outcome orientation challenges persist. M&E frameworks provide project teams with a deeper understanding of project achievements and challenges, enabling them to make well-informed adjustments during implementation. We confirm what previous RAPs suggested, namely, that World Bank projects with good-quality M&E tend to have higher efficacy ratings than projects with low-quality M&E. This RAP’s in-depth assessment of results framework indicators reinforced this positive influence of improved M&E quality on efficacy ratings. Nevertheless, some M&E outcome orientation challenges persist, particularly in measuring institutional capacity-building outcomes. The attainment of these development outcomes still tends to be measured by intermediate outcome or lower-level indicators rather than outcome or higher-level indicators that demonstrate development impact, such as the improved capacity of public institutions to perform their functions.

International Finance Corporation

Project Performance

IFC investment project development outcome ratings declined only slightly despite projects' exposure to COVID-19 and the more challenging operating environment. The share of IFC’s investment projects rated mostly successful or better, for development outcomes, decreased from 53 percent in calendar year (CY)19–21 to 50 percent in CY20–22, in line with IFC’s Expanded Project Supervision Report self-ratings. IFC investment projects’ exposure to COVID-19 averaged about 24 percent of their active project lives. The pandemic-related disruptions and economic slowdowns contributed to a particularly challenging operating environment for IFC’s CY20–22 investment projects. That being said, IFC’s RAP 2023 cohort did not include investment projects that were severely affected by the pandemic but only those that were considered to have been moderately or minimally affected (as assessed by IFC at the time of sampling). It is also important to note that while IFC undertakes financial restructuring for its investment projects as needed, it has no formal procedures for modifying the original development objectives, indicators, and targets to adapt to changing market conditions.

IEG’s ratings for IFC work quality, particularly for project preparation, declined in CY20–22. Overall, the share of IFC investment projects with satisfactory or better (high) IFC work quality ratings declined from 60 percent in CY19–21 to 55 percent in CY20–22. The share of investment projects with high project preparation work quality ratings decreased from 59 percent to 54 percent between CY19–21 and CY20–22. However, high supervision and administration work quality ratings stayed at approximately 70 percent during the same period. The RAP 2023 confirmed the findings from previous RAPs that IFC work quality ratings for investment projects are positively and strongly associated with IFC’s development outcome ratings.

IFC additionality success ratings in challenging environments were lower than the IFC average. Overall, the share of IFC investment projects with high additionality was 54 percent in CY20–22 (down from 59 percent in CY19–21). IFC additionality success ratings in African, fragile and conflict-affected situation (FCS), and IDA and blend countries were lower than the IFC average. Specifically, IFC realized its anticipated additionality in 37 percent of African projects, 33 percent of FCS projects, and 47 percent of IDA and blend investment projects. The gap between anticipated and realized additionality in these challenging markets was larger for nonfinancial additionality than for financial additionality. The RAP 2023 confirmed the RAP 2022 findings that IFC additionality ratings were positively and strongly correlated with project development outcome ratings.

Overall, IFC’s investment outcome success ratings declined in CY20–22, although IFC’s equity performance remained stable. IFC’s overall investment outcome ratings have been satisfactory or better in 60 percent of investment projects in CY20–22, which was slightly lower than 64 percent in CY19–21. This decline was caused by the slight decline in loan investment outcome ratings. Among IFC investment projects with low loan investment outcome ratings, 42 percent had prepayments, which affected IFC’s ability to realize full anticipated financial returns. In contrast, equity outcome ratings have remained stable, although only about one-third of equity investments generated satisfactory returns. A large share of IFC investment projects in challenging markets tended to not achieve IFC’s “double bottom line” of delivering high development results and satisfactory investment returns. Development and investment outcome ratings were both low in 56 percent of FCS countries’ investment projects, 51 percent of African projects, and 39 percent of IDA and blend projects, compared with an average of 31 percent for the IFC portfolio as a whole.

IFC advisory projects saw a slight performance decline in the more challenging operating environment. The development effectiveness success ratings of IFC advisory projects have been improving since FY15–17 but declined from 60 percent in FY19–21 to 54 percent in FY20–22. IFC’s Project Completion Report self-ratings also showed a decline. External factors such as political conflicts, force majeure events, COVID-19–related disruptions, and client commitment issues also negatively affected the more recent projects in this RAP cohort. Project design weaknesses and M&E shortcomings contributed to IFC advisory projects’ low development effectiveness ratings. IFC’s overall work quality remained satisfactory in 59 percent of advisory projects in FY20–22. However, IFC’s preparation and design work quality ratings were satisfactory or better in fewer than half of projects in FY20–22. The implementation and supervision work quality success ratings of advisory projects declined marginally in FY20–22. The RAP 2023 confirmed the findings from previous evaluations that development effectiveness ratings of advisory projects are highly correlated with IFC work quality ratings, particularly for project preparation work quality.

Explaining Project Performance

Several factors besides COVID-19 negatively affected IFC’s investment project performance. IFC investment projects in the CY20–22 cohort suffered from unfavorable economic issues (23 percent of projects), high business risks (17 percent), and higher-than-expected competition (14 percent). Economic factors reduced demand for IFC client products and services and lowered the project companies’ operational and financial performance compared with the projections at the Board approval stage. Financial sector projects dealing with high business risks moved away from lending to riskier segments to preserve capital. In the real sector, adverse business factors related to cyclicality, a downturn in the markets, or untested and flawed business models affected investment project performance. Higher-than-expected competition led to investment projects missing operational targets and contributed to reduced operating margins and profitability.

Despite these challenges and those posed by COVID-19, IFC’s private sector clients showed remarkable resilience, adaptability, and flexibility. For example, in the financial sector, most of IFC’s clients contracted their loan portfolio and focused on asset quality issues. Many real sector project companies implemented cost-saving initiatives to increase efficiency and shore up margins. Others invested quickly in information technology solutions to facilitate remote work. Many companies rolled out online versions of their business lines, particularly companies in the higher education and food and consumer retail sectors. IFC health care, food packaging, and consumer retail sector investment projects adapted their services and products to respond to COVID-19–related demand changes. As such, “capable sponsors” positively affected project performance. Consequently, IFC investment projects were also successful when IFC complemented its financing with advisory projects to increase the capacity of sponsors and clients. The provision of advisory projects is one of the examples of how IFC can deliver nonfinancial additionality.

IFC has no formal procedures for modifying investment projects’ development objectives to adapt to changing market conditions after Board approval. By their nature, private sector projects must be financially sustainable to survive in a competitive environment. At the same time, IFC projects are meant to achieve development objectives and comply with IFC’s environmental and social performance standards. If needed, IFC can restructure the terms of investment financing agreements with clients and reschedule loan repayment schedules and clients can adapt their products and services to changing market conditions, such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the original development objectives, indicators, and targets cannot be modified to reflect the changes in market conditions, as neither IFC processes nor the Anticipated Impact Measurement and Monitoring (AIMM) framework consider formal changes of development objectives or targets after approval by the Board.

IFC investment project objectives were highly outcome oriented; however, outcome achievement rates were low, and measurement shortcomings persisted. Overall, all reviewed IFC investment projects established project-level outcomes, and a majority (74 percent) expected to achieve market-level outcomes, in line with the IFC 3.0 strategy. IFC fully achieved 45 percent of investment project outcomes, including both project-level and market-level outcomes, and partially achieved 22 percent. IFC investment projects that achieved more of their intended outcomes achieved higher development outcome ratings. Most of these investment projects in the RAP 2023 cohort were not subject to an AIMM assessment at their approval and continued to be monitored in the Development Outcome Tracking System. In many cases, IFC or IEG used other available information sources and validated the outcomes, but 8 percent of intended outcomes could not be verified because of a lack of evidence.

Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency

Project Performance

MIGA guarantee projects’ development outcome ratings remained stable over the last six years but were slightly lower over the last three years, partially due to pandemic-related market challenges. MIGA guarantee projects in the RAP cohort were exposed to the pandemic for 27 percent of their active project lives. As a result, FY20–22 MIGA guarantee projects operated in a relatively more challenging operating environment during the pandemic. On a six-year rolling basis over FY17–22, MIGA’s overall development outcome success ratings remained stable, with 72 percent of guarantee projects rated satisfactory or better. However, ratings were lower on a three-year rolling basis over FY20–22, reflecting the more challenging operating environment. That said, there were some delays in the delivery of some MIGA self-evaluations, which limited the number of guarantee projects analyzed in the RAP cohort. Therefore, this RAP’s analysis provides only limited and preliminary insights on the pandemic’s effects on MIGA guarantee projects. Like IFC, MIGA has no formal procedures for restructuring development-related objectives or outcome targets during project implementation or crises.

The performance gap between guarantee projects in IDA and blend countries and those in non-IDA countries largely stayed the same in FY17–22. The performance of IDA and blend projects continued to be lower than that of non-IDA projects, with 64 percent rated satisfactory or better for development outcome in FY17–22. In contrast, guarantee projects in non-IDA countries maintained satisfactory or better ratings for 76 percent of projects in FY17–22. That said, MIGA’s overall development outcome ratings in guarantee projects in FCS countries were on par with those of projects in non-FCS countries, with 70 percent of projects rated satisfactory or better in FY17–22.

MIGA work quality was rated lower than satisfactory in half of guarantee projects in FY17–22 and continued to exhibit shortcomings. Sixty percent of MIGA guarantee projects for the six-year rolling average over FY12–17 were rated satisfactory or better, but the share fell to 51 percent in FY16–21 and to 50 percent in FY17–22. The decline was even more evident when looking at three-year rolling averages, which fell from 56 percent rated satisfactory or better in FY15–17 to 48 percent in FY19–21 and just 43 percent in FY20–22. MIGA work quality rating was correlated with the development outcome rating in 75 percent of guarantee projects in FY17–22.

MIGA achieved high success rates in carrying out its expected role and contribution. The share of guarantee projects with satisfactory ratings for MIGA’s role and contribution was 88 percent in FY17–22—the same level as in FY16–21. MIGA’s role and contribution ratings were generally high across the entire portfolio, including those in FCS, and IDA and blend countries. MIGA accomplished its expected role and contribution in almost 90 percent of guarantee projects. MIGA’s role and contribution was most significant in environmental and social areas and risk reduction.

Explaining Project Performance

Pandemic- and non-pandemic-related factors undermined MIGA project implementation and performance. COVID-19–related lockdowns and economic downturns affected guarantee projects in the public transportation and energy sector by reducing consumer demand for these services. Other factors besides COVID-19 also negatively affected MIGA’s project performance. Cost overruns and construction delays as well as foreign exchange issues were the most common adverse factors. However, some MIGA guarantee projects were able to adapt to the challenging economic landscape. For example, some MIGA hospital projects played an active role in assisting governments in meeting the new medical demands posed by COVID-19. More specifically, capable sponsors and a favorable legal and regulatory framework helped MIGA guarantee projects effectively adapt to implementation challenges.

Much like IFC, MIGA guarantee project objectives were highly outcome oriented, despite low outcome achievement rates and a lack of appropriate results measurement indicators and evidence. All MIGA guarantee projects pursued project-level outcomes, and 81 percent pursued at least one foreign investment–level outcome. However, the reviewed projects fully achieved 50 percent and partially achieved 22 percent of the outcomes defined at approval. This affected project ratings as the RAP 2023 confirmed that achieving more intended project development outcomes led to higher development outcome ratings. Moreover, 69 percent of guarantee project development outcomes were not tracked by MIGA because of a lack of indicators, which, after other supplemental verification, prevented the validation of 10 percent of expected development outcomes.

Future Directions for the World Bank Group

World Bank

Strengthen project capacity to identify and mitigate risks during project preparation, especially the risk of low implementing agency capacity. Risk management by the World Bank’s project teams and the technical capacity of implementing agencies were key factors in successful project implementation. Indeed, the weak capacity of implementing agencies emerged as the predominant underlying risk in projects that failed to adequately identify and mitigate risks. This underscores the need for World Bank project teams to conduct comprehensive risk assessments and develop robust mitigation strategies that prioritize capacity risks, especially in countries where local capacity limitations are common. This future direction aligns with the RAP 2022 proposal to strengthen country programs’ ability to assess implementation capacity risks.

Continue improving M&E as both an adaptation and accountability tool. The World Bank took a proactive approach to adapt and restructure projects as needed during the COVID-19 crisis by closely monitoring projects’ progress and identifying emerging challenges. M&E frameworks also provided sufficient evidence on project achievements. Thus, there is a valuable opportunity to scale up project monitoring, adaptation, and restructuring into postpandemic contexts and, more generally, beyond crisis scenarios. This will help maximize the resilience and performance of World Bank projects. Nevertheless, there are still areas in which the World Bank can continue to improve the M&E frameworks for greater accountability. In particular, the World Bank could enhance these frameworks' ability to measure institutional capacity outcomes in line with the outcome orientation agenda. This future direction is consistent with RAP 2021, which shows that not all projects with institutional strengthening objectives have adequate indicators to measure them.

International Finance Corporation

Improve the delivery of IFC additionality in difficult markets to enhance investment project outcomes. Difficult markets include those in FCS, Africa, and IDA and blend countries, in particular. We found that IFC additionality success ratings were particularly low in a large share of investment projects in these markets. The IFC 3.0 strategy aims to ramp up its investment program in these challenging markets. Higher realized IFC additionality in these challenging markets will make it more likely for IFC investment projects to achieve their objectives. IFC can add value to projects in these markets in several ways. For example, IFC delivers tailored financing but can also increase its provision of industry expertise and capacity-building advisory services, improve corporate governance, and enhance the environmental and social standards and practices of clients. Improving the delivery of IFC additionality would require IFC to adopt a proactive approach to ensure that additionality promises made at approval, particularly nonfinancial additionalities, are fulfilled and properly monitored during the investment project’s life.

Further strengthen the selection of indicators and the measurement and tracking of intended development outcomes of investment projects. These measures would facilitate the monitoring of project development outcome progress and better reflect actual achievement. RAP 2021 highlighted the challenges in measuring development outcomes, particularly at the market level, and this RAP showed that these challenges continue to be an issue. We found that monitoring data were not available for many intended development outcomes of IFC investment projects in the RAP 2023 cohort. As such, IFC has an opportunity to improve its design and implementation of monitoring indicators to ensure that they can measure and track the achievement of intended project outcomes of investment projects. This would require IFC to provide clear definitions and sources for chosen indicators and ensure that clients have the capacity to measure them. That said, the investment projects in the RAP 2023 cohort predate the rollout of IFC’s AIMM framework, which requires IFC to track all project claims until the AIMM target year, which could improve some of these monitoring issues. IFC confirmed that it has increased the use of standardized indicators, improved regular monitoring, and engaged in an ongoing effort to establish a new data platform for data tracking and reporting for investment projects approved under the AIMM system. Appropriate implementation of these measures could result in improvements in measurement and tracking of intended outcomes, although IEG has not yet been able to systematically validate these claims as very few IFC investment projects approved under the AIMM framework have been evaluated so far.

Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency

Enhance project preparation work quality to strengthen the performance of MIGA guarantee projects. We found that MIGA work quality was rated lower than satisfactory in half of guarantee projects. MIGA could undertake more comprehensive project risk assessments, estimate detailed operational and financial projections with clear targets, and account for stricter downside scenarios. These up-front actions would help project teams enhance the awareness or understanding of potential project risks, consider mitigation mechanisms, and set clear project expectations. In public-private partnership projects, MIGA could identify foreseeable macroeconomic developments, such as local currency depreciations that can increase the government’s financial obligations, and assess the risks from these developments, for example, whether the government is willing or able to pay the increased obligations to reduce their sustainability risks. According to MIGA, project risk assessments have recently improved, and the current Impact Measurement and Project Assessment Comparison Tool (IMPACT) framework incentivizes project teams to mitigate risks to the extent possible. However, IEG has not been able to validate these claims because MIGA’s guarantee projects approved under the IMPACT framework have not yet been subject to evaluation.

Strengthen measurement and tracking of intended development outcomes, particularly at the foreign investment level. These measures would facilitate the monitoring of project development outcome progress, would better reflect actual achievement, and would be especially helpful for tracking the achievement of intended foreign investment–level outcomes. MIGA could accomplish this by better defining its project development objectives, selecting relevant indicators to measure outcomes, and establishing appropriate mechanisms to gather results evidence and development impact data. This suggestion is in line with the findings of RAP 2021, which noted that many MIGA guarantee projects lacked sufficient evidence to rate project outcomes; however, MIGA’s evidence collection has improved in recent years.