George B. Baldwin
ALTHOUGH a diminishing number, there are people who believe that project evaluation is not a teachable subject. These people regard every project as unique—there are simply no generalizations to be taught. They also feel that all evaluations are critically dependent on judgment and experience, which cannot be found in classrooms and books. Since “nothing times nothing is nothing” these sceptics view courses in project evaluation as a waste of time. “Better to send the chaps out on the job….”
This view exaggerates a half-truth into the whole truth. If the same attitude had triumphed in medicine most of us would be dead. At the World Bank we see no conflict at all between a proper respect, on the one hand, for the individuality of separate projects and the need for good judgment and, on the other, the need to record and organize project experience and to give people tools and attitudes that will improve their judgments. It was in this spirit that the Economic Development Institute (EDI)—on April 1, 1963—began its first course in project evaluation. During the previous seven years of our existence the curriculum had been limited to general courses in economic development—the classical problems, the broad strategies for attacking them, and the major policy choices. Today, two thirds of the 150 foreign government officials who study at the EDI each year come for one of the five project evaluation courses which EDI now offers. Even the ten-year-old General Development Course has a section devoted to project appraisal. Although EDI was among the first to devise training programs for project analysis, many other institutions have since developed their own courses. Some of these have received help from EDI; many more have asked than we have been able to help. The aim here is to tell others what we do and how we do it.
An analytical casebook of World Bank-financed projects was published by the Johns Hopkins Press in 1967. Its title is Economic Development Projects and Their Appraisal: Cases and Principles from the Experience of the World Bank, by John A. King, Jr. (530 pp., $15.00).