Evaluating how multilateral development banks produce and use benefit-cost evidence in water and sanitation project decisions

Evaluating how multilateral development banks produce and use benefit-cost evidence in water and sanitation project decisions

Project description

Regional development banks and the World Bank disbursed US$ 120 billion for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects in the 5 years to 2020. Some projects succeed and others fail. For example, a third of World Bank WASH projects during 2007–2016 had “moderately unsatisfactory” outcomes or worse. Benefit-cost analyses (BCA) of candidate projects are carried out at the appraisal stage, and the African/Asian Development Banks and World Bank make appraisals of approved projects available online. These BCAs are usually upbeat about economic returns. However, this is perhaps unsurprising because only appraisals of approved projects are published, and projects anticipating poor returns are unlikely to be approved. Given the substantial WASH finance at stake, investigation is warranted of: (i) the influence of interim and final BCA results on project design and evaluation decisions; (ii) the role of partner governments in economic analyses; (iii) similarities and differences in BCA practice across institutions; (iv) whether rates of return projected ex ante are higher or lower than those assessed ex post once key results are achieved.

The aim of this PhD is to evaluate approaches to BCA in project appraisals by multilateral development banks. Its specific objectives are to:

  1. Review methods applied by development banks in BCAs of WASH projects, in the context of the broader practices of each institution.
  2. Explore how BCA methodological decisions were made as part of broader project selection and appraisal, in a qualitative exploration with stakeholders in six recently-approved projects.
  3. Undertake ex-post BCAs of three recently-completed development bank projects, and compare results to those projected at the appraisal stage.

This evidence generated could help improve BCA methods and practice within and beyond these institutions, enabling more efficient allocation of resources over time.

Subject areas/keywords

Benefit-cost analysis; water and sanitation; development banks


Applicants must meet minimum LSHTM entry requirements. Please see the specific project details above for further information.

This studentship is open to applicants assessed as both ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ fee status.  For further information about Fee Status Assessments please see the School’s Admissions policies.

Successful applicants who are nationals of low income countries and lower middle income countries (LLMICs) may be eligible for an LSHTM bursary to cover the fee top up costs. LLMIC applicants who are short-listed for interview, will be contacted by the LSHTM Scholarships Team at that time to provide further details of the LSHTM bursary scheme as per our UKRI international recruitment statement.  

Successful international applicants who are not from an LLMIC will be required to cover the tuition fee top up costs from other sources (e.g. other scholarship or bursary awards). Awardees may not use their Bloomsbury studentship stipend or personal funds to top up fees.