Delays in Public Investment Projects

27 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021

See all articles by Raphael Espinoza

Raphael Espinoza

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Andrea Presbitero

Johns Hopkins University

Date Written: January 7, 2021


The returns from public investment, especially during periods of scaling up, are often lower than expected. To understand the mechanisms behind this regularity we exploit original information on investment projects obtained from World Bank project reports to document the extent and the drivers of time delays in project implementation. We find that almost 60 percent of investment projects are delayed by at least one year. Time overruns are common across sectors and countries. A sound planning and preparation matter for the timing of project execution. Country characteristics also play a role, as projects undertaken in countries with weaker institutions and in periods of public investment scaling up are completed with longer delays.

Keywords: Public investment, Time delays, Investment projects, World Bank, Investment scaling up

JEL Classification: H43, H54, O12, O22

Suggested Citation

Espinoza, Raphael and Presbitero, Andrea, Delays in Public Investment Projects (January 7, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Raphael Espinoza

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

Andrea Presbitero (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

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