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International comparison of performance of public projects

Florence Yean Yng Ling (Department of Building, National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Article publication date: 13 April 2018

Issue publication date: 5 July 2018



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the performance of public projects in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney to uncover which areas project managers should focus on when managing public projects in different countries.


Based on the literature review, a structured questionnaire was designed to collect data of completed public projects. In total, 244 sets of data of completed public projects were collected.


Significant cost and schedule overruns are found in all four cities. Hong Kong’s public projects have the highest cost and schedule overruns. Singapore’s public projects have the lowest cost overrun and Beijing’s projects have the lowest schedule overrun. Public projects in all four cities recorded significantly good project quality.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are not easily generalizable due to the relatively small sample size in Sydney, low response rate and data being collected from only four cities. The research implication is that the plethora of project management strategies does not seem effective in preventing cost and schedule overruns in public projects.

Practical implications

This study found that across the four cities, there are significant cost and schedule overruns. Projects in Hong Kong perform the worst in terms of cost and schedule, when compared to Beijing, Singapore and Sydney. The implication is that more attention should be paid to managing cost and schedule, especially in Hong Kong.


The originality is that the study discovered which areas project managers should focus on when managing public projects in different countries. In laissez-faire or free market economies, more attention should be paid to managing project cost and schedule. When a country has lower transparency index, more attention should be paid to controlling project quality. Project team members should focus on delivering public projects to the highest level of quality in developed countries.



The research is made possible by Singapore Ministry of Education’s Academic Research Fund Tier 2 funding support (Grant No. MOE2009-T2-2-067) for the project entitled “Boosting public construction project outcomes through relational transactions”. Professor Mohan Kumaraswamy, Professor Wang Shouqing and Professor Patrick Zou’s contributions and inputs in this research project are acknowledged with thanks. The data collection was conducted by Dr Yongjian Ke and Associate Professor Yan Ning, without whom this study would not be possible.


Ling, F.Y.Y. (2018), "International comparison of performance of public projects", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 281-292.



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