arrow checkmark code cross email facebook magnifier pdf phone plus twitter user youtube

CIAPEP: Inter-American Course on the Preparation and Assessment of Investment Projects (1976-2006)

From 1971 to 1976, Ernesto Fontaine directed a successful technical assistance project on the social evaluation of investment projects and programming at the Organization of American States (OAS), in Washington, D.C. In 1976, a bilateral agreement between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Chile’s National Planning Office (ODEPLAN) sought to replicate this course in our country, with the aim of professionalizing the study of the social impacts of different investment projects, especially in the public sector. This course took a pioneering approach that centered on measuring and evaluating the efficiency and social profitability of projects in order to prioritize and maximize the effectiveness of public spending.

The resulting IDB-ODEPLAN course was housed in the Instituto de Economía at the Pontificia Universidad Católica, led by Ernesto Fontaine, a graduate of PUC’s Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences and a Doctor of Economics from the University of Chicago.

In 1978, the IDB decided to terminate the bilateral cooperation agreement. Notable graduates of the Faculty, Roberto Kelly and Miguel Kast – who were respectively Minister and Undersecretary of MIDEPLAN at the time – obtained the government resources needed to keep the course going, no longer as an international cooperation project but as a Chilean project of regional scope under a new name: the Inter-American Course on the Preparation and Assessment of Investment Projects, better known by its acronym, CIAPEP.

CIAPEP courses were forerunners in Chile (and indeed in the region) for professionalizing the social assessment of public projects and policies based on technical criteria and for affirming such assessment as a core discipline for the efficient and effective management of public finances.

“The content and format of the CIAPEP course were basically the same as those of its predecessor,” affirms Fontaine himself in an article published in Cuadernos de Economía that highlights the contribution this demanding, innovative course has made in its 30-year history. The students enrolled were expected to dedicate themselves exclusively to the course over its 10-month time span, which included a four-and-a-half-month theoretical phase followed by five-and-a-half-month “total immersion” practicum.

After 24 exceptionally successful years conducting project assessment studies in Chile and Latin America, in 2003 CIAPEP was transformed into the Diploma in Project Assessment, with MIDEPLAN as its sponsor. The new program lasted six and a half months, with 10 weeks of theory and a 16-week practicum. Ultimately, in 2006, MIDEPLAN ended the contract with CIAPEP.

According to University of Chicago and UCLA professor Arnold Harberger, the project assessment courses were the “crowning achievement” of Ernesto Fontaine’s professional career. In the prologue to Fontaine’s autobiography, “Mi Visión,” Harberger – affectionately called “Alito” by his former students, who themselves are known today as the “Chicago Boys” – emphasizes the valuable investment in human capital that CIAPEP’s 30 years represent.

As the author affirms, over its three decades, CIAPEP managed to train hundreds of professionals in the social assessment of projects, a field that offers reasoned cost-benefit analyses of a wide range of investment projects. The adoption of this methodology for analyzing the profitability of public and private works was somewhat visionary at the time, and it enabled the Government of Chile (and those govenments of other countries that commissioned studies or sent their own professionals for training) not only to invest well but also to save large sums of money. “From the beginning, the final half of the course was focused on conducting actual assessments of projects in progress. Then, near the end of each course, a group of experts would examine the projects and make suggestions that could be incorporated into the case study. I was always a member of the panel, from the beginning to the end,” recalls Harberger.

CIAPEP’s chief legacy is its contribution to improving public policy in Chile and Latin America. During its three decades in operation, it was evaluated very favorably by different governments, which very often used CIAPEP as an independent consultant to arbitrate – on the basis of technical criteria – what Fontaine calls “politically sensitive” investment projects. “It is very satisfying to see that our results have been used to drive or halt projects of that kind in the world,” affirms Fontaine in Cuadernos de Economía. Harberger adds that CIAPEP’s influence is also evident in the course’s many graduates, as well as in the methodologies developed therein, which “brought the lessons of the best lines of economic analysis into fruitful contact with the everyday problems of assessing actual public investment projects.”

For Jaime Artigas, professor, project supervisor, and former CIAPEP student, “CIAPEP’s legacy is enormous and can be summarized in three main spheres. First, it raised awareness around the country about Social Assessment of Projects and made a decisive contribution to building human capital in this field, which is essential for its successful application in the country. Second, it conducted social assessments on a hundred government projects, allowing several that were not beneficial to the country to be halted and helping the country by providing numerous new social assessment methodologies and improving others. Third, it provided comprehensive training for students, who not only received excellent technical training in social project assessment that combined theory and practice but also learned effective teamwork, precise and concise writing, public speaking, respect for deadlines, and a commitment to work undertaken.”

As Sergio Rudolphy, CIAPEP Assistant Director from 1979 to 2006, summarizes it: “CIAPEP was created to support the National Investment System, SNI, which was going to be launched in 1978. It sought to train professionals both for starting up the initiative and for keeping it up to date into the future. The SNI was recognized across Latin America as worthy of imitation, and indeed, several countries copied the idea, although with mixed results. CIAPEP delivered courses in Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and Mexico for this purpose. In El Salvador and Mexico, local CIAPEPs were officially established and delivered courses for six years or more each. Ernesto Fontaine was a great promoter of these initiatives.”


Photo gallery:

Project Selection

In three decades, CIAPEP produced more than 100 project assessments. A panel of CIAPEP professionals – including Sergio Rudolphy, CIAPEP Assistant Director from 1979 to 2006; Jaime Artigas, CIAPEP student in 1984, project supervisor since 1985, and instructor of the module, “Project Preparation and Special Topics,” from 1992 to 2006; and Rosario Ravera, a graduate of CIAPEP 1987 – have chosen these 20 projects as the most emblematic and representative of CIAPEP’s contribution to the social assessment of public and private investment projects in Chile.


1) Comprehensive Care for Urban Minors Living in Extreme Poverty, 1997 Download file
2) Convento Viejo Reservoir, 1978 Download file
3) Optimization of Distribution Transformers (110/12 kv) in Greater Santiago, 1982 Download file
4) Expansion and Improvement of the Penco and Lirquén Potable Water and Wastewater System, 1983 Download file
5) Investment Program for the Region V Port System: 1986-2000, 1985 Download file
6) Application of Information Systems to the Management of Chile’s Courts of Justice, 1986 Download file
7) Assessment of Maintenance and Improvement Programs for Rural Production  Roads and their Implementation in Region IX, 1986 Download file
8) Potable Water Supply for Region II, 1987 Download file
9) Seaport Alternatives for Region X, 1987 Download file
10)  Linares Trunk Canal Project, 1988 Download file
11) Some Measures for Air Pollution Reduction in Santiago, 1989 Download file
12) El Tepual Airport Expansion, 1989  Download file
13) Roadway Interconnection of Panamericana Norte and Longitudinal Sur via Av. Gral Velásquez, 1989  Download file
14) Cuesta El Melón Tunnel, 1990 Download file
15) Paving of Local Urban Roadways, 1992 Download file
16) Social Assessment of the Emergency Primary Care Program (SAPU), 1994 Download file
17) Loss Reduction in Potable Water Systems, 1997 Download file
18) Rainwater Drainage in Eastern Santiago, 1998 Download file
19) Socioeconomic Assessment of the Apoquindo-Manquehue-Alonso de Córdova Traffic Junction, 1999 Download file
20) Design and Application of Methodologies for Medical Equipment Acquisition and Replacement, 2003   Download file

For access to the original CIAPEP projects, please email:
We would like to thank Sergio Rudolphy, Jaime Artigas, and Rosario Ravera for their valuable assistance in assembling and selecting these projects. We also wish to thank Denise Fontaine, daughter of Ernesto Fontaine, for providing photos and bibliographic material.