The World Bank said yesterday that a review of 70 projects it financed early in the decade showed that nearly all of them had economic returns as good or better than what was forecast when the loans were approved.

The study documented some notable failures, including one highway in the Middle East where the economic development the road was supposed to generate did not take place, but said that 90 percent of the investments did better than anticipated.

About half the development projects, which had a total cost of $3.3 billion, were in public utilities and transportation. The World Bank lent $1.3 billion of the $3.3 billion cost.

Most of the other projects are in agriculture.

The World Bank makes development loans to countries at market rates of interest for projects designed to improve the internal economic structure of a country.

The bank, which has 130 countries as members, has had trouble evaluating the effectiveness of many of its loans because the loans are nearly always paid back by the borrowing governments, even if the projects are failures or do not live up to expectations.

Governments do not want to jeopardize future World Bank credits by failing to pay back loans on bad projects. In private sector loans, if a project is a failure, the borrower often defaults.

The World Bank analysis was carried out by its Operations Evaluation Department and was designed to measured whether the bank-backed projects were generating a rate of return equal to the projections when the developments were assessed.

The bank has done two earlier evaluations of projects that were not released to the public.

The assessment released yesterday that 10 of the 70 development projects, representing about 8 percent of the $1.3 billion outlay, were generating returns that were "uncertain or unsatisfactory."

The bank noted that because the evaluation takes place only "after all funds have been disbursed (usually five to seven years after an investment project has been started), none of the newest types of projects - population,urban development or nutrition - are represented.