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Public expenditures and environmental protection : when is the cost of funds irrelevant?

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  • Eskeland, Gunnar S.

Abstract

Assume that a public program -- whether in the form of public expenditures or regulation of private activities -- provides not only a public good to consumers but also a collective input (say, a less polluted water source for brewers, or better roads for their trucks). In a contextof optimal taxation and constant returns to scale, the author shows that only the direct benefits to consumers in the form of a public good are adjusted by the shadow price of public revenue (typically downward, as Pigou conjectured) before benefits are aggregated to establish optimal provision. When public programs benefit productive sectors through cost savings, the marginal cost of provision is in optimum equal to the marginal cost savings in the benefiting sectors. The reason that programs that benefit production are not scaled down by the shadow price of public revenue is that the benefits are derived from markets that are otherwise taxable. Government can capture those cost savings at no distortionary cost by increasing the tax rates for each good, to match the cost savings provided. In practice, do public programs to protect the environment benefit mostly consumers or mostly producers? The author suggests that environmental protection has direct value for consumers and indirect value, as inputs, for producers. In the case of programs to reduce emissions of global greenhouse gases, for instance, most of the benefits appear to be in agriculture, a productive sector. Public programs in general provide a combination of public and private benefits: the share of commercial vehicles on roads is typically high in poor countries. In related papers,"Externalities and Production Efficiency"(Policy Research Working Paper 2319) and"Environmental Protection and Optimal Taxation"(Policy Research Working Paper 2510), the author shows that under optimal taxation, marginal abatement costs should be the same for polluting government, polluting producers, and polluting consumers, rich and poor.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2507.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 2000
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2507

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Keywords: Environmental Economics&Policies; Economic Theory&Research; Public Sector Economics&Finance; Pollution Management&Control; Carbon Policy and Trading;

References

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  1. Auerbach, Alan J., 1985. "The theory of excess burden and optimal taxation," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-127 Elsevier.
  2. Eskeland, Gunnar S., 2000. "Environmental protection and optimal taxation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2510, The World Bank.
  3. Bovenberg, A.L. & Mooij, R.A. de, 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985, Tilburg University.
  4. Sandmo, Agnar, 1980. "Anomaly and Stability in the Theory of Externalities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 799-807, June.
  5. Mendelsohn, Robert & Nordhaus, William D & Shaw, Daigee, 1994. "The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: A Ricardian Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 753-71, September.
  6. Atkinson, Anthony B & Stern, N H, 1974. "Pigou, Taxation and Public Goods," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 119-28, January.
  7. Roberton C. Williams, 2000. "Environmental Tax Interactions When Pollution Affects Health or Productivity," NBER Working Papers 8049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Optimality rules for the provision of collective factors of production," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 149-157, April.
  9. Cremer, Helmuth & Gahvari, Firouz & Ladoux, Norbert, 1998. "Externalities and optimal taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 343-364, December.
  10. King, Mervyn A., 1986. "A pigovian rule for the optimum provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 273-291, August.
  11. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. Eskeland, Gunnar S., 2000. "Externalities and production efficiency," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2319, The World Bank.
  13. Joseph E. Stiglitz & Partha Dasgupta, 1970. "Differential Taxation, Public Goods, and Economic Efficiency," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 299, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  14. Feldstein, Martin S, 1972. "Distributional Equity and the Optimal Structure of Public Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(1), pages 32-36, March.
  15. Bovenberg, A Lans & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 1994. " Green Policies and Public Finance in a Small Open Economy," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(3), pages 343-63.
  16. Christiansen, Vidar, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(3), pages 447-57, July.
  17. Oakland, William H., 1987. "Theory of public goods," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 9, pages 485-535 Elsevier.
  18. Dasgupta, Partha & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1972. "On Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(1), pages 87-103, January.
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