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Evaluating Projects in a Dynamic Economy: Some New Envelope Results

  • Chuan-Zhong Li
  • Karl-Gustaf Löfgren

This paper deals with the modern theory of social cost-benefit analysis in a dynamic economy. The theory emphasizes the role of a comprehensive, forward-looking, dynamic welfare index within the period of the project rather than that of a project's long-term consequences. However, what constitutes such a welfare index remains controversial in the recent literature. In this paper, we attempt to shed light on the issue by deriving three equivalent cost-benefit rules for evaluating a small project. In particular, we show that the direct change in a net national product (NNP) qualifies as a convenient welfare index without involving any other induced side effects. The project evaluation criterion thus becomes the present discounted value of the direct changes in NNP over the project period. We also illustrate the application of this theory in a few stylized examples. Copyright Verein für Socialpolitik and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008.

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Article provided by Verein für Socialpolitik in its journal German Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 9 (2008)
Issue (Month): (02)
Pages: 1-16

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Handle: RePEc:bla:germec:v:9:y:2008:i::p:1-16
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  1. Dasgupta, Partha & M Ler, Karl-G Ran, 2000. "Net national product, wealth, and social well-being," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(01), pages 69-93, February.
  2. Boadway, Robin W, 1975. "Cost-benefit Rules in General Equilibrium," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(3), pages 361-74, July.
  3. Kenneth Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Karl-Göran Mäler, 2003. "Evaluating Projects and Assessing Sustainable Development in Imperfect Economies," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 26(4), pages 647-685, December.
  4. Caputo, Michael R., 1990. "How to do comparative dynamics on the back of an envelope in optimal control theory," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 14(3-4), pages 655-683, October.
  5. Dixit, Avinash & Hammond, Peter & Hoel, Michael, 1980. "On Hartwick's Rule for Regular Maximin Paths of Capital Accumulation and Resource Depletion," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 551-56, April.
  6. Per-Olov Johansson & Karl-Gustaf Löfgren, 1996. "On the interpretation of ‘green’ NNP measures as cost-benefit rules," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 7(3), pages 243-250, April.
  7. Thomas Aronsson & Karl-Gustaf Löfgren, 1998. "Green Accounting in Imperfect Market Economies," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 11(3), pages 273-287, April.
  8. Asheim, G.B., 1998. "Green National Accounting: Why and How?," Memorandum 08/1998, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  9. Weitzman, Martin L, 2001. " A Contribution to the Theory of Welfare Accounting," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 103(1), pages 1-23, March.
  10. Dreze, Jean & Stern, Nicholas, 1987. "The theory of cost-benefit analysis," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 14, pages 909-989 Elsevier.
  11. Aronsson, Thomas & Lofgren, Karl-Gustaf, 1999. "Welfare equivalent NNP under distributional objectives," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 239-243, May.
  12. Dasgupta, Partha, 2001. "Valuing Objects and Evaluating Policies in Imperfect Economies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(471), pages C1-29, May.
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