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Bidding for Investment Projects: Smart Public Policy or Corporate Welfare?


  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck


Recently, several governments in Canada have shown an increased willingness to subsidize private investment projects, especially in the manufacturing sector, to the dismay of tax conservatives. I evaluate under what circumstances these government subsidies make sense, paying particular attention to interjurisdictional competition. I show what governments should expect to pay when they join a bidding war and derive the expected welfare gain. The analysis looks in detail at the efforts of the Ontario and federal governments to attract new investments in the automobile sector.
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Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2010. "Bidding for Investment Projects: Smart Public Policy or Corporate Welfare?," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 36(s1), pages 31-48, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpp:issued:v:36:y:2010:i:s1:p:31-48

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Johannes Van Biesebroeck & Aamir Hashmi, 2007. "Market Structure and Innovation: A Dynamic Analysis of the Global Automobile Industry," 2007 Meeting Papers 362, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Ian King & R. Preston McAfee & Linda Welling, 1993. "Industrial Blackmail: Dynamic Tax Competition and Public Investment," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(3), pages 590-608, August.
    3. Michael Greenstone & Richard Hornbeck & Enrico Moretti, 2008. "Identifying Agglomeration Spillovers: Evidence from Million Dollar Plants," Working Paper series 36_08, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    4. Michael Greenstone & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Bidding for Industrial Plants: Does Winning a 'Million Dollar Plant' Increase Welfare?," NBER Working Papers 9844, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. James A. Brander & Barbara J. Spencer, 1981. "Tariffs and the Extraction of Foreign Monopoly Rents under Potential Entry," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 14(3), pages 371-389, August.
    6. Holmes, Thomas J., 1999. "How Industries Migrate When Agglomeration Economies Are Important," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 240-263, March.
    7. Blomström, Magnus & Kokko, Ari, 2003. "The Economics of Foreign Direct Investment Incentives," EIJS Working Paper Series 168, Stockholm School of Economics, The European Institute of Japanese Studies.
    8. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1993. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(3), pages 577-598.
    9. Neven, Damien & Siotis, Georges, 1993. "Foreign Direct Investment in the European Community: Some Policy Issues," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 72-93, Summer.
    10. Aamir Rafique Hashmi & Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2016. "The Relationship between Market Structure and Innovation in Industry Equilibrium: A Case Study of the Global Automobile Industry," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 192-208, March.
    11. Edward L. Glaeser, 2001. "The Economics of Location-Based Tax Incentives," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1932, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    12. Barros, Pedro P & Cabral, Luis, 2000. "Competing for Foreign Direct Investment," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(2), pages 360-371, May.
    13. Black, Dan A & Hoyt, William H, 1989. "Bidding for Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1249-1256, December.
    14. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-528, June.
    15. Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2008. "Governments at the bidding table," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 213-232.
    16. Helper, Susan, 1991. "Strategy and Irreversibility in Supplier Relations: The Case of the U.S. Automobile Industry," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(04), pages 781-824, December.
    17. Head, C. Keith & Ries, John C. & Swenson, Deborah L., 1999. "Attracting foreign manufacturing: Investment promotion and agglomeration," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 197-218, March.
    18. Maureen Appel Molot, 2005. "Location Incentives and Inter-state Competition for FDI: Bidding Wars in the Automotive Industry," Chapters,in: Governance, Multinationals and Growth, chapter 13 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    19. Bev Dahlby, 2005. "A Framework for Evaluating Provincial R&D Tax Subsidies," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 31(1), pages 45-58, March.
    20. Thomas H. Klier, 1999. "Agglomeration in the U.S. auto supplier industry," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 18-34.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hyun-Ju Koh & Ferdinand Mittermaier, 2009. "The winner gives it all: Unions, tax competition and offshoring," Working Papers 079, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions


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