Survival of the Unfittest: Why the Worst Infrastructure Gets Built, And What We Can Do about It
The article first describes characteristics of major infrastructure projects. Second, it documents a much neglected topic in economics: that ex ante estimates of costs and benefits are often very different from actual ex post costs and benefits. For large infrastructure projects the consequence is cost overruns, benefit shortfalls, and the systematic underestimation of risks. Third, implications for cost-benefit analysis are described, including that such analysis is not to be trusted for major infrastructure projects. Fourth, the article uncovers the causes of this state of affairs in terms of perverse incentives that encourage promoters to underestimate costs and overestimate benefits in the business cases for their projects. But the projects that are made to look best on paper are the projects that amass the highest cost overruns and benefit shortfalls in reality. The article depicts this situation as "survival of the un-fittest." Fifth, the article sets out to explain how the problem may be solved, with a view to arriving at more efficient and more democratic projects, and avoiding the scandals that often accompany major infrastructure investments. Finally, the article identifies current trends in major infrastructure development. It is argued that a rapid increase in stimulus spending combined with more investments in emerging economies combined with more spending on information technology is catapulting infrastructure investment from the frying pan into the fire.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1303.6571. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (arXiv administrators)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.