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The Simple Economics of White Elephants

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  • Ganuza Fernandez, Juan Jose
  • Llobet, Gerard

Abstract

This paper shows that the concession model discourages firms from acquiring information about the future profitability of a project. Uniformed contractors carry out good and bad projects because they are profitable in expected terms even though it would have been optimal to invest in screening them out according to their value. White elephants are identified as avoidable negative net present-value projects that are nevertheless undertaken. Institutional arrangements that limit the losses that firms can bear exacerbate this distortion. We characterize the optimal concession contract, which fosters the acquisition of information and achieves the first best by conditioning the duration of the concession to the realization of the demand and includes payments for not carrying out some projects.

Suggested Citation

  • Ganuza Fernandez, Juan Jose & Llobet, Gerard, 2018. "The Simple Economics of White Elephants," CEPR Discussion Papers 12557, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12557
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    1. Ganuza, Juan-José & Llobet, Gerard, 2020. "The simple economics of white elephants," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 91-100.
    2. Szalay, Dezsö, 2009. "Contracts with endogenous information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 586-625, March.
    3. Andres Zambrano, 2019. "Motivating informed decisions," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 67(3), pages 645-664, April.
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    10. J. Luis Guasch, 2004. "Granting and Renegotiating Infrastructure Concessions : Doing it Right," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 15024, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ganuza, Juan-José & Llobet, Gerard, 2020. "The simple economics of white elephants," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 91-100.
    2. Alessandra Cepparulo & Gilles Mourre, 2020. "How and How Much? The Growth-Friendliness of Public Spending through the Lens," European Economy - Discussion Papers 2015 - 132, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    3. Turró, Mateu & Penyalver, Domingo, 2019. "Hunting white elephants on the road. A practical procedure to detect harmful projects of transport infrastructure," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 3-20.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Concession contracts; flexible-term concessions; Information Acquisition;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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