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Principles Of Cost-Benefit Analysis

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  • Robin Boadway

    (PRI)

Abstract

This paper summarizes the procedure for the economic evaluation of government projects and policy reforms. It begins with the social welfare function underpinnings of cost-benefit analysis including the role of distributive weights and the choice of numeraire. It then turns to the conduct of a social cost-benefit analysis using the net present value criterion. This includes the shadow pricing of market products and inputs affected by the project, indirect welfare effects, the opportunity cost of project finance, the evaluation of non-marketed inputs and outputs, and the opportunity cost of risk. Issues involved in selecting a discount rate are discussed, especially those arising from imperfect capital markets. Finally, since many public projects have long-term consequences, the principles that might be used to take account of effects of projects on future generations are outlined. Techniques for accounting for these effects, such as generational accounting, are summarized and its shortcomings highlighted.

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Boadway, 2006. "Principles Of Cost-Benefit Analysis," Development Economics Working Papers 22594, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:eab:develo:22594
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    File URL: http://www.eaber.org/node/22594
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robin Boadway, 1976. "Integrating Equity and Efficiency in Applied Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 541-556.
    2. Wildasin, David E, 1984. "On Public Good Provision with Distortionary Taxation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(2), pages 227-243, April.
    3. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    4. Stanley L. Winer & Hirofumi Shibata (ed.), 2002. "Political Economy and Public Finance," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2805.
    5. Usher, Dan, 1986. "Tax Evasion and the Marginal Cost of Public Funds," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 24(4), pages 563-586, October.
    6. Browning, Edgar K, 1976. "The Marginal Cost of Public Funds," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(2), pages 283-298, April.
    7. Ahmad,Etisham & Stern,Nicholas, 1991. "The Theory and Practice of Tax Reform in Developing Countries," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521397421.
    8. Diamond, Peter A & Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production II: Tax Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(3), pages 261-278, June.
    9. Boadway, Robin W, 1978. "Public Investment Decision Rules in a Neo-Classical Growing Economy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 19(2), pages 265-287, June.
    10. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    11. Charles Blackorby & David Donaldson, 1990. "A Review Article: The Case against the Use of the Sum of Compensating Variations in Cost-Benefit Analysis," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 23(3), pages 471-494, August.
    12. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Willi Leibfritz, 1999. "Generational Accounting around the World," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number auer99-1.
    13. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Willi Leibfritz, 1999. "Introduction to "Generational Accounting around the World"," NBER Chapters,in: Generational Accounting around the World, pages 1-8 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-797, September.
    15. Sandmo, Agnar, 1998. "Redistribution and the marginal cost of public funds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 365-382, December.
    16. Boadway, Robin W, 1974. "The Welfare Foundations of Cost-Benefit Analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(336), pages 926-939, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chavez, Holcer & Nadolnyak, Denis A. & Saravia, Miguel, 2013. "Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact of Development Interventions: Rice Production at the Gallito Ciego Reservoir in Peru," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA), vol. 16(1).
    2. Lindhjem Henrik & Pedersen Simen, 2012. "Should Publicly Funded Postal Services be Reduced? A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Universal Service Obligation in Norway," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 11(2), pages 1-33, June.
    3. Mihic, Marko M. & Todorovic, Marija Lj. & Obradovic, Vladimir Lj., 2014. "Economic analysis of social services for the elderly in Serbia: Two sides of the same coin," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 9-21.
    4. Niek Mouter & Jan Annema & Bert Wee, 2015. "Managing the insolvable limitations of cost-benefit analysis: results of an interview based study," Transportation, Springer, vol. 42(2), pages 277-302, March.
    5. Asplund, Disa & Eliasson, Jonas, 2016. "Does uncertainty make cost-benefit analyses pointless?," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 195-205.
    6. Saravia Matus, Silvia L. & Gomez y Paloma, Sergio, 2014. "Farm viability of (semi)subsistence smallholders in Sierra Leone," African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, African Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 9(3), August.
    7. Nyborg, Karine, 2014. "Project evaluation with democratic decision-making: What does cost–benefit analysis really measure?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 124-131.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    evaluation; government projects; policy reforms; imperfect capital markets; generational accounting; shadow pricing;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection

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