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Investigating affordability problems of utility services - a theoretical study on the ratio measure

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  • Gawel, Erik
  • Bretschneider, Wolfgang

Abstract

Unlike in developing countries, there tends to be no problem of access to water, electricity, and heating for private households in transition countries. However, transition countries have a considerable amount of low-income households, and the problem of affordability of these environmental-related utility services remains urgent. Welfare economics literature suggests to neglect affordability aspects by separating allocative from distributive impacts of pricing. In practice, this separation runs the risk of rendering impossible any sustainability-oriented price reform. An Institutional Economics approach takes competing objectives into account. From this viewpoint it appears to be worth investigating the affordability-concept. Although the affordability-related research has escalated remarkably in recent years, the theoretical contributions are still limited. Hence, we focus on the simple ratio measure often used in practice. We analyze the arguments speaking for the 'potential affordability approach'. But we find that - within that approach - adhering formally to the ratio measure is possible only under conditions that make no sense regarding the concern of the measure. Thus for most cases the ratio measure is misleading. Some considerations on practical use for governance conclude the paper.

Suggested Citation

  • Gawel, Erik & Bretschneider, Wolfgang, 2010. "Investigating affordability problems of utility services - a theoretical study on the ratio measure," IAMO Forum 2010: Institutions in Transition – Challenges for New Modes of Governance 52714, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:iamo10:52714
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kessides, Ioannis & Miniaci, Raffaele & Scarpa, Carlo & Valbonesi, Paola, 2009. "Toward defining and measuring the affordability of public utility services," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4915, The World Bank.
    2. Raffaele Miniaci & Carlo Scarpa & Paola Valbonesi, 2008. "Measuring The Affordability Of Basic Public Utility Services In Italy," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 67(2), pages 185-230, July.
    3. Sherry A. Glied, 2008. "Mandates and the Affordability of Health Care," NBER Working Papers 14545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Affordability; Transition Countries; Utility Services;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • L97 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Utilities: General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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