The attention and reflection upon socio-economic evaluations of investments is constantly increasing. Many work-teams and public commissions in France tried to find a way to perform these evaluations, also by fixing unitary values for benefits and costs. In 2004, the French Government published guidelines and recommendations in order to perform evaluations in transport projects but the limits of these methods became evident quite soon: conflicting reactions, including hostile ones, emerging at the presentation of relevant infrastructure projects, had clearly shown the existing gap between economic calculations and public acceptance.
The research aimed to fill, at least partially, the gap between the economic calculation of investment projects and public acceptance, exploiting the most recent results from economic analysis and finding the best way to transmit experts' recommendations into public decisions.
The research work has been subdivided into twelve themes with a manager assigned to each of them: the objective was not to have twelve separated reports, but a unique report discussing globally all the themes.
The twelve themes were:
- Discount rate
- Shadow prices and monetization
- Climate changes
- Traffic studies
- Computable general equilibrium models: transport investments and economic activities
- Investment programs optimization and funding
- Spatial location and territorial effects
- Equity and redistributive effects
- Industrial economy and competitiveness
- Uncertainty and risk management
- CBA: link from theory to practice, implementation problems and its position within the public debate.
Two workshops were organized in order to discuss globally the themes and to avoid a partial approach.
Some recommendations have been formulated and summarised under four main categories:
Investments and public funds scarcity: in general, public authorities are reluctant to start high investment projects with uncertain revenue generation. So, it is important to further develop research on the components of opportunity costs in public funds and symmetrically on differential impacts of public spending.
- Shadow prices and risks: further research is needed about the definition of shadow prices. Indeed a distinction has to be made between risk analysis conducted from the private sector and risk analysis conducted from the public sector.
- Acceptability and equity: the research has shown that there are rational reasons behind the fact that no solutions is likely to emerge from a public debate, and in addition, in case it will, there will be a gap between the solution proposed and the results coming out from the economic calculations. This can be explained by the fact that contradictions can emerge between equity and utility. By research is possible to identify the accessibility context and those conditions that can be of help in determining equity parameters under consideration.
- Accessibility and interactions between transport and localization: the potentials of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in illustrating and presenting accessibility aspects in new infrastructural projects has to be fully exploited in order to present the CBA in a more attractive way (though always solid to its basic principles).