Full text: Study week on the econometric approach to development planning

ment projects even though it serves adequately for private in- 
vestment decisions. 
On the positive side, one should not underestimate how 
sophisticated government officials and legislators can become 
in economic matters. It won’t do to say they will never under- 
stand a technical concept like shadow prices. They already 
understand very well indeed the parallel concept of a social 
rate of discount and, though I can’t vouch that they use that 
very phrase, debate it very intelligently. If the concept of 
shadow prices for different objectives were introduced in any 
government it would, in its early years, lead a stormy exist- 
ence. But pretty soon the responsible officials would learn 
what 1s at stake and start to debate about what the shadow 
prices should be rather than what features particular projects 
should incorporate. This would be a constructive improvement 
in the decision-making process. 
Another proposal that comes naturally to an econometri- 
cian is that projects might be designed from the very beginning 
to meet certain specified target value for the various objectives 
that they are intended to serve. In particular the designers 
might be instructed to meet the specified targets at minimum 
possible capital cost. This would require a revolutionary 
change in the whole design procedure because, as inspection 
of the list of objectives suggests, they are not all of the sort 
that engineers feel at home with. Formally speaking, the task 
to be imposed is this: An engineering design is a choice of 
a vector of specifications. Given this vector, estimating the 
cost of building a structure that meets them is fairly straight- 
forward, though it should be mentioned that engineers do not 
have a proud record as cost predictors. The prediction of 
physical results is less straightforward because economic and 
other nonengineering factors have to be taken into account. 
If the project produces electric power, its annual output will 
depend on the load-factor which, in turn, depends on the eco- 
nomic composition of its market. If the project produces irri 
Dorfman - pag.

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