March 1, 1998

Take it or leave it; an evaluation of government investment proposals

The Dutch government requested four research institutes to evaluate a variety of government investment proposals.

This evaluation was jointly made by CPB, the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), SCP (Social and Cultural Planning Office) and the Transport Research Centre (AVV).

The investment proposals were formulated in the following policy areas: transport infrastucture, urban and regional policy, land-use, the environment and knowledge.

Only a quick scan of the effects on these investment proposals was made. An important conclusion is that for many of these proposals the economic effects (for example employment and congestion) are limited. This also holds for the environmental and social effects. About f 11 billion of the total budget of f 52 billion is effective and reasonably cost efficient.

Another important conclusion is that other policy instruments are more effective in achieving several of the formulated policy goals than investments. Examples are: incentive taxes (road pricing and CO2-taxes), regulation (spatial planning) and measures which enhance the diffusion of knowledge. The four research institutes conclude in each policy field with illustrative combinations of effective policy instruments.