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Cuadernos de economía

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6821

Cuad. econ. v.40 n.121 Santiago dic. 2003

http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0717-68212003012100026 

Cuadernos de Economía, Año 40, Nº 121, pp. 577-578 (diciembre 2003)

PROJECT EVALUATION: FROM THEORY TO APPLICATIONS*

It is a long standing dictum that for improving growth not only the quantity of investment matters but also its quality. If public sector investments are to be dealt on a comparative basis with private ones, then each piece of investment has to be sustained on its own merits. It is necessary to be able to calculate the true benefits and costs of each project, to compare them on a homogeneous basis and to select the best.

When talking of project evaluation in a distorted economy, three questions are in line. First, how can we asses the true value of goods and services rendered by the project and the true costs of its inputs? This is the "shadow price" problem. Second, how can we assess the benefits due to the project and only to it? There is a well established methodology to deal with that question, but more and more public projects are now adopting the form of social programs such as training, educational, health and nutritional programs. In these cases, the assessment of the benefits due to the program challenge the established methodology and call for new terms and definitions. This is the "identification" problem. And third, how can government manage the task of effectively evaluating hundreds and even thousands of public projects. It is necessary to create the cadre of practitioners that will be able to prepare and evaluate the public projects. This is the "training" problem.

The three articles of this section are related to each of these three questions. In the first article, Arnold Harberger deals with, three methodological issues on the field of economic project evaluation : i) How capital market distortions have to be reflected?, ii) Whether to use the so called "border prices" or national prices in putting a value on project's benefits and costs and iii) How distributional weights can be used in valuing benefits and costs perceived by different groups. In this case "basic needs externalities" are compared with distributional weights.

In the second paper, Arístides Torche describes the specific forms adopted by general project evaluation methodology for assessing social programs' benefits. The paper studies the construction of counterfactuals and the definition of the "situation without project". Finally the article presents methodological issues about the estimation of the true benefits of the project and the problems posed when econometric assumptions are not fulfilled.

In the final article, Ernesto Fontaine introduces us to the Inter American Course in Project Evaluation (CIAPEP), a very successful teaching experience which is now in its 27th edition. CIAPEP has produced more than a thousand graduates that are now working on the subject all around the country and also abroad. The course combines a theoretical phase -that presented the conceptual issues on economic concepts as well as the methodological principles on project evaluation- with a practical work that consisted on the "true evaluation" of four projects in each course. The author presents several lessons that emerge from the experience of evaluating over 110 projects in areas as different as: basic needs, irrigation, ground transportation, ports, decontamination and other social programs.

Keywords: Welfare and Poverty, Project Evaluation, Economic Welfare, Microeconometrics

JEL Classification: I3, H42, H43, D61, C81


* This introduction was written by Arístides Torche, Department of Economics, Catholic University of Chile, Email: atorche@faceapuc.cl

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