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Any cost-benefit analyses for highways?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran and author of advisory reports to the Government has apparently now turned to developmental economics as he effusively extols the virtues of highway construction as a solution to many of the economic and social problems facing the country. (Express 24/01/18).

It is, however, in my view, a simplistic advocacy in light of the generalities postulated when we need more specifics and some quantification of the advantages to be achieved eg overall and sectoral development, improved efficiency, business expansion, reduction in productivity losses etc. The alleged benefits are at best speculative and insubstantial. I will elaborate at a later date.

One needs to question whether the proposed Wallerfield to Manzanilla and Valencia to Toco highway projects have been subjected to any form of credible cost-benefit analyses (including not only full financial costs but social and environmental costs) and, if so, how do they compare to proposed capital projects in other sectors competing for scarce Government funds.

The most significant question, however, is what is the foremost economic imperative to be addressed at this point in time in the context of dwindling government revenues and limited foreign exchange reserves. If it is the diversification of the economy and the associated objectives of export promotion and import substitution, then there is the necessity for more focused funding.

Is highway construction a foremost priority when compared to infrastructure more directly geared to stimulate the sectors earmarked to propel the diversification thrust?

Trevor Sudama
San Fernando


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