Using a rich dataset for the European car markets, this column shows that consumers moderately undervalue future fuel costs. This investment inefficiency is too small to justify upfront car taxes to promote fuel efficient cars. A car tax results in a more fuel efficient vehicle fleet than a fuel tax, but fails to induce high-mileage consumers to substitute to more fuel efficient cars. Once we take this targeting effect into account, fuel taxes turn out to be more effective.
Laura Grigolon, Mathias Reynaert, Frank Verboven, 10 January 2015
Jeffrey Frankel, 09 September 2014
Subsidies for food and energy are economically inefficient, but can often be politically popular. This column discusses the efforts by new leaders in Egypt, Indonesia, and India to cut unaffordable subsidies. Cutting subsidies now may even be the politically savvy choice if the alternative is shortages and an even more painful rise in the retail price in future. Ironically, it is India’s new Prime Minister Modi – elected with a large electoral mandate and much hype about market reforms – who is already shrinking from the challenge.
Hongyong Zhang, 21 July 2014
The Chinese government has been actively promoting innovation via policies such as R&D subsidies, tax relief, and location policies. Since 1995, central and local governments have established more than 100 clusters in over 60 cities. This column presents new evidence on the effect of the concentration of firms on product innovation (new products) in the manufacturing industries.
Radek Stefanski, 30 May 2014
No comprehensive database of directly measured fossil-fuel subsidies exists at the international or the sub-national level, yet subsidies may be crucial drivers of global carbon emissions. This column describes a novel method for inferring carbon subsidies by examining country-specific patterns in carbon emission-to-output ratios, known as emission intensities. Calculations for 170 nations from 1980-2010 reveal that fossil-fuel price distortions are enormous, increasing, and often hidden. These subsidies contributed importantly to increasing emissions and lower growth.
Carl Kitchens, 29 January 2014
Economists have found that large-scale infrastructure investments tend to increase economic growth and reduce poverty. However, there has been relatively little research on the effects of smaller, more targeted investment projects. This column discusses recent research on the effects of the US Rural Electrification Administration, which provided subsidised loans for connecting farms to the electric grid. Counties that received electricity through the REA witnessed smaller declines in agricultural productivity, smaller declines in land values, and more retail activity than similar counties that did not.
Ronald Steenblik, Jehan Sauvage, Jagoda Egeland, 15 September 2012
Reforming fossil fuel subsidies might seem to be an easy option – reduced fiscal outlays would help with debt problems while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This column argues that, despite growing interest in reforming them, there still exists much confusion over the concept and magnitude of fossil fuel subsidies – and this needs to change first.
John Van Reenen, 17 February 2012
The Great Recession has beckoned the ominous return of protectionism. While not condoning such policies, this column argues that if governments must provide investment subsidies to domestic firms, there is a much larger bang for their buck if they target small businesses rather than larger ones. Cash-strapped governments should take note.
Gilbert E. Metcalf , 27 June 2009
Nearly all economists agree that the most efficient way to address environmental problems is to raise the cost of the pollution-generating activity, but US policies subsidise clean-energy alternatives instead. This column criticizes that approach – subsidies lower the cost of energy, play favourites with technologies, are often inframarginal, and frequently interact in unexpected ways with other policies.
Richard Newfarmer, Elisa Gamberoni, 04 March 2009
Trade protection is on the rise around the world and risks pushing the economy into prolonged contraction. Officials have proposed more than 60 new trade restrictions since the beginning of the financial crisis. While a serious outbreak of protectionism has yet to occur, vigilance and leadership are required.
Sourafel Girma, Yundan Gong, Holger Görg, Zhihong Yu , 08 July 2008
China has largely reduced the scope of its production and innovation subsidies at the firm level, but some still remain. Recent research shows that such production subsidies do, on average, boost firm-level exports especially in more innovative and capital-intensive industries and especially for firms with previous export experience.
Kym Anderson, L Alan Winters, 21 April 2008
Current prospects for liberalisation of barriers to international trade and migration seem dim. In this column, the authors of the Copenhagen Consensus paper on global economic integration outline the magnitude of the gains that politicians are opposing.