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October 29, 2006


Andrew Zalotocky

Surely a CBA has to be "blind to justice" because its purpose is to tell us what the consequences of a given policy would be, not to make value judgements about whether the balance of costs and benefits is acceptable?

Another practical problem is that ministers can bias the CBA towards their own preferred conclusion, by how they set its terms of reference or who they appoint to do it. Instead of an impartial analysis of the available options it can be turned into a rationalisation for what they've already decided to do.

Bob B

There are wobbles with CBA:

There will always be scope for arguing over prospective benefits of, and detraction from, environmental amenities and a thorough CBA exercise - as with the economic assessment of options for a Third London Airport under the auspices of the Roskill Committee - can be very costly.

There is certainly cause to consider who will enjoy the project benefits and who will bear the costs. But in my experience, the brunt of the opposition to CBA usually comes from those who don't want to see a close, analytical examination of the issues and much prefer to hype up popular concerns. That is where we need to focus on the costs of rent-seeking behaviour.

Mrs Trellis

I wouldn't be too negative about CBA. It is more an issue about freedom of information - an obligation to do CBA ought to be a useful weapon to establish facts and to delineate these from opinions; it ought to be a useful mechanism for outsiders through which to dispute and debate policy options. Too often it isn't because (i) it appears too late in the debate as an ex post add on to justify a decision already taken, (ii) it ignores uncertainty - the FSA are classic in putting in zeros when the number is unknown and (iii) the information required to challenge the CBA is often not made available, conspiracy theorists might think deliberately.

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