How much does it cost, and how much is it worth!

Published in El Pais, 17 Dec 2017

As in many parts of the world, also here in Bolivia those who govern have their eccentric ideas. Plans that one doubts if they are worth it. We can observe this by simply opening a newspaper or walking the streets. A water fountain, a clock in a roundabout, a new building in a park, flowers in places of so much sun that we know they will not survive, etc.

We learn that an investment always must have its performance, as I mentioned in another column before, a private project has a return in money, but a social project is more difficult to quantify. Governments usually justify some investments with stories that convince the population that it is the best. They tell us that it improves aesthetics, safety, increases trade, increases tourism, etc. But is this proven by evidence?

For example, in Cochabamba a renovation has been made to the Cala-Cala roundabout. This renovation costs more than 1 million Bolivians. But for this a clock was included! It is my opinion that a roundabout does not work for the amount of traffic that has processing and a park inside a roundabout is a bad idea because to get there you must risk your life crossing the road that is not made for people crossing to center of it. It seems to me that all they have achieved is a traffic congestion for all cars that go slower and distracted by watching a million-dollar clock.

Anyway, the mayor made this investment to bring more tourism to the city. According to the mayor’s office, this justifies the high investment “because tourism also generates income”. But I have my doubts if this really is true. I wonder if at any time governments make an evaluation of the project to see if the result and the expected impact were actually achieved. Was tourism increased? Was the distribution of traffic improved? How many people came to the city by the clock and how was it measured? How much was generated in hotels and gastronomy before the clock and now after three months?

Governments promise us a lot and execute it based on those promises. But does the accountability based on evidence? Who takes the responsibility if afterwards it shows that there was no performance? Just to see if the project was worth it and if it has been executed well. According to the theory, an impact evaluation always must be done, but it is very likely that these reports are being buried and not made public, as are the advertisements for the completion of the work. It would be fairer to publish if it really has the desired impact or not so that the doors are opened for the population to decide on what suits them or not

About Arnold Hagens 253 Articles
Arnold Hagens is Economist with strong interest in technology, health and coaching

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