Wednesday, June 29, 2016
New book on investment incentives will help shape policies debates for years to come
This past week I received my chapter author’s copy of a new book from Columbia University Press, Rethinking Investment Incentives: Trends and Policy Options. Based initially on the November 2013 conference on investment incentives at Columbia Law School, the contributors were put through their paces to upgrade their conference presentations into proper papers. The result is what Theodore Moran of Georgetown University calls in the Foreword “a who’s-who of experts across this broad span of topics.” He predicts, and I concur, that the work presented in this book will help drive policy discussions around the globe.
The book is divided into four parts. The first discusses theoretical debates on definitions and the effect of these incentives on (especially) foreign direct investment. The second section provides a global overview of the use of incentive incentives, both in major economies and in developing countries. Part III includes practical tools for ensuring program effectiveness as well as value for money. This includes a chapter on cost-benefit analysis, a methodology of which I am highly skeptical. As I have written before, if you end this analysis at the state (or city!) border, you miss many of the indirect job losses inflicted at competing companies by the addition of new subsidized competition. Indeed, according to economist Tim Bartik, very few subsidy programs have positive *national* effects, even if they have positive local effects that will be the only thing considered in the cost-benefit analysis.
Finally, the fourth part of the book considers ways to reduce the competitive use of investment incentives to attract investment. My chapter falls in this section, considering the control of subnational incentives in Australia, Canada, and the United States. (Spoiler: Most of the record is not pretty; Australia was an exception but the policy expired in 2011.) A variety of supranational regulatory efforts, including most notably that of the European Union, are considered in a chapter by Lise Johnson.
Have I teased you enough yet? This book is a must-have if you are interested in investment incentives and economic development; co-editors Ana Teresa Tavares-Lehmann (University of Porto, Portugal), Perrine Toledano, Lise Johnson, and Lisa Sachs (all of the Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment) are to be congratulated for the fine product.