Investing in Public Infrastructure: Roads or Schools?

45 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2017

See all articles by Manoj Atolia

Manoj Atolia

Florida State University - Department of Economics

Bin (Grace) Li

International Monetary Fund

Ricardo Marto

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Giovanni Melina

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Date Written: May 2017

Abstract

Why do governments in developing economies invest in roads and not enough in schools? In the presence of distortionary taxation and debt aversion, the different pace at which roads and schools contribute to economic growth turns out to be central to this decision. Specifically, while costs are front-loaded for both types of investment, the growth benefits of schools accrue with a delay. To put things in perspective, with a 'big push,' even assuming a large (15 percent) return differential in favor of schools, the government would still limit the fraction of the investment scale-up going to schools to about a half. Besides debt aversion, political myopia also turns out to be a crucial determinant of public investment composition. A 'big push,' by accelerating growth outcomes, mitigates myopia-but at the expense of greater risks to fiscal and debt sustainability. Tied concessional financing and grants can potentially mitigate the adverse effects of both debt aversion and political myopia.

Keywords: Public investment, Debt sustainability, Human capital, Infrastructure, Low-income developing countries, political myopia, debt aversion, lowincome, low-income developing countries, International Lending and Debt Problems, Institutions and Growth, Infrastructures

JEL Classification: E62, F34, H63, O43, H54

Suggested Citation

Atolia, Manoj and Li, Bin (Grace) and Marto, Ricardo and Melina, Giovanni, Investing in Public Infrastructure: Roads or Schools? (May 2017). IMF Working Paper No. 17/105. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3053188

Manoj Atolia (Contact Author)

Florida State University - Department of Economics ( email )

Tallahassee, FL 30306-2180
United States
+1.850.644.7088 (Phone)
+1.850.644.4535 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://mailer.fsu.edu/~matolia/

Bin (Grace) Li

International Monetary Fund ( email )

700 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20431
United States

HOME PAGE: http://binli.economics.googlepages.com/

Ricardo Marto

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

Giovanni Melina

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

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