Cost and Time Overruns in Public Sector Projects

Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 47, pp.M154-M168, November 24, 1990

51 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2005

Abstract

Delays and cost overruns in Public Sector investments can raise the capital-output ratio in the sector and elsewhere, bringing down the efficacy of investments. Yet there are no estimates of the delays and cost overruns, and of their opportunity cost.

This study arrives at rough estimates of the delays and cost overruns, and the opportunity cost in terms of the extra 'capital X time' that is used up. Cost overruns (at 80%) and the extra 'capital X time' incurred (about 190%) are very large; even after removing the increase due to inflation! The reasons for the same are also identified and rated. Factors internal to the public sector system and Government largely account for the delays and cost overruns: Poor project design and implementation, inadequate funding of projects, bureaucratic indecision, and the lack of coordination between enterprises. Appraisal by the Government very often is devoid of meaning when the emphasis is only on the form of the project proposal rather than on its content - a tendency quite usual in bureaucracies.

Since the public enterprises particularly those in the core sector have large dealings with each other, a 'vicious circle of delays' has been built up. The politically expedient tendency to take up large numbers of projects and short fund them all, except those with the very highest priority, is perhaps the most important factor in delays. The Government's ad hoc approach in according high priority to certain sectors - oil and natural gas, and petroleum - while perhaps overcoming the problem in these sectors have compounded the problem elsewhere, particularly in the infra-structural areas - railways, coal and steel.

Keywords: India, state-owned-enterprises, Public-Sector, delays, cost-overruns, project-implementation, government

JEL Classification: O5, H4, H0, P4

Suggested Citation

Morris, Sebastian, Cost and Time Overruns in Public Sector Projects. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, No. 47, pp.M154-M168, November 24, 1990, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=655103

Sebastian Morris (Contact Author)

Goa Institute of Management ( email )

Ribandar
Ribandar
Panaji, Goa 403006
India
09824232121 (Phone)
403505 (Fax)

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