Tuesday, June 02, 2015

IMF report on fuel subsidies .

is out with several commentaries which contradict each other. Here is the link to their website with links to a video and their blogs Global Energy subsidies: An update. Their subsidies include (which is most of the 5.3 trillion dollars mentioned) the so called externalities like damage to environment and health now and in future and also more controversially comparison with other GST type taxes.  The worst offenders are USA, China, Russia and India. Their solution is hike in fuel prices which will fall on consumers. Contrary to what some articles claim, they are aware of the affect on the poor and say
 "While energy subsidy reform is clearly beneficial from the view of the entire society, there are potentially important distributional issues as the fiscal and environmental benefits and the welfare loss from consumption reduction may accrue to different segments of the population. For example, most of environmental benefits may go to urban populations. This creates winners and losers from energy subsidy reform, which can introduce major obstacles to achieving energy subsidy reform. In addition, energy subsidy reform should protect the poor and vulnerable, making sure their well-being is not adversely affected. The proper use of the fiscal gain would be crucial in addressing this issue as well as the overall distributional impact of reform benefits. " Page 31 ofhttp://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2015/wp15105.pdf
I have only browsed through the report and have to go through it more carefully. On the whole, it seems comprehensive model to follow and improve on. Here are some commentaries from Vox, and Tim Worstall at Forbes. Nicholas Stern Says in an artcle in The Guardian "While the IMF’s figures are eyewateringly large, they are, if anything, conservative because they are based on low estimates of the costs of climate change from the US government, which tends to omit many of the largest risks. While the IMF offers a regional breakdown, there are no figures for individual countries."
From an earlier article by Puneet Kollipara in The Washington Post "Calculating a policy’s benefits, on the other hand, can be tougher. We’re talking about avoided deaths, avoided illnesses, as well as the aesthetic value of cleaner air. We can get a sense of how many fewer illnesses and deaths a policy might yield — at least for the pollutants we know a lot about. But how do you quantify the dollar value of those benefits so you can weigh them against costs? How do you put a dollar figure on a human life, or on the economic productivity gains and health-care savings from one less heart attack, or on the aesthetic value of cleaner air? It’s not a straightforward task at all, as many scholars have pointed out." and also discusses the political problems.

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