Techniques of Project Appraisal

  • Arnold C. Harberger


In this paper, I attempt to bring into focus what I believe to be some of the important practical issues that face development planners in the field of project appraisal. I shall try, insofar as possible, to recognize the handicaps under which planners operate, most importantly the handicaps imposed by imperfect foresight and by the virtual necessity of decentralized decision-making. To elaborate briefly on these handicaps, I think we must take it for granted that our estimates of future costs and benefits (particularly the latter) are inevitably subject to a fairly wide margin of error, in the face of which it makes little sense to focus on subtleties aimed at discriminating accurately between investments that might have an expected yield of 101/2 percent and those that would yield only 10 percent per annum. As the first order of business we want to be able to distinguish the 10 percent investments from those yielding 5 or 15 percent, while looking forward hopefully to the day when we have so well solved the many problems of project evaluation that we can seriously face up to trying to distinguish 10 percent yields from those of 9 or 11 percent.


Discount Rate Wage Rate Real Wage Shadow Price Market Rate 
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  1. 2.
    Robert H. Strotz, ‘The Social Rate of Time Discount’, mimeo., 1964, pp. 2–6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Strotz here cites the results reported in George J. Stigler, Capital and Rates of Return in Manufacturing Industries, Princeton, N.J., 1963.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See A. K. Sen, ‘On Optimizing the Rate of Saving’, Economic Journal, September 1961.Google Scholar
  4. Stephen A. Marglin, ‘The Social Rate of Discount and the Optimal Rate of Saving’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, February 1963.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Arnold C. Harberger 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnold C. Harberger
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ChicagoUSA

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