Pricing principles, efficiency concepts and incentive models in Swedish transport infrastructure policy

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Björn Hasselgren

In this article the shift of the Swedish government’s policies for the financing through taxation, fees and prices paid for the use of roads and railroads from 1945 until the 2010s is discussed. It is argued that the shift from a full-cost coverage principle to a short term social marginal cost principle can be seen in the light of the controversy between a Coasean and a Pigovian perspective. The Coasean perspective furthers an institutional view where organizations and dynamic development matters while the Pigovian perspective furthers a welfare economic equilibrium view where organizations are less focused. It is argued that the shift in policies coincided with less interest and focus on the organizational perspective and incentives for organizational efficiency, which can be seen in the public documents from the time. The government seems to have been guided by a market failure stance since the 1970s which has motivated growing intervention, following a market-economy stance in the first 25 years after the nationalization of roads and railroads. A current opening in transport infrastructure policies with more room for alternative financing, user charges and fees might, even though also consistent with short term social marginal cost principles, signal a revival of a perspective more in line with the Coasean view.

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