by: Timothy Irwin
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Government guarantees can help persuade private investors to finance
valuable new infrastructure. But because their costs are hard to
estimate and usually do not show up in the government's accounts,
governments can be tempted to grant too many guarantees. Drawing on a
diverse range of disciplines, including finance, history, economics,
and psychology, Government Guarantees aims to help governments
give guarantees only when they are justified. It reviews the history of
government guarantees and identifies the cognitive and political
obstacles to good decisions about guarantees. It then develops a
framework for judging when governments should bear risk in an
infrastructure project (seeking to make precise the oft-invoked
principle that risks should be allocated to those best placed to manage
them); explains how guarantees can be valued; and discusses how aspects
of public-sector management can be modified to improve the likely
quality of government decisions about guarantees.
Although intended mainly for governments and those who advise them,
the book may be of interest to others concerned about the problems of
allocating and valuing exposure to risk. Similarly, although its focus
is physical infrastructure, it may be relevant to people working on
public-private partnerships in education, health, and other social
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