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April 2013

I recently attended the 3rd International Water Association’s Conference on Water Economics, Statistics and Finance in Marbella, Spain.

It was a great event, with participants from all over the world. At the conference I gave a keynote talk titled: Evaluating Tradeoffs between Economic and Environmental Efficiency in Water Industries.

The main thrust of the talk was on the conceptual and empirical possibilities for environmentally adjusted efficiency measurements, and their application to the water industries (irrigation, municipal, and wastewater). In a nutshell, this is about how to introduce environmental effects in the traditional methods for productivity and efficiency measurement, and how to use them to evaluate tradeoffs between the economic and environmental performance of production units. If this is done properly, it will enable us to identify such units (e.g. irrigation enterprises) that have mediocre or poor economic performance (do not create much economic benefits) and at the same time create significant environmental impacts (e.g. take a lot of water out of the rivers, which affects water dependent ecosystems). In other words, these type of units damage the environment but do not make a commensurate economic contribution.

In the course of preparing the presentation, I undertook an extensive survey of the literature, which showed that several research groups around the world have very recently grappled with these ideas, and have published work that paves the way for a prolific line of research. This indicates that a widespread application of these methods to quantify environmentally adjusted economic efficiency in all sorts of industries, including the water industries is impending. Watch this space!


Biggest international news (sad, or otherwise, depending on who you ask) this week has been the passing away of Margaret Thatcher, the British PM from the 80’s (I personally subscribe to de mortius nil nisi bonum view) . She was known for many things, but not many people would have guessed that she was an early advocate of the need to do something about climate change.

Combine that with her widely known neo-liberal capitalist approach and free-market philosophy, and one could almost trace the notion of ‘carbon pricing’ back to Thatcher’s 1980’s. Fast-forward about 25 years to the present time, and you see the natural ideological offspring of Thatcherism that can be found on the right of the political spectrum to be much less enthusiastic about climate change, and about carbon pricing. The latter is particularly evident in current Australian politics.

What irony that the staunch followers of Iron Lady’s views and philosophy are staunchly opposed to one of the things that she was apparently very passionate about, and for which she would have probably proposed a typical Thatcherist policy: put a price on it!