Decision-Making on Mega-Projects

Decision-Making on Mega-Projects

Cost–benefit Analysis, Planning and Innovation

Transport Economics, Management and Policy series

Edited by Hugo Priemus, Bent Flyvbjerg and Bert van Wee

This book enlarges the understanding of decision-making on mega-projects and suggest recommendations for a more effective, efficient and democratic approach. Authors from different scientific disciplines address various aspects of the decision-making process, such as management characteristics and cost–benefit analysis, planning and innovation and competition and institutions. The subject matter is highly diverse, but certain questions remain at the forefront. For example, how do we deal with protracted preparation processes, how do we tackle risks and uncertainties, and how can we best divide the risks and responsibilities among the private and public players throughout the different phases of the project?

Chapter 5: Mega-Projects and Contested Information

Hans de Bruijn and Martijn Leijten

Subjects: business and management, operations management, development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, public sector economics, regional economics, transport, environment, transport, urban and regional studies, transport


Hans de Bruijn and Martijn Leijten 5.1 INTRODUCTION Information is crucial to good decision-making on mega-projects. No matter whether such decision-making concerns the technical aspects of implementation, the economic and ecological impact or the risks of a project, it is highly information-sensitive. It seems reasonable to assume that no proper decision-making can take place without the right information. The reality tends to be different, however. Many decisions on large infrastructural projects have been insensitive to information. Flyvbjerg et al. have demonstrated the poor quality of cost–benefit analyses (Flyvbjerg, 2004; Flyvbjerg et al., 2002; 2003a; 2003b; 2004; 2005). This seems easy to explain: the proponents of a project have an interest in low-cost estimates and therefore show behaviour that is qualified as ‘strategic misrepresentation, i.e. lying’ (Flyvbjerg et al., 2002). The remedies often suggested follow naturally from these findings. In some of the literature, we find a decisionistic remedy, consisting of two elements: 1. 2. The right information must, and can, be gathered. Decision-making follows analyses; there is no decision-making without the right information and analysis. We find this remedy in the older literature (Hall, 1980), but it can also be found in the more recent literature (Bell, 1998). Other authors point out that it is impossible to gather ‘the right information’. Flyvbjerg et al. reconfirm a general fact about mega-projects: rarely is there a simple truth about them. What is presented as reality by one set of experts is, in many cases, ‘a social construct...

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