Public works

Public works

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Public works are a broad category of projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community. They include bridge
Bridge
A bridge is a structure built to span physical obstacles such as a body of water, valley, or road, for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle...

s, park
Park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

s, road
Road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

s, municipal building
Municipal Building
Municipal Building may refer to:*A city or town hall*Places named "Municipal Building":in the United States:*Municipal Building , El Dorado, AR, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Arkansas...

s, dams
DAMS
Driot-Arnoux Motorsport is a racing team from France, involved in many areas of motorsports. DAMS was founded in 1988 by Jean-Paul Driot and former Formula One driver René Arnoux. It is headquartered near Le Mans, only 2 km from the Bugatti Circuit.- History :The year after its foundation,...

, railroads, school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

s, hospital
Hospital
A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment by specialized staff and equipment. Hospitals often, but not always, provide for inpatient care or longer-term patient stays....

s, beach
Beach
A beach is a geological landform along the shoreline of an ocean, sea, lake or river. It usually consists of loose particles which are often composed of rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles or cobblestones...

es, and other, usually long-term, physical asset
Asset
In financial accounting, assets are economic resources. Anything tangible or intangible that is capable of being owned or controlled to produce value and that is held to have positive economic value is considered an asset...

s and facilities. Though often interchangeable with public infrastructure
Public infrastructure
Public infrastructure is a general term often qualified specifically as:* Aviation infrastructure - air traffic control technology in aviation* Critical infrastructure - assets required to sustain human life...

 and public capital, public works does not necessarily carry an economic component, thereby being a broader term.

Overview


Public works is a multi-dimensional concept in economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, touching on multiple arenas including: recreation (parks, beaches), aesthetics (trees, green space), business (goods and people movement), law (police and courts), neighborhood (community centers, social services buildings). Essentially, it represents any constructed
Construction
In the fields of architecture and civil engineering, construction is a process that consists of the building or assembling of infrastructure. Far from being a single activity, large scale construction is a feat of human multitasking...

 object that augments a nation's physical infrastructure such as airport
Airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

s, canal
Canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

s, dam
Dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

s, dikes, pipelines
Pipeline transport
Pipeline transport is the transportation of goods through a pipe. Most commonly, liquids and gases are sent, but pneumatic tubes that transport solid capsules using compressed air are also used....

, and others.

Municipal infrastructure, urban infrastructure, and rural development
Rural development
Rural development in general denotes economic development and community development actions and initiatives taken to improve the standard of living in non-urban neighbourhoods, remote villages and the countryside...

 usually represent the same concept but imply either large cities or developing nations' concerns respectively. The terms public infrastructure
Public infrastructure
Public infrastructure is a general term often qualified specifically as:* Aviation infrastructure - air traffic control technology in aviation* Critical infrastructure - assets required to sustain human life...

 or critical infrastructure
Critical infrastructure
Critical infrastructure is a term used by governments to describe assets that are essential for the functioning of a society and economy. Most commonly associated with the term are facilities for:*electricity generation, transmission and distribution;...

 are at times used interchangeably. However, critical infrastructure includes public works (dams, waste water systems, bridges, etc.) as well as facilities like hospitals, banks, and telecommunications systems and views them from a national security
National security
National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept developed mostly in the United States of America after World War II...

 viewpoint and the impact on the community that the loss of such facilities would entail.

Furthermore, the term public works has recently been expanded to include digital public infrastructure projects. The first (US) nationwide digital public works project is an effort to create an open source software platform for e-voting (created and managed by the OSDV
Open Source Digital Voting Foundation
The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation is a California-based, United States Public Benefit Corporation. It was founded in November 2006 and incorporated in April 2007 in an effort to address issues surrounding US e-voting technology...

).

Reflecting increased concern with sustainability
Sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

, urban ecology
Urban ecology
Urban ecology is a subfield of ecology which deals with the interaction between organisms in an urban or urbanized community, and their interaction with that community. Urban ecologists study the trees, rivers, wildlife and open spaces found in cities to understand the extent of those resources and...

 and quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

, efforts to move towards sustainable municipal infrastructure are common in developed nations, especially in European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 (where the FCM InfraGuide provides an officially mandated best practice exchange to move municipalities in this direction).

Public works programmes


A public works programme (PWP) is the provision of employment by the creation of predominantly public goods at a prescribed wage for those unable to find alternative employment. This functions as a form of social safety net
Social safety net
Social safety nets, or "socioeconomic safety nets", are non-contributory transfer programs seeking to prevent the poor or those vulnerable to shocks and poverty from falling below a certain poverty level. Safety net programs can be provided by the public sector or by the private sector...

. PWPs are activities which entail the payment of a wage (in cash or in kind) by the state, or by an Agent (or cash-for work/CFW). One particular form of public works, that of offering a short-term period of employment, has come to dominate practice, particularly in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

. Applied in the short term, this is appropriate as a response to transient shocks and acute labour market crises.

Utility of investment


While it is argued that capital investment in public works can be used to reduce unemployment, opponents of internal improvement programs argue that such projects should be undertaken by the private sector
Private sector
In economics, the private sector is that part of the economy, sometimes referred to as the citizen sector, which is run by private individuals or groups, usually as a means of enterprise for profit, and is not controlled by the state...

, and not the public sector
Public sector
The public sector, sometimes referred to as the state sector, is a part of the state that deals with either the production, delivery and allocation of goods and services by and for the government or its citizens, whether national, regional or local/municipal.Examples of public sector activity range...

, because public works projects are characteristic of socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

. However, in the private sector, entrepreneurs bear their own losses and so private sector firms are generally unwilling to undertake projects that could result in losses or would not develop a revenue stream. Governments will invest in public works because of the overall benefit to society when there is a lack of private sector benefit (a project that will not generate revenue) or the risk is too great for a private company to accept on its own.

Cost overrun and demand shortfall


Cost overruns and demand shortfalls frequently haunt public works projects. The main causes of cost overrun and demand shortfall are optimism bias
Optimism bias
Optimism bias is the demonstrated systematic tendency for people to be overly optimistic about the outcome of planned actions. This includes over-estimating the likelihood of positive events and under-estimating the likelihood of negative events. Along with the illusion of control and illusory...

 and strategic misrepresentation
Strategic misrepresentation
"Strategic misrepresentation is the planned, systematic distortion or misstatement of fact—lying—in response to incentives in the budget process...

 (Flyvbjerg et al. 2002, 2005). Reference class forecasting
Reference class forecasting
Reference class forecasting is the method of predicting the future, through looking at similar past situations and their outcomes.Reference class forcasting predicts the outcome of a planned action based on actual outcomes in a reference class of similar actions to that being forecast. The theories...

 was developed to curb optimism bias and strategic misrepresentation and thus arrive at more accurate estimates of costs and demand.

According to research conducted at the Aalborg University, 86% of public works projects end up with cost overruns. Some unexpected findings of the research were that:
  • Technically difficult projects were not more likely to exceed the budget than less difficult projects
  • Projects in which more people were directly and indirectly affected by the project turned out to be more susceptible to cost overruns
  • Project managers generally did not learn from similar projects attempted in the past


Generally contracts awarded by public tenders will include a provision for unexpected expenses (i.e. cost overruns), that typically amount to 10% of the value of the contract. This money is only spent during the course of the project if the construction managers judge that it is necessary, and typically the expenditure must be justified in writing.

See also

  • Contingencies fund
    Contingencies fund
    A contingencies fund or contingency fund is a fund for emergencies or unexpected outflows, mainly economic crises.- History :In the early part of the nineteenth Century the Civil Contingencies Fund was created in the United Kingdom. It is held by the Treasury, and its use is regulated by the...

  • Infrastructure
    Infrastructure
    Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

  • Internal improvements
    Internal improvements
    Internal improvements is the term used historically in the United States for public works from the end of the American Revolution through much of the 19th century, mainly for the creation of a transportation infrastructure: roads, turnpikes, canals, harbors and navigation improvements...

  • Public good
    Public good
    In economics, a public good is a good that is non-rival and non-excludable. Non-rivalry means that consumption of the good by one individual does not reduce availability of the good for consumption by others; and non-excludability means that no one can be effectively excluded from using the good...

    , an economic discussion.


Individual programs:
  • Egyptian Public Works
    Egyptian Public Works
    The Egyptian Department of Public Works was established in the early Nineteenth Century, and concentrates mainly on public works relating to irrigation and hydraulic engineering. These irrigation projects have constituted the bulk of work performed by this entity in Egypt...

  • New Deal
    New Deal
    The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

  • Opera Publica
    Opera Publica
    Opera Publica is the latin name used by Ancient Rome for their Public Works, the construction or engineering projects carried out by the state on behalf of the community....

  • Public Works Administration
    Public Works Administration
    The Public Works Administration , part of the New Deal of 1933, was a large-scale public works construction agency in the United States headed by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. It was created by the National Industrial Recovery Act in June 1933 in response to the Great Depression...


Sources and further reading


External links



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