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SUBSIDY WATCH BLOG

Explore news, commentary and analysis related to subsidies and sustainable development.

Towards creating international standards for subsidy accounting

Earlier this summer the GSI published a 150-page manual, Subsidy Estimation: A survey of current practice. The document is mostly a compilation of verbatim quotations on definitions of subsidies from various inter-governmental organizations, and documentation of estimation methods for particular subsidy elements. It is intended for use primarily by individuals who are interested in preparing estimates of subsidies to particular products or sectors—people who engage in what might be called “subsidy accounting.” But we hope that it will also serve as a catalyst for kick-starting a dialogue on the need for a common, consistent set of international “subsidy accounting standards”.

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Commentary: Energy subsidies in the context of sustainable development

Editor’s introduction: in late 2009 and early 2010, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) helped prepare a Joint Report, Analysis of the Scope of Energy Subsidies and Suggestions for the G-20 Initiative, in partnership with the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank. The purpose of the study was to analyse “the scope of energy subsidies” and provide suggestions for the G-20’s initiative to phase out and rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, and it was submitted to the G-20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Toronto, Canada, on 26-27 June 2010. In this article, the OPEC Secretariat explains its findings and perspective on the role of energy subsidies and their relationship with sustainable development.

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Commentary: The Real Reasons Behind India's Reluctance to Liberalize Petroleum Prices

In just four years the Indian government has had three high-level committees recommend how petroleum product prices should be determined. All three have shared the same general conclusions: the government should reform fuel-price subsidies and use other, more effective policies to improve the welfare of the poor. But the reality behind India's reluctance to liberalize prices is not a lack of good policy advice.

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Subsidized U.S. Biodiesel: The Never-Ending Story

In 2004 the U.S. Congress created a USD$ 1/gallon (US$ 0.264/litre) blenders' tax credit for biodiesel that was slated to expire in 2006. But in 2005 it extended the tax credit through the end of 2008 and, before that year was up, extended it again, through 2009.

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A Grain of Salt Needed with Promises of Cheap Desalination

The irony of water scarcity on a planet 70% covered by ocean does make us gaze longingly at the seas as the ultimate answer. The public, politicians and water authorities continue to hope that cost-effective and environmentally friendly desalination - the removal of salt from seawater to make it drinkable - will come to the rescue of water-scarce regions.

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Energy subsidies: can Iran kick the habit?

The Iranian government recently announced their intention to phase out several of its subsidies. The reform bill, the outlines of which were approved by the parliament in November, aims to eliminate subsidies over a five year period, the most notable being Iran's fossil-fuel subsidies.

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Transparency as a Tool for Subsidy Reform

Transparency, one of the fundamental norms of the trading system, is increasingly seen as an essential tool in the governance of international trade.

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The Tough Politics of Energy Subsidy

Governments spend staggering sums of money subsidizing energy—in particular fossil fuels, but increasingly also other forms of energy such as renewables.  The latest global assessment, published last year by the International Energy Agency, puts the total energy subsidy at far more than US$300 billion annually.

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Commentary: Stuck in reverse: recommendations on a long-term solution to a broken-down automobile industry

The dramatic decline in the demand for cars has been a signature effect of the global economic crisis. Faced with a massive drop in sales - for example, 29 per cent  in the case of Toyota and 49 per cent across the General Motors brands - the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain,  and more recently, South Korea, Brazil, Japan and China have concluded that government bail-outs are both justifiable and necessary for the health of their auto sectors.

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The Gallagher Review: False Solutions to a Real Problem

Last month, Oxfam GB launched an emergency appeal for East Africa. Oxfam’s last call for emergency help for the region was in 2006, and there have been countless others before, precipitated by drought, conflict or, like now, both. But this time, something is different. There is food on shelves, but people can’t afford it.

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Fertilizer Subsidies in Malawi: Preparing an Exit Strategy

During the 1990s, Malawian farmers experienced a rough transition from government policies that controlled and supported the agricultural sector, such as fertilizer subsidies and price stabilization, to a more liberalized agricultural policy environment.

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Commentary: The Problem with the European Fisheries Fund

The European Union fisheries sector is firmly part of the global fisheries crisis. In Europe more than 80% of known resources are over-fished, while overseas EU fleets have done more than their share to bring commercial productivity of the oceans to an all-time low.

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Commentary: The True Price of Energy in Asia: Pricing Non-Costed Externalities

There are signs aplenty in rural Asia of the profligate use of energy - electrical and fossil fuel - but little evidence that such use is being assessed against its true costs. This is because supplying cheap power (and in some cases free power) is a valuable political lever. In rural Asia, the value of such 'support' can be judged by the scale of popular opposition to its withdrawal.

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