The Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies has taken aim at US government policies toward its dairy industry. A policy briefing, "Milking the Customer: The High Cost of U.S. Dairy Policies", says that the complex array of price supports, dairy market loss payments, federal and state marketing orders, classified pricing, and export subsidies, costs tax-payers some US$ 4 billion a year, provides over 40% of dairy farmers' incomes and depresses world prices.
A working paper from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), "The Magnitude and Distribution of Fuel Subsidies: Evidence from Bolivia, Ghana, Jordan, Mali and Sri Lanka", explores the strain that high oil prices are placing on government budgets. Many governments are reluctant to pass these price increases onto energy users, and so energy price subsidies are absorbing an increasing share of scarce public resources.
A report from the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre estimates that bottom trawl fleets operating in the high seas receive an average of US$ 152 million a year, consitituting15% of the total landed value of the fleet.
In a recent article ("A New Agenda for Global Warming"), Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics and former Chief Economist at the World Bank, suggests that Japan, Europe, and the other signatories of Kyoto should immediately bring a WTO subsidy case against the United States for not ratifying the Kyoto Convention and for not taxing adequately CO2 emissions by US firms.
The World Trade Organization's rotating group of five independent subsidy experts - the so-called Permanent Group of Experts (PGE) - is unique. It cannot, however, be considered a roaring success.
This obscure group of trade lawyers and academics, "highly qualified in the field of subsidies and trade relations," has no counterpart at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
We know subsidies to the energy sector are large. The question is how large? Energy subsidies are inherently difficult to quantify; a challenge that is made harder by the reluctance of many governments to act transparently.
Open Budget Initiative
Nine in 10 countries surveyed by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) fail to provide adequate information on their budgets needed to keep governments accountable to their citizens.
The CBPP's International Budget Project surveyed some 59 countries to assess the availability and quality of their budget documents.
People invariably ask, given we have only recently started in this business, why did we choose to work on biofuels?
In deciding research priorities we have several criteria. One is that we would not try to duplicate the work of others. Another is that when we look into subsidies to a particular sector, the sector should be one that is subsidized by many countries.
The recent surge in international energy prices has placed energy subsidies at the forefront of the economic policy agenda in many countries, particularly where government interventions are intended to keep prices low to households and industry, or to protect indigenous energy industries from foreign competition.
A searchable database that tracks federal spending by the United States government will come on-line by 2008, following legislation passed in September. The Web-based search engine, which will include all federal funding to public and private organizations, has been hailed as a victory for transparency in government operations by a broad coalition of advocacy groups.