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Benefit-Cost analysis guide

BENEFIT-COST ANALYSIS GUIDE

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Contents

1. Introduction 

1.1 Resource-allocation decisions Involve choices

1.2 Who is this guide for?

1.3 Why benefit-cost analysis?

1.4 Where benefit-cost analysis fits into the decision-making process

2. The benefit-cost analysis model 

2.1 Introduction

2.2 The benefit-cost analysis framework

2.3 The steps in benefit-cost analysis

2.4 Why is a point of view important?

2.5 The components of benefit-cost analysis

2.6 Constructing tables of costs and benefits

2.7 Accounting conventions

2.8 The report

3. Defining fair options

3.1 Why are fair options difficult to define?

3.2 An optimised base Case

3.3 How to construct fair options

3.4 Incremental effects analysis

4. Measuring and valuing costs and benefits

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Some Important Concepts

4.3 Valuing costs and benefits by market prices

4.4 Consumer surplus and producer surplus as components of value

4.5 Valuing costs and benefits without good market prices

4.6 Some examples of difficult-to-estimate values

4.7 Misuse of benefit multipliers

5. Time values

5.1 Why time matters

5.2 Inflation, nominal dollars and constant dollars

5.3 Changes in relative prices

5.4 Future and present values

5.5 Discount rates

5.6 Strategic effects of high and low discount rates

5.7 The discount rate as a risk variable

6. Decision rules

6.1 Net present value

6.2 Two essential decision rules

6.3. Unreliable decision rules

7. Sensitivity analysis 

7.1 What is sensitivity?

7.2 Gross sensitivity

7.3 What determines sensitivity?

7.4 Sensitivity and decision making

7.5 Two-variable sensitivity analysis

7.6 Graphic analysis of sensitivity

7.7 Action on sensitivities

8. General approaches to uncertainty and risk

8.1 Approaches to quantifying uncertainty-related risk

8.2 Expected values of scenarios

8.3 Risk-adjusted discount rates

8.4. Risk analysis through simulation

9. Risk analysis

9.1 Introduction

9.2 The steps of risk analysis

9.3 The mechanics of risk analysis

9.4 Adjusting for the covariance of related risk variables

9.5 How many times does the model need to run?

9.6 Interpreting the results of the risk analysis

9.7 Decision rules adapted to uncertainty

9.8 Assessing overall risk

9.9 The advantages and limitations of risk analysis

10. Probability data 

10.1 Types of risk variables

10.2 Using historical data

10.3 Expert judgement

10.4 Common probability distributions

10.5 Risk preferences

10.6 Common project risks

11. Comparing options of different types against different criteria

11.1 Issues of fairness

11.2 Multiple objectives

12. Key best practices

Appendix A: Glossary

Appendix B: Questions to ask about a benefit-cost analysis

A quick guide

Appendix C: Selected readings

General readings

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