This review paper is intended as a contribution to the first of the Thematic Network workshops to be held from 21-22 March 2003. It focuses on experience with the notion of social benefits in developing countries, which differs in one important respect from that of the more economically advanced economies. In the latter debate has been focused strongly on the social costs associated with investments in the transport sector, rather than their social benefits, and has generated a huge literature in its own right. Including this into the current discussion would substantially broaden the debate. It might also confuse rather than enlighten, since social costs become an important issue mainly in urban areas or under congested highway conditions. The intention is that both of these would be excluded from any future initial research.
Initially this review addresses four main topics. These are the: (i) evolution of the concept of social benefits by those concerned with investments in the transport sector; (ii) changing use of social criteria in the actual appraisal of investments in transport; (iii) experience from other sectors in the identification and measurement of social benefits, and their use in the appraisal of investments; and (iv) wider perceptions of social benefits from the more general development literature that might be relevant for future sectoral investments. A concluding section relates the results of the review to some of the key questions raised in the brief issued to the authors of the think piece papers