A Procedure for the Ex-Ante Assessment of Compulsory Municipal Amalgamation Programs. (ISSN: 1827-3580 No. 22/WP/2015). Working Paper – Department of economics, Ca’ Foscari, University of Venice, vol. 22, pp. 1-29.
The aim of the paper is to develop a procedure that allows policy makers to make an ex-ante assessment of a general compulsory amalgamation policy, providing quantitative indications about the possible financial effects. The amalgamation of small municipalities is a widespread practice all over the world. This policy is based on the assumption that local public service provision is characterized by economies of scale and economies of scope. However, population size is not the only determinant of economies of scale, which depend on many other factors. For these reasons, the expected effects of any amalgamation program are uncertain, and ex-post empirical analyses are unable to offer unambiguous indications to policy makers since all programs differ.
After a brief discussion of the relevant issues concerning amalgamation, we present the procedure used to simulate the economics and administrative effects of a general compulsory amalgamation policy. The procedure is tested with reference to the municipalities of Veneto, a region of Italy and we provide the results of a number of simulations under alternative amalgamation policies. The main result is that amalgamation policies based only on the a priori rule that small municipalities should merge may be very inefficient because the expenditure reduction following an amalgamation policy may depend to a considerable extent on other territorial and socio-economic characteristics of the municipalities involved.