The paper uses an applied general equilibrium model, calibrated to the situation in Belgium in 1990, to evaluate the welfare effects of small policy changes in the presence of transport externalities. The model incorporates three types of externalities: congestion, which has a feedback effect on the behaviour of the economic agents, air pollution and accidents. The model is used to perform balanced budget incidence simulations in which the marginal cost of public funds is calculated for four alternative policy instruments: a lump sum tax, the labour income tax, the fuel taxes and peak road pricing. For each of these instruments the marginal cost of public funds is calculated. The results of the model are compared with those of a model in which congestion, air pollution and accidents are assumed to remain constant at their initial level.
The model contributes to the literature in two ways. First of all, it includes non-identical individuals which allows to analyse the equity effects of the policy reforms. The second contribution is related to the way in which the externalities are modelled: the feedback effect of congestion is explicitly taken into account and the value of a marginal time saving is determined endogenously in the model.
The simulations show that the ranking of the instruments in terms of their marginal cost of public funds changes significantly when the effect of the reform on the externalities is taken into account. Secondly, regardless of the way in which the tax revenue is recycled, the welfare gain of peak road pricing is higher than that of the fuel tax. When the externality tax revenue is recycled through the lump sum tax the welfare gains are higher for the poorer than for the richer quintiles. On the other hand, the main beneficiary of revenue recycling through the labour income tax is the richest quintile. Consequently, when the social welfare function gives a higher weight to the welfare of individuals belonging to the poorer quintiles, the distributional impacts of the policy reforms cause the welfare gain to be higher when the revenue is recycled through an increase in the lump sum transfer rather than through a lower labour income tax rate.
The link is made with the double dividend literature. A weak double dividend can be realised only when all individuals are given the same welfare weight. However, the inclusion of distributional considerations offers the possibility of realising a strong double dividend for low degrees of inequality aversion.