Problem

Excessively costly prestige projects

Other Names:
Grandiose public works
Unnecessary status projects
White elephantiasis
Claim:
The biggest, best, most costly white elephant projects plague developing and developed nations, the public sector and the private, and socialist, communist and capitalist countries: the Sears Tower in Chicago and plans for a 150 story building in New York, a 122 story building in Newark, New Jersey, and a 125 story building in Chicago are representative of architectural overreach. Seldom are these building profitable. They are more costly than lower buildings with equal floor space. They are business and architectural icons of power. Romania spent $1 billion on grandiose palace during Ceausescu.

In science, the $23 billion space station, $4 billion superconducting supercollider and the $3 billion human genome projects are marginally justifiable scientific projects but best understood as monuments to USA capacity. Politicians in Latin America, Africa and Asia have built ill-sited dams and power stations; massive steel plants for agricultural countries; and multi-lane roads to nowhere. Germany mistakenly built a petrochemical plant on its North Sea coast. The UK has an international airport on a distant shore of Scotland. The Philippines has an unworkable nuclear power station sited near three geological faults.

The Concorde supersonic aircraft is a classic example. Capable of propelling 100 passengers paying $3,600 (one way) in a cramped seat from London to New York at twice the speed of sound, whilst consuming more fuel than any other commercial aircraft. In the 1960s the development costs were nearly $5 billion. The aircraft (of which only 7 were produced, rather than the 150 planned) had to be given to the operators. In 1990 a study is being undertaken to produce a new version.

In 1995 the Walloon government (Belgium) decided to complete the construction of the Strépy ship lift -- a project begun in the late 1960s as part of a plan to revitalize the canal trade. The mega-project was abandoned in a state of partial completion, but the government has calculated that the cost of completing the project is cheaper than maintaining the unfinished structure.

Related Problems:
Expensive functions
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET