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Extraction Rights Allocation with Liquidity Constraints

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Abstract

We study the optimal allocation of a resource in a second-best world in which parties may be liquidity-constrained due to credit frictions and capital market imperfections. In this setting, common to various natural resource industries, agents are unable to bid more than their budget regardless of their valuation. While auction markets are widely used mechanisms for allocating natural resource extraction rights and conservation contracts, we show that in these circumstances the competitive market −which allocates items based on rank order of bids− fails to achieve the first-best allocation. The market outcome is welfare-dominated by a hybrid mechanism consisting of random assignment followed by resale in a secondary market. Via the initial lottery, the latter allocates the items with positive probability to high-valuation low-wealth individuals who would have not been able to afford them in a competitive market. High-valuation high-wealth agents, on the other hand, acquire the items in the secondary market if they do not receive them in the initial lottery. Therefore, equity in the allocation of access to the resource may be justified not only by distributional concerns but also by economic efficiency. We illustrate our model using data from buybacks of harvesting rights in the seafood industry.

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