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Private Sector Development

Did Yesterday’s Patterns of Colonial Exploitation Determine Today’s Patterns of Poverty?

Miriam Bruhn's picture

Several economists have argued that cross-country differences in economic development today have their roots in the colonial era. For example, Engerman and Sokoloff (1997, 2002)—henceforth referred to as ES—argue that different types of economic activities that the colonizers engaged in led to different growth paths. They claim that the link between colonial activities and current-day levels of economic development is as follows. In many areas, colonial society was very unequal, giving political rights only to a few landowners, while repressing most of the population through slavery or forced labor. Consequently, institutions that developed during colonial times were designed to protect the rights of only a few. These institutions persist until today and constrain economic development. To give one example, many Latin American banking systems developed primarily to serve a wealthy elite, restricting access to finance for the rest of the population.

In a paper I recently co-authored with Francisco Gallego, we test empirically whether areas with different types of colonial activities do indeed have different levels of economic development today. We use within-country data for 345 regions in seventeen countries in the Americas to do this. We rely on within-country data because colonial activities varied considerably even within countries (for example, the northeast of Brazil grew sugar, while many states in central and southern Brazil had large cattle ranches). Moreover, in our sample, levels of development vary almost as widely within countries (between regions) as they do between countries.

The Challenges of Bankruptcy Reform

Leora Klapper's picture

The 2008 financial crisis precipitated a global economic downturn, credit crunch, and reduction in cross-border lending, trade finance, remittances, and foreign direct investment, which all adversely affected businesses around the world. The increase in the number of distressed firms has made policymakers more concerned about the effectiveness of existing bankruptcy regimes, including both the laws that address reorganization and liquidation, as well as improved enforcement of laws in court.

In a recent paper with Elena Cirmizi and Mahesh Uttamchandani, my co-authors and I summarize the theoretical and empirical literature on designing bankruptcy laws; discuss the challenges of introducing and implementing bankruptcy reforms; and present examples of the most recent reforms in this area from around the world. As policymakers use the current recession as an opportunity to engage in meaningful reform of the bankruptcy process, it is important to assess experiences from previous crises.

The Returns to Better Management

David McKenzie's picture

How much does management matter for economic performance? Despite a large industry of business schools, consulting firms, and airport books purporting to teach you the secrets of good management over the course of your next flight, the answer until very recently has been “we don’t know”. In a recent review, Chad Syverson goes as far as to say “no potential driving factor of productivity has seen a higher ratio of speculation to empirical study”.

Together with colleagues from Stanford and Berkeley, I have been working for the last couple of years to try and understand how much management matters by means of a randomized experiment among textile factories in India. In common with most firms in developing countries, the firms (with 300 workers on average) we were working with did not collect and analyze data systematically in their factories, had few systems for regular maintenance and quality control, had weak human resource systems for promoting and rewarding good performers, and had little control over inventory levels.  The result was a high level of quality defects, large stockpiles of unorganized inventories, and frequent breakdowns of machines. 20 percent of the labor force was occupied solely in checking and repairing defective fabric (see picture).

The Impact of the Crisis on New Firm Registration

Leora Klapper's picture

With millions around the globe feeling the impact of the financial crisis and slower economic growth and job losses, it is important to understand regulatory and policy constraints on entrepreneurs wanting to start a formal business. Entrepreneurial activity is the basis of sustainable economic growth, and the first step for entrepreneurs joining or transitioning to the formal sector is the registration of their business at the registrar of companies. For evidence of the economic power of entrepreneurship we need look no further than the United States, where young firms have been shown to be an important source of net job creation, relative to incumbent firms (Haltiwanger, et al.).

To measure entrepreneurial activity, we’ve constructed with support from the Kauffman Foundation the World Bank Group Entrepreneurship Snapshots (WBGES) – a cross-country, time-series dataset on new firm registration in 112 countries. The main variable of interest is “Entry Density”, defined as the number of newly registered limited liability firms as a percentage of the working age population (in thousands). We employ annual figures from 2004 to 2009 collected directly from Registrars of Companies and other government statistical offices worldwide. Like the Doing Business report, the units of measurement are private, formal sector companies with limited liability.

Corruption and Finance: Are Innovative Firms Victims or Perpetrators?

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

Designing policies that promote innovation and growth is key to development. In many countries there is also considerable corruption, with government officials seeking bribes and many firms underreporting their revenues to the state to evade taxes. Might there be a set of reforms that allow policymakers to kill two birds with one stone, both reducing corruption and boosting innovation? New research suggests financial sector reform may be able to play this role.

In a recent paper with co-authors Meghana Ayyagari and Vojislav Maksimovic, we look at corruption—defined as both bribery of government officials and tax evasion—and how this is associated with firm innovation and financial development. Using firm-level data for over 25,000 firms in 57 countries, we investigate whether firms are victims, who pay more in bribes than they gain by underreporting revenues to tax authorities, or perpetrators, who gain more by avoiding taxes than they lose in paying bribes.

Of particular interest is the effect of corruption and tax evasion on innovative firms. Specifically, we explore the following questions:

What Drives the Price of Remittances?: New Evidence Using the Remittance Prices Worldwide Database

Maria Soledad Martinez Peria's picture

Remittances to developing countries reached U.S. $338 billion in 2008, more than twice the amount of official aid and over half of foreign direct investment flows.1 Numerous studies have shown that remittances can have a positive and significant impact on many aspects of countries’ economic development. Hence, monitoring the market for remittance transactions has become critical for understanding the development process in many low-income countries.

Remittance transactions are known to be expensive. The Remittance Prices Worldwide database collected by the World Bank Payment Systems Group shows that, as of the first quarter of 2009, the cost of remittances averaged close to 10 percent of the amount sent.2 At the same time, the data also reveal a wide dispersion in the price of remittances across corridors, ranging from 2.5 percent to 26 percent of the amount sent (see Figure 1 below the jump).

The Africa of Tomorrow

Ryan Hahn's picture

Is Africa the next hotspot for international investment? That's one of the contentions of the McKinsey Global Institute in a recent report entitled Lions on the Move: The progress and potential of African economies. Collectively, African economies saw a significant uptick in growth over the last decade, with GDP growing at a 4.9 percent annual rate from 2000 through 2008.

As part of Asli's FPD Chief Economist Talk series, Susan Lund, the principal author of the report, came to the World Bank last week to discuss her findings. A video of her talk appears below the jump. The talk itself runs to the 29-minute mark, and the Q&A that follows runs another 52 minutes. Clearly, this presentation captured the attention of World Bank staff.

Lions on the Move: The Progress and Potential of African Economies

Editor’s Note: The following blog post was contributed by Susan Lund, Ph.D., Research Director of the McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company’s business and research arm. Dr. Lund will be making a presentation at the World Bank on July 20th summarizing the institute’s new report, Lions on the move: The progress and potential of African economies, which can be downloaded for free at www.mckinsey.com/mgi.

Tomorrow I will have the opportunity to present new research on Africa's economic prospects at the World Bank, home to many Africa experts and the source of so much invaluable research on the region. I have no doubt the combination of expertise from the McKinsey Global Institute and the World Bank will produce a lively discussion. As you well know, Africa continues to face many challenges, including poverty, disease and hunger. But our report shows Africa is also a land of great progress and potential. In this blog entry, I briefly summarize some of our key findings. We hope our report will provide a useful fact-base for the World Bank in its lending programs and dialogue with Africa’s policy makers and private sector.

We at McKinsey find many of our business clients are eager for insights into Africa’s recent acceleration in GDP growth. Africa’s collective economy grew at a 4.9 percent annual rate from 2000 through 2008, twice as fast as the pace of the preceding two decades. Africa is the third fastest growing economic region in the world, after emerging Asia and the Middle East. The continent’s combined economic output, valued at $1.6 trillion in 2008, is now roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s. Africa offers investors the highest rate of return of any developing region.

Can the Business Environment Explain International Differences in Entrepreneurial Finance?

Leora Klapper's picture

It is well established that financial development is necessary for the efficient allocation of capital and firm growth, yet firm-level surveys have repeatedly found access to finance to be among the biggest hurdles to starting and growing a new business. For instance, in the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys standardized dataset for 2006-2009, 31% of firm owners around the world report access to finance as a major constraint to current operations of the firm, while this figure is 40% for firms under three years of age.

In a recent paper with Larry Chavis and Inessa Love we address two types of questions: (1) What is the relationship between firm age and sources of external financing? and (2) Is there a differential impact of the business environment on access to financing by young versus old firms? 

To summarize, we find systematic differences in the use of different financing sources for new and older firms. We find that in all countries younger firms rely less on bank financing and more on informal financing. However, we also find that young firms have relatively better access to bank finance in countries with stronger rule of law and better credit information and that the reliance of young firms on informal finance decreases with the availability of credit information.

Job Creation and the Global Financial Crisis

David McKenzie's picture

Each new jobs report in the U.S. reignites the debate about whether the government is succeeding in stemming job losses and doing enough to help stimulate the creation of new jobs.

The U.S. has been far from alone in pursuing active labor market policies during the crisis. In a new note, David Robalino and I take stock of what labor market interventions countries have put in place during the recent crisis and summarize what we know about their effectiveness to date, as well as discuss the emerging issues countries are facing as they adapt these policies to a recovery period.

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