“There is nothing in this book that needs to be confirmed by complex laboratory experiments. You have only to open the window or step into the street”, Hernando de Soto, The Other Path, p14., 1989.
Buying and selling a product or service involves a number of costs, including time spent searching for the best prices, negotiating for good discounts, researching product quality and writing contracts where applicable. Broadly, these are called the transaction costs of economic exchange, and part of the reason firms exist is to keep transaction costs at a minimum.
In a series of earlier posts, I discussed a number of findings about informal (unregistered) firms in 6 African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Madagascar and Mauritius. These findings were based on Informality Surveys collected by the Enterprise Analysis Unit to better understand the functioning of the informal sector—a large sector for which we have virtually no systematic data.
One can reasonably expect that frequent and unpredictable changes in economic policy might adversely affect investment by the private sector and the overall growth of the economy. For all practical purposes, uncertainty about future economic policies is a step towards economic anarchy. But precisely what causes firms in some countries to have higher uncertainty about future economic policies than others? Does the underlying political structure matter? What elements of the political structure, if any, matter for the level of policy uncertainty as perceived by private agents?
Survey data suggest it might not be that easy for manufacturing multinationals to find information on suitable industrial investment sites in many countries around the world.