Once a concession agreement or any large-scale public procurement contract is signed, who can ensure that the terms are met? How to turn commitments into development on the ground? This is the puzzle that a mix of around 70 government, business and civil society leaders from West Africa began to solve this past week.
Conventional wisdom holds that bribery is the preferred means of influencing government policy in less developed countries, while lobbying is more common in developed countries. Perhaps due to this perceived compartmentalization of lobbying and bribery, very little is known about the relationship between lobbying and bribery, the extent and effectiveness of lobbying vs. bribery in less developed countries, and how this relationship changes as countries move up the development ladder.
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.
2. Bringing mobile phones to mobile (food cart) microentrepreneurs -- but will it make the food any tastier?