Chen Lin, Randall Morck, Bernard Yeung, Xiaofeng Zhao, 22 December 2017

Chinese stocks rose sharply overall on news of President’s Xi’s 2012 policy cracking down on corruption, but non-state-owned enterprises in the country’s least liberalised provinces actually lost value. This column argues that China has taught the world something interesting – that prior market liberalisation makes anticorruption reforms more valuable. Once market forces are activated, bribe-hungry officials no longer grease the wheels but instead become pests and invite eradication.

Jonathan Lehne, Jacob Shapiro, Oliver Vanden Eynde, 08 December 2017

Mariassunta Giannetti, Xiaoyun Yu, 30 October 2017

One of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s defining policies has been in the fight against corruption, which hinders innovation and growth by creating privileges for established firms. This column shows that extensive corruption in China may indeed have hampered the process of firm progress, and that the anti-corruption campaign has been a good move towards favouring an efficient allocation of resources and, ultimately, sustained growth.

Jan Hanousek, Anastasiya Shamshur, Jiri Tresl, 29 October 2017

The idea that corruption hinders investments is not new, but the literature has tended to focus on the impact of average corruption levels. Based on 140,000 firm-level observations for 13 Central and Eastern European countries, this column explores the impact of corruption uncertainty. The evidence suggests that while foreign-controlled firms are unaffected by the corruption uncertainty factor, domestic firms decrease investments significantly when uncertainty about corruption practices increases. This decrease in investment is accompanied by a decrease in cash holdings, which points to a possible motive to build off-balance sheet funds for bribery purposes.

Lucie Gadenne, 28 September 2017

Jan Hanousek, Anastasiya Shamshur, Jiri Tresl, 18 September 2017

Bribery and corruption still present a significant cost to many countries today. This column examines how the efficiency of Eastern European private firms is affected by the level of corruption in their operating environment. An environment of high corruption has an adverse effect on firm efficiency, with ‘honest’ firms – typically foreign-owned and/or with female CEOs – penalised even more.

Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus, Sandip Sukhtankar, 07 July 2017

Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Muhammad Yasir Khan, Ali Hasanain, 20 October 2017

Emmanuelle Auriol, Jean-Philippe Platteau, 09 April 2017

The extent to which Islam is responsible for the problems encountered in countries in which it dominates has been the subject of much attention. This column explores the effect of religions with differing organisational structures on progressive institutional reforms, state corruption, and political stability. Decentralised religions such as Islam are more conducive to institutional stagnation and political instability than centralised religions such as Catholicism or Eastern Christianity, with negative consequences for long-term development.

Axel Dreher, Sarah Langlotz, Silvia Marchesi, 02 December 2016

Despite its many benefits, donor governments show little enthusiasm for budget aid, instead preferring to give project aid over which they have greater control. This column argues that budget aid is better than project-specific aid because it attributes full responsibility of expenditure to the recipient government, allowing voters to respond at the ballot boxes to how well the aid is used.

Elisa Gamberoni, Christine Gartner, Claire Giordano, Paloma Lopez-Garcia, 21 October 2016

Economists have argued that corruption in business can potentially grease the wheels of an economy. This column presents evidence from nine Central and Eastern European countries on the effects of bribes on the efficiency with which production factors are allocated across firms. The impact of corruption on capital and labour misallocation is larger the smaller the country, the lower its political stability and the weaker the quality of its regulation. This is evidence against the ‘grease the wheels’ hypothesis.

Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Julia Cagé, William Kerr, 29 August 2016

The relationship between taxation and economic growth is complex, and relies in large part on the efficiency with which taxes are used. This column examines the impact of corruption on this relationship. The boost to welfare from reducing corruption is substantially larger than the marginal gains from optimising the tax rate for an existing level of government efficiency.

Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Muhammad Yasir Khan, Ali Hasanain, 21 August 2016

Government employee absenteeism is often a serious problem in developing countries. One potential reason is government positions being appointed as a kind of patronage to reward political loyalty. This column presents the results of an intervention designed to address government doctor absenteeism in Punjab, Pakistan. The programme provided government inspectors with a smartphone app to streamline information flows, and improved inspection rates. The results support the political patronage hypothesis and provide encouraging support for data-driven policymaking.

Decio Coviello, Andrea Guglielmo, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 07 August 2016

Open competition is regarded as a crucial ‘preventative tool’ that limits government discretion and abuse of power when awarding procurement contracts. However, various studies have identified numerous drawbacks to using open auctions when contracting is imperfect. This column discusses the effects of increased buyer discretion on public procurement in Italy. Increased discretion raises the number of repeated wins by contractors, suggesting long-term relationships between buyers and sellers. Furthermore, productive buyer-seller relationships appear to outnumber corrupt ones.

Giacomo De Luca, Roland Holder, Paul Raschky, Michele Valsecchi, 21 July 2016

Ethnic favouritism is widely regarded as an African phenomenon, or at most a problem of poor and weakly institutionalised countries. This column uses data on night-time light intensity to challenge these preconceptions. Ethnic favouritism is found to be as prevalent outside of Africa as it is within, and not restricted to poor or autocratic nations either. Rather, re-election concerns appear to be an important driver of the practice.

Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, Konstantin Sonin, 20 June 2016

In addition to the traditional mass media, social media has become a channel through which citizens can hold public officials and corporate leaders to account. But social media commentators can be vulnerable to manipulation and reputational damage. This column uses data on a popular blogger in Russia to show that blogs are critical of corruption in state-controlled companies can lead to decreased profit diversion and corruption by the targeted companies. Social media appears to play an important role in improving accountability, particularly when traditional media is censored or political competition is limited.

Marcel Fafchamps, Julien Labonne, 31 May 2016

Politicians may have the opportunity to interfere with the allocation of public services to help to achieve their electoral objectives. This column argues that politicians share rents with central players to build and sustain coalitions. Using detailed data from the Philippines, it examines social networks and the allocation of municipal services. Households with greater potential to broker political coalitions do indeed appear to receive more services from their municipal government. 

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