Peter Harasztosi, Laurent Maurin, Rozália Pál, Debora Revoltella, Wouter van der Wielen, 18 November 2021

Massive policy support sheltered many European firms from the unprecedented Covid shock. However, a debate has emerged regarding the potential side effects of continued support for long-term growth hampering the creative destruction process. This column uses data from the EIB Investment Survey to analyse the impact of policy support in detail. It shows that support went primarily to the most affected firms and does not find evidence of misallocation to zombie firms. In addition, policy support enhanced firms’ capacity to rebound from the crisis, enabling recapitalisation and promoting investment in digitalisation. 

Dan Andrews, Elif Bahar, Jonathan Hambur, 30 September 2021

Job retention schemes during the pandemic prioritised preservation over reallocation, but evidence on their allocative and productivity consequences is scarce. Using tax data for Australia, this column shows that job reallocation and firm exit remained connected to firm productivity over the course of the pandemic. Australia’s job retention scheme, JobKeeper, initially shielded productive and financially fragile firms, contributing positively to aggregate productivity. But as the economy recovered, the scheme grew more distortive, justifying its timely withdrawal – on productivity grounds at least.

Tommaso Bighelli, Tibor Lalinsky, Filippo di Mauro, 19 August 2021

Government support in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the misallocation of public funds and the creation of ‘zombie’ firms. This column uses firm-level data from CompNet for four EU countries to show that Covid-19 support was distributed rather efficiently. Government subsidies were distributed towards medium productive firms, and only marginally towards the undeserving ‘zombies’. However, the negative impact of the pandemic on productivity growth was large and resource reallocation sluggish, which calls for a removal of the blanket as soon as the situation allows. 

Sebastian Doerr, Dalia Marin, Davide Suverato, Thierry Verdier, 19 August 2020

A well-established observation in the trade literature is that conglomerate firms are more productive than single-product firms, but this appears to be at odds with findings in the finance literature that multi-segment firms trade at a discount and have lower Tobin’s Q than single-product firms, because internal capital markets misallocate funds across divisions within firms. This column develops a novel theory of misallocation within firms (rather than between firms) due to managers' empire building. Introducing an internal capital market into a two-factor model of multi-segment firms, it shows that more open markets impose discipline on competition for capital within firms, which explains why exporters exhibit a lower conglomerate discount than non-exporters. Testing the model with data on US companies, the authors establish that import competition reduces mis-allocation within firms. A one standard deviation increase in Chinese imports lowers the conglomerate discount by 32% and over-reporting of costs by up to 15%.

Reint Gropp, Steven Ongena, Jörg Rocholl, Vahid Saadi, 07 August 2020

Recessions are periods of low opportunity costs for time and resources, and hence can facilitate a productivity-enhancing reallocation of resources and improve productivity growth. However, recessions can also slow productivity growth by intensifying credit frictions, for instance, through the accumulation of legacy assets in the banking sector. This column investigates the interaction between these two channels in the recent banking crisis and shows that US regions with more restructuring of inefficient banks during the post-Global Crisis recession experienced higher productivity growth in the real sector in subsequent years.

Tito Boeri, Andrea Ichino, Enrico Moretti, Johanna Posch, 13 April 2019

In many European countries, wages are determined by collective bargaining agreements intended to improve wages and reduce inequality. This column compares the impact of different wage bargaining models in Italy, which has limited geographical wage differences in nominal terms and almost no relationship between local productivity and local nominal wages, and Germany, which has a tighter link between local wages and local productivity. The Italian system is successful at reducing nominal wage inequality, but creates costly geographic imbalances. If Italy were to adopt the German system, aggregate employment and earnings would increase by 11.04% and 7.45%, respectively. 

Dan Andrews, Filippos Petroulakis, 04 April 2019

Europe’s productivity problem is partly due to the rise of zombie firms that crowd out growth opportunities for others. This column explores the tendency for weak banks to evergreen loans to zombie firms to avoid realising losses on their balance sheet. Measures to strengthen bank balance sheets will be enhanced by insolvency regimes that encourage corporate restructuring.

Matt Lowe, Chris Papageorgiou, Fidel Pérez Sebastián, 20 February 2019

Capital doesn’t flow to developing countries as much as economic theory suggests it should, and this might imply that capital is misallocated across nations. This column argues that once public capital is removed from the equation, the evidence shows that private capital is allocated remarkably efficiently across nations. It also suggests that the inefficiencies related to the allocation of public capital across countries can be significant and much larger than those related to private capital. 

Pedro Bento, Diego Restuccia, 22 October 2018

One way to adjudicate among existing productivity theories for why productivity varies across countries is to examine differences in average establishment size. Using new data covering firms in both manufacturing and services in 127 countries, this column shows that average establishment size increases with the level of development across countries, but the ratio of size between manufacturing and services does not vary systematically with income per capita. Misallocation is therefore an important driver of establishment size and aggregate productivity differences between rich and poor countries.

Fabiano Schivardi, Enrico Sette, Guido Tabellini, 18 July 2017

There is a widespread perception that under-capitalised banks can prolong crises by misallocating credit to weaker firms and restraining credit to healthy borrowers. This column explores the extent and consequences of credit misallocation in Italy during and after the Eurozone Crisis. Bank undercapitalisation may have been costly in terms of misallocation of capital and productive efficiency in the medium term due to the higher exit of healthy firms, but it had at best a limited role in aggravating the recession induced by the Eurozone Crisis.

Amit Khandelwal, Shang-Jin Wei, Peter Schott, 02 December 2012

If trade barriers are managed by inefficient institutions, trade liberalization can lead to greater-than-expected gains. This paper examines Chinese textile and clothing exports before and after the removal of externally imposed quotas. Both the surge in export volumes and the decline in prices after the quota removal are driven by net entry, implying that the pre-liberalisation quota allocation is not based on firm productivity. Removing this misallocation accounts for a substantial share of the overall productivity gains associated with the quota removal.

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