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.

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.

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.

Jan Hanousek, Anna Kochanova, 04 May 2015

The evidence about the effect of bribery on economic growth is mixed. Some find it harmful while others believe it helps via a ‘grease the wheels’ effect. This column argues that the ambiguity can be explained by divergent effects of the mean and dispersion of corruption. A high bribery-mean retards productivity growth of firms, but a high bribery-dispersion facilitates performance of weak firms.

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