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The Costs of Political Influence: Firm-Level Evidence From Developing Countries


  • Desai, Raj M.
  • Olofsgård, Anders


Arrangements by which politically connected firms receive economic favors are a common feature around the world, but little is known of the form or effects of influence in business–government relationships. We present a simple model in which influence requires firms to provide goods of political value in exchange for economic privileges. We argue that political influence improves the business environment for selected firms, but restricts their ability to fire workers. Under these conditions, if political influence primarily lowers fixed costs over variable costs, then favored firms will be less likely to invest and their productivity will suffer, even if they earn higher profits than non-influential firms. We rely on the World Bank's Enterprise Surveys of approximately 8000 firms in 40 developing countries, and control for a number of biases present in the data. We find that influential firms benefit from lower administrative and regulatory barriers (including bribe taxes), greater pricing power, and easier access to credit. But these firms also provide politically valuable benefits to incumbents through bloated payrolls and greater tax payments. Finally, these firms are worse-performing than their non-influential counterparts. Our results highlight a potential channel by which cronyism leads to persistent underdevelopment.

Suggested Citation

  • Desai, Raj M. & Olofsgård, Anders, 2011. "The Costs of Political Influence: Firm-Level Evidence From Developing Countries," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 6(2), pages 137-178, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jlqjps:100.00010094
    DOI: 10.1561/100.00010094

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    Cited by:

    1. Giuseppe Lucio Gaeta, 2013. "Do influential contacts help in receiving fair treatment from public officials?," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(15), pages 1407-1412, October.
    2. Krammer, Sorin & Jimenez, Alfredo, 2019. "Do political connections matter for firm innovation? Evidence from emerging markets in Central Asia and Eastern Europe," MPRA Paper 94942, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Amr Hosny, 2018. "Firm Performance and their Perception of Political Instability in Egypt: Evidence from an Endogenous Treatment Regression Model," Journal of African Development, African Finance and Economic Association (AFEA), vol. 20(2), pages 61-68.
    4. Chen, Yenn-Ru & Jiang, Xiaoquan & Weng, Chia-Hsiang, 2020. "Can government industrial policy enhance corporate bidding? The evidence of China," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 60(C).
    5. Klaus S. Friesenbichler & Oliver Fritz & Werner Hölzl & Gerhard Streicher & Florian Misch & Mustafa Yeter, 2014. "The Efficiency of EU Public Administration in Helping Firms Grow," WIFO Studies, WIFO, number 50931, September.
    6. Soumyajit Mazumder, 2016. "Can I stay a BIT longer? The effect of bilateral investment treaties on political survival," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 477-521, December.
    7. Hosny Amr, 2017. "Political Stability, Firm Characteristics and Performance: Evidence from 6,083 Private Firms in the Middle East," Review of Middle East Economics and Finance, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 1-21, April.
    8. Aiwanehi Barbara Ofuani & Abdul-Hameed Adeola Sulaimon & Sunday Abayomi Adebisi, 2018. "Corporate Governance Practices: A Comparative Study of Selected Public Corporations in Nigeria," Academic Journal of Economic Studies, Faculty of Finance, Banking and Accountancy Bucharest,"Dimitrie Cantemir" Christian University Bucharest, vol. 4(1), pages 192-202, March.
    9. Earle, John S. & Gehlbach, Scott, 2014. "The Productivity Consequences of Political Turnover: Firm-Level Evidence from Ukraine's Orange Revolution," IZA Discussion Papers 8510, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Friesenbichler, Klaus & Fritz, Oliver & Hölzl, Werner & Misch, Florian & Streicher, Gerhard & Yeter, Mustafa, 2014. "The efficiency of EU public administration in helping firms grow: Final report / Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung; Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung. Carried out for the E," ZEW Expertises, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research, number 111450.
    11. Bellettini, Giorgio & Berti Ceroni, Carlotta & Prarolo, Giovanni, 2013. "Political persistence and economic growth," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 165-179.
    12. Domadenik, Polona & Prašnikar, Janez & Svejnar, Jan, 2014. "Legal Corruption, Politically Connected Corporate Governance and Firm Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 8321, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Robert Kubinec, 2018. "Patrons or Clients? Measuring and Experimentally Evaluating Political Connections of Firms in Morocco and Jordan," Working Papers 1280, Economic Research Forum, revised 26 Dec 2018.
    14. Tahiru Azaaviele Liedong & Jedrzej George Frynas, 2018. "Investment Climate Constraints as Determinants of Political Tie Intensity in Emerging Countries: Evidence from Foreign Firms in Ghana," Management International Review, Springer, vol. 58(5), pages 675-703, October.
    15. Krammer, Sorin M.S. & Jiménez, Alfredo, 2020. "Do political connections matter for firm innovation? Evidence from emerging markets in Central Asia and Eastern Europe," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    16. Gael Lagadec, 2014. "Are political support-driven policies always bad? The case of large interest groups," European Journal of Government and Economics, Europa Grande, vol. 3(2), pages 138-147, December.
    17. Polona Domadenik & Janez Prašnikar & Jan Svejnar, 2016. "Political Connectedness, Corporate Governance, and Firm Performance," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 139(2), pages 411-428, December.
    18. Stephen Weymouth & J. Lawrence Broz, 2013. "Government Partisanship and Property Rights: Cross-Country Firm-Level Evidence," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(2), pages 229-256, July.

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