Robust investment climate effects on alternative firm-level productivity measures
Developing countries are increasingly concerned about improving country competitiveness and productivity, as they face the increasing pressures of globalization and attempt to improve economic growth and reduce poverty. Among such countries, Investment Climate surveys (ICs) at the firm level, have become the standard way for the World Bank to identify key obstacles to country competitiveness, in order to prioritize policy reforms for enhancing competitiveness. Given the surveys objectives and the nature and limitations of the data collected, this paper discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using different total factor productivity (TFP) measures. The main objective is to develop a methodology to generate robust investment climate impacts (elasticities) on TFP under alternative measures. The paper applies it to the data collected for ICs in four developing countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Observations on logarithms of the production function variables are pooled across three countries (Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua). Endogeneity of the production function inputs and of the investment climate variables is addressed by using observable firm level information, a variant of the control function approach, considering IC variables as proxy and also by aggregating certain investment climate variables by industry and region. It is shown that by using this methodology it is possible to get robust IC “elasticities” on TFP for more than ten different TFP measures. The robust IC elasticity estimates for the five countries show how relevant the investment climate variables are to explain the average productivity of each country. IC variables in several categories (red tape, corruption and crime, infrastructure and, quality and innovation) account for over 30 percent of average productivity. The policy implications are clear: investment climate matters and the relative impact of the various investment climate variables helps indentifying where reform efforts should be directed in each country. It is argued that this robust methodology can be used as a benchmark to assess cross-country productivity effects in other IC surveys. This is important since similar firm-level IC surveys on several sectors (manufacturing, services, etc.) are now available at the World Bank for more than 65 developing countries.
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