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Are Managers’ Perceptions of Constraints to Growth Reliable? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in South Africa

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  • Clarke, George

Abstract

Can surveys of what managers see as the biggest problems that their firm faces provide useful information on the main constraints to private sector and economic development and be used to prioritize reforms in these areas? One of many concerns about doing this is that managers’ responses to questions about specific areas of the investment climate might reflect their assessment of overall investment climate or their overall business confidence rather than their views on that specific area of the investment climate. This paper uses a natural experiment in South Africa to assess whether this is the case. When the World Bank’s 2007-2008 Enterprise Survey was being carried out, a major electricity crisis hit South Africa. The crisis resulted in many more managers saying that power was a serious constraint on enterprise operations—the share rose from about 10 percent of managers before the crisis to close to 50 percent after the crisis. But it also resulted in greater concern about most other areas of the investment climate—including areas such as taxation, regulation, and other areas of infrastructure that were unrelated to the crisis. This suggests that managers do not fully compartmentalize their responses. Moreover, the changes were large enough to suggest that cross-time and cross-country comparisons of perception data will be difficult.

Suggested Citation

  • Clarke, George, 2010. "Are Managers’ Perceptions of Constraints to Growth Reliable? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in South Africa," MPRA Paper 20098, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:20098
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. George Clarke & James Habyarimana & David Kaplan & Vijaya Ramachandran, 2008. "Why isn't South Africa growing faster? Microeconomic evidence from a firm survey," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(7), pages 837-868.
    2. Clarke, George R.G. & Cull, Robert & Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad, 2006. "Foreign bank participation and access to credit across firms in developing countries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 774-795, December.
    3. George R.G. Clarke & James Habyarimana & Michael Ingram & David Kaplan & Vijaya Ramachandran, 2007. "An Assessment of the Investment Climate in South Africa," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6738.
    4. Jakob Svensson, 2005. "Eight Questions about Corruption," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 19-42, Summer.
    5. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 2006. "Bank supervision and corruption in lending," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 2131-2163, November.
    6. Clarke, George R.G., 2011. "How Petty is Petty Corruption? Evidence from Firm Surveys in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 1122-1132, July.
    7. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
    8. Omar Azfar & Peter Murrell, 2009. "Identifying Reticent Respondents: Assessing the Quality of Survey Data on Corruption and Values," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(2), pages 387-411, January.
    9. Thorsten Beck & Asli Demirgüç-Kunt & Vojislav Maksimovic, 2005. "Financial and Legal Constraints to Growth: Does Firm Size Matter?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(1), pages 137-177, February.
    10. Jensen, Nathan M. & Li, Quan & Rahman, Aminur, 2007. "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter : understanding corruption using cross-national firm-level surveys," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4413, The World Bank.
    11. Hallward-Driemeier, Mary & Aterido, Reyes, 2009. "Comparing Apples with....Apples : how to make (more) sense of subjective rankings of constraints to business," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5054, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Clarke, George R.G. & Cull, Robert & Kisunko, Gregory, 2012. "External finance and firm survival in the aftermath of the crisis: Evidence from Eastern Europe and Central Asia," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 372-392.
    2. Ali Fakih & Pascal L. Ghazalian, 2015. "What factors influence firm perceptions of labour market constraints to growth in the MENA region?," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 36(8), pages 1181-1206, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subjective Data; Firm-level Data; Perceptions; South Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • C42 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Survey Methods
    • O20 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - General
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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