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

  • Clarke, George

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.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 20098.

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Date of creation: 17 Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:20098
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Clarke, George, 2008. "How petty is petty corruption? Evidence from firm survey in Africa," MPRA Paper 15073, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 Aug 2008.
  4. 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, 01.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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