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How Business Is Done in the Developing World: Deals versus Rules

Mary Hallward-Driemeier and Lant Pritchett ()

Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2015, vol. 29, issue 3, 121-40

Abstract: What happens in the developing world when stringent regulations characterizing the investment climate meet weak government willingness or capability to enforce those regulations? How is business actually done? The Doing Business project surveys experts concerning the legally required time and costs of regulatory compliance for various aspects of private enterprise—starting a firm, dealing with construction permits, trading across borders, paying taxes, getting credit, enforcing contracts, and so on—around the world. The World Bank's firm-level Enterprise Surveys around the world ask managers at a wide array of firms about their business, including questions about how long it took to go through various processes like obtaining an operating license or a construction permit, or bringing in imports. This paper compares the results of three broadly comparable indicators from the Doing Business and Enterprise Surveys. Overall, we find that the estimate of legally required time for firms to complete a certain legal and regulatory process provided by the Doing Business survey does not summarize even modestly well the experience of firms as reported by the Enterprise Surveys. When strict de jure regulation and high rates of taxation meet weak governmental capabilities for implementation and enforcement, we argue that researchers and policymakers should stop thinking about regulations as creating "rules" to be followed, but rather as creating a space in which "deals" of various kinds are possible.

JEL-codes: G38 K22 L21 L26 L51 M13 O14 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.29.3.121
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