Study No. 6

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  • Short-term study visa. Price controls create incentives for individuals or groups to bribe officials to maintain the flow of such goods or to acquire an unfair share at the below-market price. Some countries have several exchange rates--one for importers, one for tourists, one for investors, for example. Differentials among these rates can lead to attempts to obtain the most advantageous rate, although this rate might not apply to the intended use of the exchange.

    Multiple exchange rate systems are often associated with anti-competitive banking systems in which a key bank with government ties can make huge profits by arbitraging between markets. Some countries have little foreign currency and distribute what they have through various schemes, with varying degrees of transparency.

    If, for example, state-owned commercial banks ration scarce foreign exchange by allocating it according to priorities established by government officials, interested parties may be willing to bribe these officials to obtain more than their fair share. When civil service pay is too low, civil servants may be obliged to use their positions to collect bribes as a way of making ends meet, particularly when the expected cost of being caught is low.

    In addition to government regulations as an occasion for corruption, other reasons for corruption have been identified. Resource-rich economies may be more likely to be subject to extreme rent-seeking behavior than are resource-poor countries. An index of ethnolinguistic fractionalization societal divisions along ethnic and linguistic lines has been found to be correlated with corruption.


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    • Also, public officials are more likely to do favors for their relatives in societies where family ties are strong. Among the many disagreeable aspects of corruption is evidence that it slows economic growth through a wide range of channels. Businessmen therefore interpret corruption as a species of tax--though of a particularly pernicious nature, given the need for secrecy and the uncertainty that the bribe-taker will fulfill his part of the bargain--that diminishes their incentive to invest.

      Empirical evidence suggests that corruption lowers investment and retards economic growth to a significant extent. Financial incentives may lure the more talented and better educated to engage in rent seeking rather than in productive work, with adverse consequences for the country's growth rate.

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      Aid, being fungible, may ultimately help support unproductive and wasteful government expenditures. Perhaps as a result, many donor countries have focused on issues of good governance, and in cases where governance is judged to be especially poor, some donors have scaled back their assistance. It may also cause monetary problems if it takes the form of improper lending by public financial institutions at below-market interest rates. Corruption may tempt government officials to choose government expenditures less on the basis of public welfare than on the opportunity they provide for extorting bribes.

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      Large projects whose exact value is difficult to monitor may present lucrative opportunities for corruption. A priori, one might expect that it is easier to collect substantial bribes on large infrastructure projects or high-technology defense systems than on textbooks or teachers' salaries. Political Risk Services, Inc. This paper uses an index, compiled by the IRIS Center of the University of Maryland, which is based on averages for and is available for over countries.

      The index used here is based on averages for and is available for 67 countries. Both indices are on a scale from 0 most corrupt to 10 least corrupt.

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      The corruption index used in this paper is the simple average of both indices, which report remarkably similar judgments on individual countries. The Barro data set containing the averages of government spending on defense, education, social security and welfare, public investment, and total government expenditure for over countries. This data set provides the basis for much recent empirical work on the determinants of economic growth.

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      CVI May , pp. The Devarajan data set of developing countries, to which the industrial countries were added, so as to obtain a sample of around 95 countries. The data refer to observations. The components of expenditures on education school, university, and other education and health hospitals, clinics, and other institutions are available for about 60 countries.

      The Easterly and Rebelo data set, which consolidates the public investment expenditure of the general government with public investment expenditures undertaken by public enterprises for 96 countries. It provides data on the composition of public investment by sector for about 40 countries. This section analyzes further how corruption affects investment and economic growth and reports new evidence on the relationship between corruption and the components of government expenditure.

      Regression analysis indicates that the amount of corruption is negatively linked to the level of investment and economic growth, that is to say, the more corruption, the less investment and the less economic growth. Analysis further shows that if the corruption index improves by one standard deviation equal to 2. In effect, a country that improves its standing on the corruption index from, say, 6 to 8 recall that 0 is most corrupt, 10 least , will enjoy the benefits of an increase of 4 percentage points of investment, with consequent improvement in employment and economic growth.

      When they have the option, do corrupt politicians choose government projects on which it is easier to levy bribes rather than those that promise the greatest public good? Does the greed of corrupt politicians affect to any significant degree the composition of government expenditure? If corruption acted simply as an equal tax on all government expenditure if, say, 10 percent of the cost of all government expenditures is raked off in bribes , the composition of this expenditure would be independent of corruption.

      Whether a dam is built or an equally costly squadron of jet fighters purchased would make no difference to politicians, who would derive the same rent from each option.

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      They could afford to act in the public interest. In the real world, however, it seems reasonable to interpret any empirical relationship between corruption indices and particular components of government spending as tentative evidence that bribes can be more readily collected on some types of government expenditure than on others.

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      The question whether corruption affects the composition of government expenditure is an interesting one to consider because, even though the empirical literature has so far yielded mixed results on the effects of government expenditure and its composition on economic growth, most economists think that the level and type of spending undertaken by governments do matter for economic performance.

      Fairly robust evidence suggests, for example, that high rates of enrollment in schools are related to superior economic growth. Is there evidence that corrupt governments may display predatory behavior in choosing the composition of government expenditure? Specifically, is government spending on education negatively affected by corruption? Statistical analysis of the data sources identified in this paper in fact shows that government spending on education as a ratio to GDP is negatively and significantly correlated with corruption the more corruption, the less spent on education.

      Analysis also shows that if a country moves up the corruption index from, say, 6 to 8 it improves its respectability by one standard deviation , government spending on education increases by around a half a percent of GDP. Although similar analysis indicates that other components of government expenditure, most notably transfer payments social insurance and welfare payments , are also negatively and significantly associated with the corruption index, education turns out to be the only component of public spending that remains significantly associated with corruption when the level of per capita income in is used as an additional explanatory variable.

      This control takes into account the well-known empirical observation that government expenditure as a percentage of GDP tends to rise as a country becomes richer--a relationship known as Wagner's law. Surprisingly, government spending on defense or transportation displays no significant relationship with corruption. This does not mean that spending on these items is entirely free of corruption, but only that simple statistical analysis does not find any significant evidence that it is.

      It is possible to speculate that, while bribes are difficult to levy on teachers' salaries, they are easier to levy on the construction of school buildings and other capital expenditures. Most people suspect that corruption leads to high capital expenditure on "white elephant" projects grandiose presidential palaces, unnecessarily large airports, or vast university campuses.

      The data used in this paper do not provide significant evidence to support this suspicion, although an improvement in the corruption index seems to be associated with an increase in current expenditure as a ratio to GDP and with a decrease in capital expenditure, where white elephants are born. While evidence is fairly robust that corruption lowers total public and private investment, no clear relationship has been found between corruption and public investment. A possible explanation of this finding is that predatory behavior by corrupt governments may help sustain the level though perhaps not the quality of public investment as a ratio to GDP, even as private investment declines.

      While, for the sake of clarity of exposition, the above review boldly calls variables suspected of being related to corruption either a cause or an effect of that corruption, the direction of causality is not entirely evident in all cases. For example, it is not always clear whether the existence of government building regulations causes bureaucrats to ask for bribes in return for helping construction firms circumvent them, or whether these regulations were created by corrupt bureaucrats seeking a means of realizing economic rents.

      Although some attempt has been made to establish the correct direction of causal links, the issue of causality remains unresolved, and it is possible that variables may occasionally act simultaneously as both cause and effect. Fortunately, however, policy conclusions do not entirely depend on definitively establishing the direction of causality. An observed correlation between corruption and the composition of government spending may be sufficient grounds to consider encouraging governments to allocate a larger proportion of their spending to those items that are less susceptible to corruption.

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      This paper has analyzed a number of causes and consequences of public corruption. It has provided a synthetic review of recent studies that estimate empirically some of these links. In addition, though data limitations imply that the results must be interpreted with caution, it has presented evidence that corruption may have considerable adverse effects on economic growth, largely by reducing private investment, and perhaps by worsening the composition of public expenditure.

      The paper has presented evidence of a negative and significant relationship between corruption and government expenditure on education, which is a reason for concern since previous literature has shown that educational attainment is an important determinant of economic growth. A possible interpretation of the observed correlation between corruption and the composition of government expenditure is that corrupt governments find it easier to collect bribes on some expenditure items than on others.

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