Bureaucrats and the Korean Export Miracle

What makes an industrial policy successful? This paper finds that the effect of an industrial policy changes tremendously with the implementing bureaucrat. We study Korean bureaucrats who promote exports on appointments to 87 countries between 1965, when Korea was one of the world’s poorest countries, and 2001. We exploit the rotation of bureaucrats between countries to show that individual bureaucrats matter greatly in boosting exports. Moving from a bureaucrat at the 20th percentile to the median is associated with a 40% increase in exports. This effect is comparable to that of opening an office, implying that this industrial policy has no effect under a 20th percentile bureaucrat. We exploit differential import demand growth to study a mechanism via which better bureaucrats increase exports - transmitting information about market conditions. Under better bureaucrats Korean exports increase more with a product’s import demand. Finally, we investigate whether experience can bridge the gaps between bureaucrats. We isolate quasi-random variation in experience exploiting a product’s import demand growth during the bureaucrat’s first appointment. In subsequent appointments exports increase in products with greater bureaucrat experience. This highlights learning-by-doing as a channel to build bureaucratic capacity. However, the differences between bureaucrats are larger than the effect of experience, suggesting selecting good bureaucrats may be more important than training them.

Bureaucrats who Risk Kidnappings to Go to Work? Experiments on Social Norms in Haïti's Bureaucracy

Public sector absenteeism limits the provision of services in many low-capacity settings. In fragile states the puzzle may be why any bureaucrats do decide to go to work. There are limited means to find and sanction absentees. All employees experience long periods without pay. On the other hand, the cost of travelling to work can seem exorbitant. In Haiti, travelling to national ministries incurs the risk of being abducted by gangs. We conduct two survey experiment to investigate whether reciprocal norms and beliefs about peer effort explain how the Haitian state remains able to provide a modicum of services. First, bureaucrats participate in a public goods game. We then provide information about their peers’ contributions (high or low). This succeeds in raising (lowering) their beliefs about peer contributions but does not raise (lower) own contributions in subsequent rounds. This may explain why there is neither a vicious nor virtuous cycle in absenteeism. Second, we elicit respondents’ beliefs about peer attendance. When updated using information about actual attendance from another provincial unit in the same ministry, this changes beliefs only when done in Haitian Creole. There is no effect when this information is conveyed in French. In Haiti, laws and other de jure information is typically conveyed in French while conversations among colleagues take place in Haitian Creole. The fact that we find no effect from information conveyed in the de jure language, suggests formal rules are unlikely to explain attendance. We rule out a number of other explanations, e.g. trust in the government, or a belief that it is possible to do good by working for it cannot explain who comes to work.

Investigating the Deep: Weberian or Patronage Networks in Haïti's Bureaucracy?

In a patrimonial state, bureaucrats’ main obligation is to a personal patron. A state’s patrimonial nature is a commonplace explanation for low state capacity. We trace the professional network of bureaucrats in Haiti’s ministry of agriculture. We find that being a graduate of the ministry’s university, entry into which is competitive, is the main predictor for being identified by someone as a desirable team member. This is not due to mere exposure. As a placebo outcome, we do not find that attending the ministry’s university increases the likelihood of being named as the colleague with whom respondents work most closely. We further find that graduates of the ministry’s university are more likely to link (1) to other ministry graduates and (2) to colleagues outside their immediate unit. This corroborates insights from qualitative interviews that ministry graduates form a productive core (nwa) in the ministry. Ministry graduates score more highly on intelligence measures and make more prosocial choices in two behavioral games. They allocate less money to themselves in (1) a prisoner’s dilemma game with a colleague as the second player, and (2) a dictator game with a ministry project as the second player. Perhaps surprisingly, these seemingly productive bureaucrats obtain higher salaries and bonusses, and see faster career progression. Together, this supports the view that Haiti’s bureaucrats form Weberian rather than patronage networks. All bureaucrats view the state as ineffective, raising the question whether conventional wisdom, to model a state on the Weberian ideal, is desirable in a fragile state.