Does Corporate Governance Matter to Economic Development?

The editors of Corporate Governance and Development: Reform, Financial Systems and Legal Frameworks (The Crc Series on Competition, Regulation and Development), Thankom Gopinath Arun and John Turner answer with a resounding yes. As they indicate in their introduction,

If finance matters for economic development, then corporate governance must also affect economic development for at least two reasons. First, corporate governance affects how and at what cost firms finance their real investments… Secondly, the quality and nature of corporate governance can affect the structure of the financial system.

If shareowners are poorly protected, finance through bank loans will be more expensive.

This collection of essays provides a broad outline of recent scholarship around the world. Chisari and Ferro suggest that unintended consequences of reforms in Argentina could impinge on consumers. Based on experience in Botswana, Gustavson, Kimani and Ouma also argue reforms originating in Anglo-American models must tailored better when imported to other cultures. Goyer and Rocio also find that corporate governance is mediated by the larger institutional framework in their study of electricity sectors in Britain and Spain.

Other authors focus on corporate governance relative to the banking sector, finding a correlation between debt and poor performance, the need for prudent regulatory reforms for divestiture of government ownership and good governance practices, while two chapters on Bangladesh also argue for strong legal and regulatory institutions to protect minority shareholders, creditors and depositors.

Three additional chapters focus on legal frameworks in Ireland, UK and the EU, as well as more broadly. It is that broader focus of developing a “shareholder protection index,” which I found most interesting. Building on prior work by La Porta and others, Priya P. Lele and Mathias M. Siems construct a much more elaborate index of shareowner rights based on a “leximetric” (quantative measurement of law), rather than econometric approach.

They endeavored to include the variables which best reflect shareowner protections developed in the UK, US, German, France and India over the last 35 years. Aggregate scales for each of these countries trend upward. Shareowner protections have increase, especially in the last five years. On a number of scales, the US comes out at or near the bottom but that doesn’t mean the authors recommend redirecting capital from the US to France, for example. Other aspects, such as financial disclosure, the rule of law and socio-economic attitudes have not bee considered. Neither have factors such as blockholder control and other variables. They didn’t examine whether a better score leads to better governance or economic development but will be examining these questions in the future.

Overall, the volume offers a good cross-section of essays reflecting current scholarship in field of growing importance.

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