Authors: Klaus Masuch, Edmund Moshammer and Beatrice Pierluigi
Series: CEPS Working Document No. 421
This paper provides empirical evidence in support of the view that the quality of institutions is an important determinant of long-term growth of European countries. When also taking into account the initial level of GDP per capita and government debt, cross-country institutional differences can explain to a great extent the relative long-term GDP performance of European countries. It also shows that an initial government debt level above a threshold (e.g. 60-70%) coupled with institutional quality below the EU average tends to be associated with particularly poor long-term real growth performance. Interestingly, the detrimental effect of high debt levels on long-term growth seems cushioned by the presence of very sound institutions. This might be because good institutions help to alleviate the debt problem in various ways, e.g. by ensuring sufficient fiscal consolidation in the longer-run, allowing for better use of government expenditures and promoting sustainable growth, social fairness and more efficient tax administration. The quality of national institutions seems to enhance the long-term GDP performance across a large sample of countries, also including OECD countries outside Europe. The paper offers some evidence that, in the presence of good institutions, conditions for catching-up seem generally good also for euro-area and fixed exchange rate countries. Looking at sub-groupings, it seems that sound institutions may be particularly important for long-term growth in the countries where the exchange rate tool is no longer available (and where also sovereign debt is high), and less so in the countries with flexible exchange rate regimes. However, this result is preliminary and requires further research.
The empirical findings on the importance of institutions are robust to various measures of output growth, different measures of institutional indicators, different sample sizes, different country groupings and to the inclusion of additional control variables. Overall, the results tend to support the call for structural reforms in general and reforms enhancing the efficiency of public administration and regulation, the rule of law and the fight against rent-seeking and corruption in particular.
All three authors are at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.