Journal Article
The corruption–growth relationship

Does the political regime matter?

THIS ARTICLE IS ON EARLY VIEW. Corruption is widely believed to have an adverse effect on the economic performance of a country. However, many East and Southeast Asian countries either achieved or currently are achieving impressively rapid economic growth despite widespread corruption – the so-called East Asian Paradox.

A common feature of these countries was that they were autocracies. We re-examine the corruption-growth relationship, in light of the East Asian Paradox. We examine the role of political regimes, in mediating corruption–growth relationship using panel data over 100 countries for the period 1984–2016.

We find clear evidence that corruption–growth relationship differs by the type of political regime, and the growth-enhancing effect of corruption is more likely in autocracies than in democracies. The marginal effect analysis shows that in strongly autocratic countries, higher corruption may lead to significantly higher growth, while this is not the case in democracies.

Alternatively, democracy is not good for growth if there is a high level of perceived corruption. We provide suggestive evidence that the mechanism by which corruption is growth-enhancing in autocracies is through the perceived credibility of the commitment of ruling political elites to economic freedom, thereby providing confidence to the firms to invest, leading to long-term growth.

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