Pyramid Capitalism: Cronyism, Regulation, and Firm Productivity in Egypt

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 291

Ishac Diwan, Philip Keefer, Marc Schiffbauer
March 2015


Using an original database of 469 politically connected firms under the Mubarak regime in Egypt, we explore the economic effects of cronyism. Previous research has shown that cronyism is lucrative. We address numerous questions raised by this research. First, do crony firms receive favorable regulatory treatment? We find that they do: connected firms are more likely to benefit from trade protection, energy subsidies, access to land, and regulatory enforcement. Second, does regulatory capture account for the high value of connected firms? In our sample, connected firms exhibit superior corporate performance relative to unconnected firms and this is systematically related to regulatory capture. Energy subsidies and trade protection, for example, account for the higher profits of politically connected firms. Third, do crony firms hurt growth? We exploit a natural experiment setting to show that the entry of politically connected firms into previously unconnected sectors slows employment growth and skews the distribution of employment towards less productive smaller firms.

Affiliated Research Program: Growth Lab