Crunch Time: How Bureaucrats' Term of Office Affects Coercive & Collusive Bribes
Bribery inhibits private-enterprise development in emerging-market economies. Solving this problem requires a thorough understanding of how corruption works, but economists' current knowledge is in complete. In particular, a first-order question remains unanswered: how does a bureaucrat's term of office affect firms' bribery costs and-in turn-economic outcomes? On the one hand, shorter terms may mitigate collusive bribes by preventing bureaucrats and firms from building trustworthy relationships. On the other hand, shorter terms may exacerbate coercive bribes by shortening bureaucrats' time horizons. To resolve this uncertainty, I propose to study Tunisia's customs bureau in two steps. First, using detailed real-time bribery data and random assignments of customs officers to import shipments and job postings, I will explore how officers' time horizons and professional relationships affect firms’ bribery costs and trade costs. Second, I hope to work with my government partner to evaluate alternative staffing policies within the customs bureau.