10 Global Impressions
Sometimes you have to go to great lengths (or in this case, great distances) in order to get the information you are looking for. Anne-Marie Kortas (left), Johannes Wahner and Pedro Obando respectively conducted research trips to El Salvador, Tanzania and Georgia for their thesis topic: Restraining Corruption by Controlling the Informal Economy? "Our research showed that a consequence of a large informal economy is a greater mistrust in the state by society and a nontransparent environment which nurtures corruption," says Anne-Marie. "This interrelation can be complicated, so our goal is to identify the relationship between the two and to assess the anticorruption potential of formalization policies." The trio shares some impressions with us of their research trips...
Anne-Marie, Johannes and Pedro are part of the MPP Jubilee Projects, a special feature of the Hertie School's 10 Year Anniversary celebrations. Their thesis advisor is Professor Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and the World Bank is their practice institution. Watch this space for more MPP Jubilee Project profiles!
Going Local1 / 10
Anne-Marie is fluent in Spanish, so she had no problem connecting with the locals on the ground in El Salvador. "I spent one morning talking to street vendors from the market in Santa Tecla. Hearing their stories on what it is like to work in the informal economy was interesting and moving," she says. “This was important to our research because people in the informal economy are often unprotected and vulnerable – gaining a deeper understanding was helpful for our analysis and our search to find ways to formalize small businesses.”
Pictured here is Anne-Marie talking with some of the street vendors, who sell anything from fruit to clothes and gifts
The Other Half of the Story2 / 10
"International aggregated data tells only half the story of a country’s performance. It turned out that the decrease in the informal economy shown by our data was superficial and that El Salvador’s informal economy has only decreased partly. Certain areas have shown an improvement, but many people still work in precarious and vulnerable situations."
In the picture, from left to right, are some stakeholders that Anne-Marie interviewed while in El Salvador: Guillermo Monterosa (International Labour Organization Consultant), José Rafael Nunez Melgar (Country Director of the ILO PROSEI project), Laura Mendez (ILO Consultant), and Nedda Zometa (Director, Human Development - Municipality of Santa Tecla)
Information, Please!3 / 10
"One problem in El Salvador is lack of information. It is not known how many people are working in the informal economy, what kind of work is done, and what the problems are. This makes it easier for the cycle of corruption to flourish because there are no protection policies in place for these people. Without this information, it is difficult to properly design and implement a policy."
Photo of an informal street vendor in El Salvador by Anne-Marie Kortas
Why Georgia?4 / 10
A Mexican with a Belgian passport studying in Berlin and doing research in Georgia – Pedro is no stranger to being part of a global generation! "Georgia has been prized as one of the most successful stories of transition after the breakup of the Soviet Union, showing a decreased level of corruption and the informal economy and therefore being a good practice case for our thesis," he explains. "The country saw huge changes in all sectors of political and economic life in recent years. For instance, the country has moved from 137th place in the World Bank Doing Business ranking in 2004, to the 18th place in 2007 - today it stands at 8th place out of 140 countries rated. In terms of corruption, Georgia has made huge advances, especially compared with its neighbors and its soviet past."
Let the People Talk5 / 10
"One of the highlights of my research trip was listening to the stories of transition in Georgia and how life was before the Rose Revolution. The people I met shared a feeling that it is possible to hope for a better future in Georgia. Among others, I spoke to taxi drivers, business advisors, entrepreneurs, bar tenders, and interviewed leading political actors such as Vato Lejava, Deputy State Minister of Reform Coordination 2005-2007, as well as leading stakeholders like Eric Livny, director at the International School of Economics of the Tbilisi State University, and Robin McCone, Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Georgia."
Pictured with Pedro (from left) are Natalia Baratashvili (Senior Legal Advisor, Ministry of Justice of Georgia) and Eric Livny (Executive Director of the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University - ISET)
Change is Possible6 / 10
"In Georgia I learned that policy tools to improve living conditions are not new. But for the changes to take place there is a strong need for political will. Not rhetoric or demagogy, but actual implementation of policies – this includes formalization policies for the informal sector. I learned that it is even possible to change the image of the public service if the government and civil society are willing to work together."
Photo of Georgia by Pedro Obando
Hello Africa7 / 10
Having never set foot in Africa before, Johannes went big in Dar Es Salaam! "My highlight in Tanzania was just going out on the street and seeing the informal economy live, from informal markets selling pretty much any goods imaginable, to the many workers on the street in front of my hotel repairing motors and vehicles. I met many very interesting people and had discussions with the informal vendors, as well as with stakeholders such as local GIZ representatives, about the past and future of Tanzania."
Up Close and Personal8 / 10
"It was great to get at least a little bit of a feel for the country: What is important to people? What does life in urban areas look like? The people who live in the country know best what is going on and it was great to get feedback on our theoretical model and take something from Tanzania for other cases."
Photo of Dar es Salaam by Johannes Wahner
Beyond Research9 / 10
Travel tips from our three explorers?
El Salvador: "Eat pupusas and go to Santa Tecla to spend an evening in the Paseo de las Flores - you will experience live music, people on the streets, and generally a very welcoming and happy environment!"
Georgia: "Samikitno, a Gerogian cuisine chain of restaurants, has plenty of branches all over Tbilisi, is open 24 hours, and has the best of Georgian food. Of course you cannot miss Georgian wine!"
Tanzania: "Go to markets, use the transportation system (Bajaj and Dala dala), and eat some Mishkaki."
Photo of Georgia by Pedro Obando
The Way Forward10 / 10
"To focus on developing countries was very important and interesting to us, as we had the chance to apply previously-learned skills and development knowledge in a practical way," says Johannes. "Through our research we hope to build a theory on successful formalization policies in order to find new ways of reducing corruption."