Annual Conference

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Trade, Growth and Development

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May 2022

Capital Quality, Productivity, and Financial Constraints: Evidence from India

This paper provides novel evidence that reduced financial constraints increase physical capital quality and, consequently, productivity. We use a project-level investment dataset from India, CapEx, with data on project cost, capacity added to the firm, and investment’s product category. We measure physical capital quality using Unit Investment Cost (UIC), defined as the project cost divided by the additional capacity. We find UIC displays significant variation across firms and is substantially associated with productivity and output quality. However, higher-quality physical capital is more expensive, and without sufficient internal funds, firms cannot invest in them. We study a policy, the establishment of Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRT), which has generated staggered variation in access to external debt financing across different Indian states. We find that firms in treated states borrowed and invested more with all the increased investment coming from an increase in UIC and not from increased additional capacity. Furthermore, treated firms increased productivity and output quality, consistent with the hypothesis that a higher UIC induced by greater access to finance increased firm productivity and output quality. The effect of DRTs establishment is stronger in firms that rely more on external financing and industries with more scope for quality differentiation, a result which further supports this hypothesis. Available evidence suggests that other channels do not completely explain the increased productivity and output quality. Overall, this paper finds physical capital quality is an important determinant of productivity and output quality, and a firm’s choice of physical capital quality depends on the availability of financing.
Keywords: capital quality, financial constraints, productivity, financial development
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