Firm productivity contributes to the competitiveness as well as the insertion within the World economy. It is determined by numerous factors including the investment climate that influences the rhythm of the investments and then, the dynamic of manufacturing firms. Different acceptions of the productivity concept are retained in this work allowing various calculations for a wide range of countries among which attention is more specifically brought on four of them: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon. Productivity or its variation reflects the capacity of producers to transform productive resources in an output. It is measured relatively to one or alternatively to all the productive factors, the second option defining the Total Factor Productivity (TFP). By considering a cross sectional analysis, this study also measures firm gap productivity with regards to most efficient enterprises within the empirical sample, those which are positioned on the production frontier and give the “best state of art” within the sample. In the stochastic version of the model, the frontier allows to decompose the residuals into two components: the classical random noise and the efficiency term. All the measures of the productivity are proposed by using the World Bank’s Investment Climate Assessment datasets. These data allow measuring technical efficiencies but also identifying which factors potentially determine them.
Among the MENA countries on which this study focuses on, Moroccan firms prove to be the best productive ones and take place with the most efficient countries just after the performance of firms in Brazil and South Africa. If we consider the median in all the manufacturing sectors, productivity of Moroccan firms ranks before those of Algerians and their productivity is about 20% higher, except for food processing. Algerian firms prove themselves more efficient than Egyptian enterprises. The conclusion we reach with TFP measurements is quite close from the results we get while considering partial productivity of labor. In MENA countries firms are not significantly less efficient than those in China or India. They would be even better in some sectors, but with average salaries which are significantly less.
Moving from the TFP to technical efficiency concept suggests once again that Brazil and South Africa are the most efficient countries although the performance of Moroccan firms is not far from what can be seen with these countries. On average, in comparison with the performance observed in Brazil or in South Africa, technical efficiency of Algerian firms is half the level of the firms standing on the frontier and one fifth for Egypt or Lebanese organizations. On large sector-based samples that combine firms of a numerous countries, stochastic frontier models incorporating a vector of inefficiency determinants have shown the statistically influential impact of variables reflecting financing or openness (i.e., the rate of exports, the foreign participation to the capital structure of domestic firms). The role of public institutions does not prove statistically significant. At least as regard the number of answers, information about this factor is quite poor. Most of these factors are appraised through qualitative variables that offer a poor approximation of the reality. Although the empirical analysis may suffer from an attrition bias because of the limited number of firms for which information is available, one may presume that these variables play a significant role in the explanation of technical efficiency differences. Moroccan institutions prove better than those of other MENA countries. On the different sectors, medians show, for example, that the importers has to assume from 2 to 6 days before benefitting their goods against 10 days in Egypt and from 15 to 26 days in Algeria.
From theses studies on the productivity issue than we expressed in absolute (TFP) or in relative terms (i.e., technical efficiency scores), one can say that the Moroccan manufacturing firms are the most efficient among the Four MENA countries. They are quite close to the efficiency scores observed in some countries of a higher level of development such as South Africa and Brazil and better that those currently observed in large emerging countries such as China or India. The scenario proved different for the three other understudied MENA countries. On average, Algerian firms rank second, suffering from poor public administrations. The institutional context also handicaps Egyptian and Lebanese firms. In these two MENA countries institutional factors including corruption have been a severe hindrance. In addition, the poor delivery of public services, especially for electricity, was a strong obstacle for promoting productive efficiency.