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Working paper

Costs and Benefits of Land Ownership: The Case of Russian Firms

Dower P., Egor Malkov, Leonid Polischuk, Pyle W.
Private ownership confers numerous benefits, including stronger performance incentives, better use of privately owned assets, and improved access to finance. We argue that privately owned land could be both an asset and a liability, and overall net benefits of land ownership are contingent on the quality of surrounding institutions. We present a simple model and empirical evidence based on the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) in Russia, which clearly demonstrates such conditionality in the case of land ownership by Russian industrial firms. Consistently with earlier literature, land ownership facilitates firms’ access to finance (the “de Soto effect”), but at the same time entails additional risks and obstacles to doing business. When the quality of property rights protection and other key institutions is poor, land ownership could have an adverse effect on firms’ performance.