The Role of Institutions in Entrepreneurship: Implications for Development Policy

Mercatus Policy Primer No. 1

18 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2008

See all articles by Frederic Sautet

Frederic Sautet

The Catholic University of America (CUA) - Busch School of Business

Date Written: February 2005


The last fifty years of development aid have not been rewarded with success. Part of the reason for this failure has been the focus on macro approaches and policies, which did not emphasize the local institutional context faced by economic agents.

In the last decade, the notion of institutions has come to the forefront of policy advice. At the same time however, the role of institutions in economic development remains unclear. As a result, it is being challenged by those who think that institutions are just the fad of the moment.

This Policy Primer explains how institutions are vital to the expansion of entrepreneurial activity, which is at the heart of the process of development and economic growth. What is generally missing in countries with lackluster economic performance is not entrepreneurship as such but the right institutional context for entrepreneurship to take place and to be socially beneficial. What matters for development are the rules that individuals follow and how these rules are defined and enforced.

In a successful economy, formal rules are aligned with informal norms and foster entrepreneurial activity by defining and enforcing property rights. The aim of economic policy and social reform must be to re-establish an institutional framework that allows for socially productive entrepreneurial activity to flourish by reducing the cost of engaging in productive activities. This Policy Primer offers three policy implications: 1. Define a starting point for reform; 2. Build institutional capacity; 3. Prepare an environment that favors productive entrepreneurship.

In spite of the uncertainty surrounding the path to reform, it is important to keep in mind that the quality of the formal and informal institutions is the main determinant of productive entrepreneurship.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship, Institutions, Economic Performance

JEL Classification: M13

Suggested Citation

Sautet, Frederic E., The Role of Institutions in Entrepreneurship: Implications for Development Policy (February 2005). Mercatus Policy Primer No. 1, Available at SSRN:

Frederic E. Sautet (Contact Author)

The Catholic University of America (CUA) - Busch School of Business ( email )

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620 Michigan Ave, NE
Washington, DC 20064
United States


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