To promote export diversification, the Tunisian government is implementing a $22 million export matchinggrant scheme, TASDIR+. TASDIR+ aims to increase exports and promote export diversification toward higher value-added exports and new markets. Working closely with the Tunisian government exportpromotion agency (CEPEX), this study is using a randomized controlled trial to evaluate TASDIR+’s traditional matching grant scheme and a newly implemented rebate scheme. Under the traditional matching grant scheme, eligible firms receive a 50% cost subsidy for eligible export-related expenses. Under the rebate scheme, available to agriculture/agribusiness/trading firms, eligible firms receive the 50% cost subsidy and a pay-for-performance rebate based on the firm’s export performance in new markets. These subsidies are being distributed randomly to eligible applicants.
The questions the project seeks to answer are: (i) does subsidizing a firm’s export business plan or office abroad help firms export to new markets or export new product variety? and (ii) do export rebates encourage firms to increase export volume, export new product varieties, and/or export to new (advanced) markets? While both export subsidies and matching grants are popular policy tools, to date there is very little rigorous evidence on their effectiveness, a gap this proposed impact evaluation aims to address.
At the heart of our project is a collaboration with the Tunisian Export Promotion Agency (CEPEX). This collaboration has led to an innovation at CEPEX: choosing matching-grant beneficiaries with a randomized selection process. Eager for a rigorous impact evaluation, CEPEX has welcomed this approach and received positive feedback from the private sector and other stakeholders. The program had been criticized in the past for a non-transparent selection process that appeared to favor well-connected firms. Random selection is helping CEPEX renew trust with Tunisian firms and break with bureaucratic processes associated with the former regime.
The Tunis Global Center network and resources would be invaluable for our project. As discussed with the center's director, facilities could be used to host meetings with government counterparts as well as seminars to discuss interim findings. The center's director has a network of local actors in agricultural investment, policy, and think tanks, who would be able to offer insight, feedback, and guidance on the project's communication and outreach efforts.
The center could also be helpful in forging collaborations with academics who have worked with customs data and can establish contacts between our team and customs. This would be essential to the success of the study. We also hope to invite members of the implementing agency (TASDIR+) to the Global Center for workshops on impact evaluation tools and an overview of the econometric techniques we will use in our analysis. This will help strengthen our partnership and sustain the team's engagement, motivation, and connection to Columbia's research.