Publications

2017
Hausmann, R. & Nedelkoska, L., 2017. Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment.Abstract

Albanian migrants in Greece were particularly affected by the Greek crisis, which spurred a wave of return migration that increased Albania’s labor force by 5% between 2011 and 2014 alone. We study how this return migration affected the employment chances and earnings of Albanians who never migrated. We find positive effects on the wages of low-skilled non-migrants and overall positive effects on employment. The gains partially offset the sharp drop in remittances in the observed period. The employment gains are concentrated in the agricultural sector, where most return migrants engage in self-employment and entrepreneurship. Businesses run by return migrants seem to pull Albanians from non-participation, self-employment and subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture.

return_migration_cidwp_330.pdf
Neffke, F., 2017. Coworker complementarity.Abstract

How important is working with people who complement one's skills? Using administrative data that record which of 491 educational tracks each worker in Sweden absolved, I quantify the educational fit among coworkers along two dimensions: coworker match and coworker substitutability. Complementary coworkers raise wages with a comparable factor as does a
college degree, whereas working with close substitutes is associated with wage penalties. Moreover, this coworker fitt does not only account for large portions of the urban and large-plant wage premiums, but the returns to own schooling and the urban wage premium are almost completely contingent on finding complementary coworkers.

rfwp79_neffke.pdf
2016
Explaining the prevalence, scaling and variance of urban phenomena
Gomez-Lievano, A., Patterson-Lomba, O. & Hausmann, R., 2016. Explaining the prevalence, scaling and variance of urban phenomena. Nature Human Behavior. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The prevalence of many urban phenomena changes systematically with population size1 . We propose a theory that unifies models of economic complexity2,3 and cultural evolution4 to derive urban scaling. The theory accounts for the difference in scaling exponents and average prevalence across phenomena, as well as the difference in the variance within phenomena across cities of similar size. The central ideas are that a number of necessary complementary factors must be simultaneously present for a phenomenon to occur, and that the diversity of factors is logarithmically related to population size. The model reveals that phenomena that require more factors will be less prevalent, scale more superlinearly and show larger variance across cities of similar size. The theory applies to data on education, employment, innovation, disease and crime, and it entails the ability to predict the prevalence of a phenomenon across cities, given information about the prevalence in a single city.

Barrios, D., Russell, S. & Andrews, M., 2016. Bringing Home the Gold? A Review of the Economic Impact of Hosting Mega-Events.Abstract

There is perhaps no larger sports policy decision than the decision to host or bid to host a mega-event like the FIFA World Cup or the Summer Olympics. Hosts and bidders usually justify their decisions by touting their potential impact. Many organizers and promoters either fund or widely disseminate ex-ante studies that tend to highlight the positive effects of the event. For instance, the consultancy firm Ernst & Young produced a 2010 report prior to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that painted an optimistic picture of the event’s potential legacy. It estimated that an additional R$ 142.39 billion (4.91% of 2010 GDP) would flow through the Brazilian economy over the 2010-2014 period, generating 3.63 million jobs per year, R$ 63.48 billion (2.17% of 2010 GDP) of income for the population and additional tax collection of R$ 18.13 billion (0.62% of 2010 GDP) for the local, state and federal governments. Ernst & Young estimated that during the same period 2.98 million additional visitors would travel to Brazil, increasing the international tourist inflow up to 79%.

Such results, if true, would clearly attractive for governments considering a bid, but these expected impacts don’t always materialize. Moreover, hosting mega-events requires significant investments - and the cost of these investments is rising. Zimbalist notes emerging economies like China, Brazil, and South Africa have increasingly perceived "mega-events as a sort of coming-out party signaling that [they are] now a modernized economy, ready to make [their] presence felt in world trade and politics" (Zimbalist 2015). Their intentions may be noble, but the intention of using mega-events as a "coming-out party" means developing countries hoping to host them need to make massive investments. They are confronted by significant obstacles in that they lack sufficient stadiums, accommodations, transportation systems, and other sports-related infrastructure. As a result, each of the mega-events hosted by emerging economies has been exorbitantly expensive. The 2014 World Cup cost Brazil between USD 15 billion and USD 20 billion, while Beijing reportedly spent USD 40 billion prior to the 2008 Summer Olympic (Zimbalist 2015). Additionally, as the debt-ridden 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal demonstrates, expensive mega-events are not limited to emerging economies alone. Flyvbjerg and Stewart have even shown that every Olympics since 1960 has gone over budget (Flyvbjerg and Stewart 2012).

Such incredible figures, in terms of both costs and benefits, beget the question: are mega-events worth it? Which type of reports should governments focus their attention on? What economic consequences should a government reasonably expect? With such high stakes, policymakers need to choose wisely. We attempt to answer these questions and aid the decisions of policymakers by providing a concise review of the rich academic literature on mega-events. For the purposes of this paper, we mainly focus on the Summer Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup as mega-events. However, we also leverage information regarding events like the Winter Olympic Games, the UEFA football championships, and the Commonwealth Games. These events are organized on a smaller scale than the previous two, but they might provide some insights on how to best understand mega-events. We focus on claims surrounding the direct or indirect mechanisms that facilitate the impact that ex-ante studies predict. We provide a review of these claims and their validity according to the existing literature.

Section 1 focuses on the argument that mega-events lead to increased economic activity in the host economy. Specifically, we evaluate whether or not mega-events leads to access to previously inaccessible funds and increased investments. These investments could theoretically come from supranational organizations, private stakeholders, or public stakeholders. We also consider whether or not these new expenditures and investments have the multiplicative effect that many ex-ante studies assume they have. We finally investigate if the economic activity surrounding mega-events leads to increased revenues and tax collection for host governments. Overall, the existing academic literature suggests that any increased economic activity resulting from the event is routinely dwarfed by additional public budgetary commitments. Moreover, the arguments regarding multiplicative effects and increased revenues also tend to be exaggerated.

Section 2 shifts the focus to the potential impact of mega-events on a specific industry: tourism. We explore the effect of mega-events on the number of tourists visiting the host region and their spending habits. We explore this channel both for analyses specific to a single mega-event and for cross-country evaluations incorporating many events. Next, we consider the impact of a mega-event on a region’s brand and image in the international community with the idea of testing if hosting the competition will impact future tourism. Finally, we consider if mega-events lead to increases in the capacity of a city or country to welcome future tourists as a result of improved airport infrastructure, accommodations, and/or transportation systems. As was true in Section 1, the academic literature suggests that the claims of many ex-ante studies are misleading. Our review finds that there is some evidence for increases in tourist arrivals to certain events, but those increases are far smaller than what is generally predicted beforehand. These effects are also usually dependent on factors, such as the timing of the competition, that are specific to the host region and the event itself.

Section 3 briefly discusses other potential qualitative and social impacts of mega-events such as international business relations, crime reduction, and the "feel-good effect." In the penultimate section, Section 4, we discuss how these conclusions should impact the decision-making of policymakers. Finally, in a short conclusion, we summarize the findings of our review.

cid_wp320_megaevents.pdf
Russell, S., Barrios, D. & Andrews, M., 2016. Getting the Ball Rolling: Basis for Assessing the Sports Economy.Abstract

Data on the sports economy is often difficult to interpret, far from transparent, or simply unavailable. Data fraught with weaknesses causes observers of the sports economy to account for the sector differently, rendering their analyses difficult to compare or causing them to simply disagree. Such disagreement means that claims regarding the economic spillovers of the industry can be easily manipulated or exaggerated. Thoroughly accounting for the industry is therefore an important initial step in assessing the economic importance of sports-related activities. For instance, what do policymakers mean when they discuss sports-related economic activities? What activities are considered part of the "sports economy?" What are the difficulties associated with accounting for these activities? Answering these basic questions allows governments to improve their policies.

The paper below assesses existing attempts to understand the sports economy and proposes a more nuanced way to consider the industry. Section 1 provides a brief overview of existing accounts of the sports economy. We first differentiate between three types of assessments: market research accounts conducted by consulting groups, academic accounts written by scholars, and structural accounts initiated primarily by national statistical agencies. We then discuss the European Union’s (EU) recent work to better account for and understand the sports economy. Section 2 describes the challenges constraining existing accounts of the sports economy. We describe two major constraints - measurement challenges and definition challenges - and highlight how the EU's work has attempted to address them. We conclude that, although the Vilnius Definition improves upon previous accounts, it still features areas for improvement.

Section 3 therefore proposes a paradigm shift with respect to how we understand the sports economy. Instead of primarily inquiring about the size of the sports economy, the approach recognizes the diversity of sports-related economic activities and of relevant dimensions of analysis. It therefore warns against attempts at aggregation before there are better data and more widely agreed upon definitions of the sports economy. It asks the following questions: How different are sports-related sectors? Are fitness facilities, for instance, comparable to professional sports clubs in terms of their production scheme and type of employment? Should they be understood together or treated separately? We briefly explore difference in sports-related industry classifications using data from the Netherlands, Mexico, and the United States. Finally, in a short conclusion, we discuss how these differences could be more fully explored in the future, especially if improvements are made with respect to data disaggregation and standardization.

cidwp_321_assessing_sports_economy.pdf
Neffke, F., Otto, A. & Weyh, A., 2016. Inter-industry Labor Flows.Abstract

Labor flows across industries reallocate resources and diffuse knowledge among economic activities. However, surprisingly little is known about the structure of such inter-industry flows. How freely do workers switch jobs among industries? Between which pairs of industries do we observe such switches? Do different types of workers have different transition matrices? Do these matrices change over time?

Using German social security data, we generate stylized facts about inter-industry labor mobility and explore its consequences. We find that workers switch industries along tight paths that link industries in a sparse network. This labor-flow network is relatively stable over time, similar for workers in different occupations and wage categories and independent of whether workers move locally or over larger distances. When using these networks to construct inter-industry relatedness measures they prove better predictors of local industry growth rates than co-location or input-based alternatives. However, because industries that exchange much labor typically do not have correlated growth paths, the sparseness of the labor-flow network does not necessarily prevent a smooth reallocation of workers from shrinking to growing industries. To facilitate future research, the inter-industry relatedness matrices we develop are made available as an online appendix to this paper.

rfwp_72.pdf
Neffke, F., Otto, A. & Hidalgo, C., 2016. The Mobility of Displaced Workers: How the Local Industry Mix Affects Job Search Strategies.Abstract

Establishment closures leave many workers unemployed. Based on employment histories of 20 million German workers, we find that workers often cope with their displacement by moving to different regions and industries. However, which of these coping strategies is chosen depends on the local industry mix. A large local presence of predisplacement or related industries strongly reduces the rate at which workers leave the region. Moreover, our findings suggest that a large local presence of the predisplacement industry induces workers to shift search efforts toward this industry, reducing the spatial scope of search for jobs in alternative industries and vice versa.

rfwp71_neffke.pdf
Abt, T., 2016. Towards a framework for preventing community violence among youth. Psychology, Health & Medicine , pp. 1-20. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article, in an effort to assist the selection and deployment of evidence-informed strategies, proposes a new conceptual framework for responding to community violence among youth. First, the phenomenon of community violence is understood in context using a new violence typology organized along a continuum. Second, the need for a new anti-community violence framework is established. Third, a framework is developed, blending concepts from the fields of public safety and public health. Fourth, evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses concerning community violence is summarized and categorized. Finally, an anti-violence framework populated with evidence-informed strategies is presented and discussed.

Obuchi, R., Lira, B. & Raguá, D., 2016. Microeconomic binding constraints on private investment and growth in Venezuela A. Guerra, ed.,Abstract

Venezuela’s business environment is systematically evaluated as one of the worst in the world. Producing and investing in the country imposes costs and risks arising from macroeconomic instability. Beyond the problems of inflation, fiscal deficit and trade balance; firms and entrepreneurs also face enormous difficulties and discouragement going from the uncertainty about property rights to lack of electricity. To identify binding microeconomic constraints for investment in Venezuela, we reviewed international rankings and experiences about key elements of the business environment and conducted interviews with members of guilds and managers at large companies in the country. We find that the most biding constraints to investment are within the functioning of institutions, including weak property rights, and arbitrary, unbalanced and unpredictable enforcement of the law. Also binding is the flawed functioning of markets, including access to inputs and price controls.

microconstraints_venezuela.pdf
Jimenez, A., 2016. Increasing Exports of Albanian Cultivated Fish to the EU,Abstract

This document explores Albanian aquaculture in the context of European aquaculture and compares it to neighboring countries, especially Greece. Using information from fieldwork, multiple reports by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and interviews with experts in government and non-government institutions, we analyze the production of European seabass and Gilthead seabream in Europe in general and in Albania in particular. Albanian cultivation of seabass and seabream has increased sevenfold since production started in the early 2000’s, but it represented only 0.38% of European aquaculture of these two species in 2013. Albania has significantly lower productivity than its neighbors, especially Greece, the dominant actor in the market. The analysis indicates that Albania’s lower productivity is caused by: (i) high costs of cages, fingerlings, and feed; which are all imported; (ii) lack of a formal fish market; and (iii) lack of clarity in the regulation. The document concludes by offering recommendations to get over these impediments for growth including reducing tariffs; encouraging national production of cages, fingerlings, and feed through investment in research; offering more and better financing options for cage acquisition; improving quality controls; establishing a national fish market; and passing the Aquaculture Law to bring clarity to the sector regulation.

increasing_exports_of_albanian_aquaculture.pdf
O'Clery, N., Gomez-Lievano, A. & Lora, E., 2016. The Path to Labor Formality: Urban Agglomeration and the Emergence of Complex Industries.Abstract

Labor informality, associated with low productivity and lack of access to social security services, dogs developing countries around the world. Rates of labor (in)formality, however, vary widely within countries. This paper presents a new stylized fact, namely the systematic positive relationship between the rate of labor formality and the working age population in cities. We hypothesize that this phenomenon occurs through the emergence of complex economic activities: as cities become larger, labor is allocated into increasingly complex industries as firms combine complementary capabilities derived from a more diverse pool of workers. Using data from Colombia, we use a network-based model to show that the technological proximity (derived from worker transitions between industry pairs) of current industries in a city to potential new complex industries governs the growth of the formal sector in the city. The mechanism proposed has robust strong predictive power, and fares better than alternative explanations of (in)formality.

rfwp_78.pdf
O'Clery, N. & Lora, E., 2016. City Size, Distance and Formal Employment.Abstract

Cities thrive through the diversity of their occupants because the availability of complementary skills enables firms in the formal sector to grow, delivering increasingly sophisticated products and services. The appearance of new industries is path dependent in that new economic activities build on existing strengths, leading cities to both diversify and specialize in distinct areas. Hence, the location of necessary capabilities, and in particular the distance between firms and people with the skills they need, is key to the success of urban agglomerations. Using data for Colombia, this paper assesses the extent to which cities benefit from skills and capabilities available in their surrounding catchment areas. Without assuming a prioria a definition for cities, we sequentially agglomerate the 96 urban municipalities larger than 50,000 people based on commuting time. We show that a level of agglomeration equivalent to between 45 and 75 minutes of commuting time, corresponding to between 62 and 43 cities, maximizes the impact that the availability of skills has on the ability of agglomerations to generate formal employment. Smaller urban municipalities stand to gain more in the process of agglomeration. A range of policy implications are discussed.

citysize_rfwp77.pdf
Gomez-Lievano, A., Patterson-Lomba, O. & Hausmann, R., 2016. Explaining the Prevalence, Scaling and Variance of Urban Phenomena.Abstract

The prevalence of many urban phenomena changes systematically with population size1. We
propose a theory that unifies models of economic complexity2, 3 and cultural evolution4 to
derive urban scaling. The theory accounts for the difference in scaling exponents and average prevalence across phenomena, as well as the difference in the variance within phenomena across cities of similar size. The central ideas are that a number of necessary complementary factors must be simultaneously present for a phenomenon to occur, and that the diversity of factors is logarithmically related to population size. The model reveals that phenomena that require more factors will be less prevalent, scale more superlinearly and show larger variance across cities of similar size. The theory applies to data on education, employment, innovation, disease and crime, and it entails the ability to predict the prevalence of a phenomenon across cities, given information about the prevalence in a single city.

urban_phenomena_cidwp329.pdf
Coscia, M., Hausmann, R. & Neffke, F., 2016. Exploring the Uncharted Export: An Analysis of Tourism-Related Foreign Expenditure with International Spend Data.Abstract

Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in the world: for many countries it represents the single largest product in their export basket. However, it is a product difficult to chart: "exporters" of tourism do not ship it abroad, but they welcome importers inside the country. Current research uses social accounting matrices and general equilibrium models, but the standard industry classifications they use make it hard to identify which domestic industries cater to foreign visitors. In this paper, we make use of open source data and of anonymized and aggregated transaction data giving us insights about the spend behavior of foreigners inside two countries, Colombia and the Netherlands, to inform our research. With this data, we are able to describe what constitutes the tourism sector, and to map the most attractive destinations for visitors. In particular, we find that countries might observe different geographical tourists' patterns - concentration versus decentralization -; we show the importance of distance, a country's reported wealth and cultural affinity in informing tourism; and we show the potential of combining open source data and anonymized and aggregated transaction data on foreign spend patterns in gaining insight as to the evolution of tourism from one year to another.

tourism_cid_wp_328.pdf
Hernandez, I. & Monaldi, F., 2016. Weathering Collapse: An Assessment of the Financial and Operational Situation of the Venezuelan Oil Industry.Abstract

Venezuela has one of the most abundant geological endowments in the world. Oil proven reserves are among the largest globally, even if a more conservative criterion than the one used by the current government is applied. However, these resources are qualitatively different than those of other abundant regions such as the Middle East. The large majority constitutes extra-heavy oil, which generally requires higher oil prices to be extracted profitably.

During the last decade, the Venezuelan oil industry wasted a unique opportunity to increase investment and production. At the high oil prices that prevailed, the massive oil reserves could have been monetized by rapidly increasing production with a large margin of profitability. Quite to the contrary, production steadily dropped due either to lack of investment in the new unconventional oil projects or for failing to compensate the decline of the older conventional fields. It is a tragic story of great potential with dismal performance.

A series of trends were negatively impacting the Venezuelan oil industry even before the oil price collapse in 2014. From the revenue side, although oil prices showed an increase in real terms of 120% between 2000 and 2014, the barrels that effectively generate cash for Venezuela have shown a continuous decline. This is not just because production has been declining for the most part during the last eighteen years (a trend that has gotten significantly worse during the last year), but also because of a number of developments. First, during that period, total exports have declined more rapidly than production, and recently, net exports have declined more than total exports. Consumption in the massively subsidized domestic market increased until 2013 (when it started to decline likely because of the recession in the local economy), while imports of oil products for the domestic market have increased since 2012. The domestic market not only generates negative cash-flow for the national oil company (NOC), PDVSA, but also its expansion reduced the barrels available to export. More recently, there has also been an increase in imports of light oil and naphtha as diluents for the extra-heavy oil. Second, the Venezuelan production basket has become heavier and the share of unconventional production, generally less profitable, has increased. Third, the production wholly operated by PDVSA has been falling much more rapidly, while the production share of joint-ventures increased. Fourth, a significant share of the exports to Latin America and the Caribbean is subsidized (although these exports have declined recently). Fifth, some oil exports are committed to repay debts of PDVSA and specially the Venezuelan government, limiting the actual cash flow received by the company. In particular, the government’s debt agreements with China involve a significant and increasing amount of production, although recently those agreements were restructured, allowing for a grace period with no capital amortization. From the expenditure side, PDVSA was increasingly responsible of carrying social expenditures and activities not related to the oil industry, which limited the resources for highly profitable investments. That is in addition to the increased fiscal take due to changes in the tax legislation. Also, higher investment requirements due to an increase in the equity share of PDVSA in joint venture projects, has had an impact on its cash flow.

The explanations for the underperformance of the Venezuelan oil industry basically fall into two connected categories: the multiple problems facing PDVSA; and the increase in above-ground risks for foreign investors operating in the country. The deterioration of the institutional framework, led to radical fiscal and regulatory changes, and to the nationalization of the majority of the industry. In 7 addition, the substantial over-extraction of resources from the NOC, the significant macroeconomic distortions affecting the cost structure of oil companies, and the constraints imposed by the energy infrastructure and human capital availability; have combined to produce dismal results. The massive firing of the majority of the management and technical experts from PDVSA in 2003 following the political conflict that led to a strike, has left the company with limited capabilities to operate effectively.

The recent decline in oil prices, and the changes in the international market structure, have exposed more dramatically the difficulties facing the Venezuelan oil sector, and call into question its ability to prevent a continuation of the declining trend in oil extraction. This situation becomes particularly severe if we take into account the cash flow constraints facing PDVSA, as well as its multiple operational problems, power cuts, and conflicts with oilfield services providers. These challenges are proportional to the enormous investments required to finance the projects in the Orinoco Oil Belt, where most of the reserves in Venezuela are located, and where the quality of the crude and the lack of development of the region, are just two of the many issues that need to be addressed.

Since this paper is part of a wider project to understand the macroeconomic challenges facing the country in 2016-17, it focuses narrowly on the financial problems of the oil industry in the short-term and the operational challenges that could impede its recovery in the next couple of years. Within this context, it largely analyzes the upstream operations, i.e. oil extraction, rather than the downstream, given that in the former is where the oil rents are generated and constitutes the main source of foreign exchange and fiscal revenues of Venezuela. Other areas for further research are mentioned at the end of the document.2

Official figures are used to the extent that they are publicly available. An important aspect that prevents an exhaustive evaluation of the oil sector in Venezuela is the lack of available information regarding key performance indicators affecting the cost structure of oil projects, the cash flow of PDVSA, and the fiscal contributions of the oil sector to the government, among other important variables. Thus, on occasion, estimations for variables of interest and explanations for their divergence from official figures are provided.

The paper has two main sections. The first one analyzes the issues affecting the cash flow of PDVSA, the effects of macroeconomic and fiscal variables on both revenues and costs, as well as other financial issues affecting the performance of the company. The second section discusses some of the operational challenges facing the industry and mentions areas for further research.

2For a more general overview of the recent developments of the oil sector in Venezuela see Monaldi (2015).

venezuela_oil_cidwp_327.pdf
Hausmann, R., et al., 2016. Towards a Prosperous and Productive Chiapas: Institutions, Policies, and Public-Private Dialog to Promote Inclusive Growth.Abstract

Since the Zapatista revolution of January 1994, enormous amount of resources coming from the federal government have poured over Chiapas. The gap in years and quality of education has been reduced significantly; and road, port and airport infrastructure have undergone a dramatic transformation. And yet, the income gap between Chiapas and the rest of Mexico has only widened. To understand why, a multi-disciplinary team of twelve experts have devoted significant time and resources to study different aspects of the development dynamic of Chiapas. As a result, 5 base documents have been published analyzing Chiapas:

- Complexity profile
- Growth Diagnostic
- Institutional Diagnostic
- Poverty profile
- Pilot of productive dialogs and inclusive growth in an indigenous community

This report resumes the findings from these and articulates their corresponding recommendations into a policy plan.

According to our hypothesis, Chiapas is wedged in a low productivity trap. A modern production system, responsible for productivity increases, income and development elsewhere in the world, requires a number of complementary inputs or capacities that are absent in Chiapas. As a result, its economy consists of a few primary products of little or no technological sophistication, and a vibrant service industry fueled by public expenditure in its larger cities. In this situation, there are no incentives to acquire additional education or skills because there is no demand for them in the economy. As we have proved, the few that manage to emigrate earn salaries elsewhere in Mexico slightly above other migrants with similar qualifications. As it turns out, it is not about the Chiapanecos, it is about Chiapas.

To overcome the current dilemmas and spark the engine of growth, Chiapas needs to resolve its issues of coordination, connectivity and gradually promote economic activities of higher complexity. Yazaki, one of the few manufacturers present in Chiapas, is an example of the role of the state in helping the economy to overcome the chicken-and-egg dilemmas, providing the public goods required - in an initial push – by a more complex economy. Our recommendations are based in identifying the productive capabilities embedded within the current productive structure of Chiapas four largest urban agglomerations, and leveraging on them to board on different potential, more complex industries that use a similar base of knowledge. To conquer those industries and diversify its economy, Chiapas needs a public-private agency empowered to iteratively solve the issues and bottlenecks these potential industries face in each particular place. Public transport and housing policy can be used as means to incorporating the surrounding communities into the increasingly modern economies of urban centers. Special economic zones and agro-industrial parks can be used to spur productivity in those areas where labor and appropriability are the most binding constrains.

Hausmann, R., Obach, J. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Special Economic Zones in Panama: A Critical Assessment.Abstract

Special Economic Zones (SEZ) have played an important role in Panama's successful growth story over the previous decade. SEZ have attracted local and foreign investment by leveraging a business-friendly environment of low transaction costs, and created many stable, well-paid jobs for Panamanians. Beyond that, SEZ shall be assessed as place-based policy by their capacity to boost structural transformations, namely attracting new skills and more complex know-how not to be found in the domestic economy.

The aim of this paper is to evaluate the three largest SEZ in Panama:

  • Colon Free Zone
  • Panama-Pacific
  • City of Knowledge

Our results suggest that SEZ have been successful as measured by static indicators, such as foreign investment, job creation and productivity. We also find that SEZ have boosted inflows of high-skill immigrants, who are most likely generating positive knowledge spillovers on Panamanians productivity and wages. However, significant legal instruments and institutional designs are preventing Panama from taking full advantage of the skill variety hosted at the SEZ. Complex immigration processes inhibiting foreigners from transitioning out of the SEZ, a long list of restricted professions and even citizenships considered as a national security concern, are hindering the flow of knowledge, keeping the benefits coming from more complex multinational companies locked inside the gates of SEZ.

sez_panama_wp_326.pdf sez_panama_spanish.pdf

Orginally published October 2016. Revised January 2017.

Hausmann, R., Morales, J.R. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Economic Complexity in Panama: Assessing opportunities for productive diversification.Abstract

The economy of Panama has thrived for more than a decade, based on a modern service sector on the activities surrounding the Canal. Panama has inserted its economy into global value chains, providing competitive services in logistics, ship handling, financial intermediation, insurance, communication and trade. The expansion of the modern service sector required significant non-residential construction, including office buildings, commercial outlets, warehouses, and even shopping malls. Large public infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the Canal, the Metro, and Tocumen airport, have provided an additional drive and paved the road for productive diversification. But productive diversification does not spread randomly. A country diversifies towards activities that demand similar capacities than the ones already in place. Current capabilities and know-how can be recombined and redeployed into new, adjacent activities, of higher value added.

This report identifies productive capabilities already in place in Panama, as signaled by the variety and ubiquity of products and services that is already able to manufacture and provide competitively. Once there, we move on to identifying opportunities for productive diversification based on technological proximity. As a result, we provide a roadmap for potential diversification opportunities both at the national and sub-national level.

panama_complexity_wp_324.pdf
Hausmann, R., Espinoza, L. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Shifting Gears: A Growth Diagnostic of Panama.Abstract

Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the previous decade. Growth has been spearheaded by the development of a modern service sector on the activities surrounding the Canal, and non-residential construction. Large public infrastructure projects and the private provision for infrastructure demanded by the service sector, have fueled growth and created a vibrant labor market for non-skilled workers.

Two warning signals hover over Panama´s stellar performance. The construction sector has been growing for a decade at a rate that is equivalent to doubling its stock of structures every four years. The demand for non-residential construction cannot grow indefinitely at a higher rate than the rest of the economy. This feeds into the second signal: Income inequality. In spite of the minor improvements registered over the accelerated-growth spell, Panama remains amongst the world´s top five most unequal countries.

Both warning signals point out to the need of further diversifying the Panamanian economy, and promoting economic activity in the provinces so as to deconcentrate growth and make it more inclusive.

We deployed our Growth Diagnostic methodology in order to identify potential binding constraints to that process. Skilled labor, necessary to gradually diversify into more complex and high value-added activities, is relatively scarce. This scarcity manifests into large wage-premiums to foreigners across all occupations, which are particular large within more complex industries.

Major investments in education have improved indicators of schooling quantitatively, but quality remains a major concern. We find that Panama’s immigration policies are preventing skills from spilling over from their special economic zones into the rest of the economy. On top of that, the list of professions restricted to Panamanians and other constraints on skilled labor flows, are constraining even further the pool of skills. As we document here, these efforts are not helping the Panamanian workers, quite the contrary.

We also find that corruption, and to a lesser extent, red tape, are other important factors that shall be addressed in order to allow Panama to shift the gears of growth, tackle inequality and continue growing at a fast pace.

panama_growth_diagnostics_wp_325.pdf panama_growth_diagnostics_spanish.pdf

Originally published October 2016. Revised January 2017.

Diodato, D., Neffke, F. & O'Clery, N., 2016. Agglomeration Economies: The Heterogeneous Contribution of Human Capital and Value Chains.Abstract

We document the heterogeneity across sectors in the impact labor and input-output links have on industry agglomeration. Exploiting the available degrees of freedom in coagglomeration patterns, we estimate the industry-specic benefits of sharing labor needs and supply links with local firms. On aggregate, coagglomeration patterns of services are at least as strongly driven by input-output linkages as those of manufacturing, whereas labor linkages are much more potent drivers of coagglomeration in services than in manufacturing. Moreover, the degree to which labor and input-output linkages are reflected in an industry's coagglomeration patterns is relevant for predicting patterns of city-industry employment growth.

cid_rfwp_76.pdf

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