Industrial Policy

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.

Janssen, M., 2016. What Bangs for Your Bucks? Assessing the Design and Impact of Transformative Policy.Abstract

After an era of generic support for economic development and innovation, narrowly targeted transformation policy is back on the table. Recent advances in the fields of new industrial policy and transition thinking converge on the idea that achieving structural change requires governments to take an active role in overcoming inertia. Rather than just leveraging R&D investments and setting framework conditions, policy makers are urged to participate in the development of socio-economic systems around particular technologies. Associated policy support typically involves a diverse portfolio of system-specific interventions.

The emergence of transformative policy, in this paper characterized by being selective, process-oriented and multi-instrumental, poses severe challenges to rising standards of public accountability. Evaluation methods for calculating the ‘bang for the buck’ of R&D-leveraging measures are ill-suited when policy mixes are supposed to enact economic transformation. We argue that, in order to see if aptly chosen policy design is bringing about actual change, assessments should gauge policy contributions to building up technological innovation systems (TIS). The TIS-literature provides a concrete but untapped basis for tracking how policy efforts affect conditions favoring the creation and diffusion of new economic activities. This premise leads us to introduce a scheme for structuring analyses concerned with (the links between) the organization, orientation and aggregate impact of transformative policy. We test it in a tentative assessment of the Dutch ‘Topsector approach’.

Besides facilitating continuous policy learning, our assessment scheme also serves to strengthen policy maker’s ability to legitimize the adoption of heterodox economic approaches.

Gomez-Lievano, A., Tellez, J. & Lora, E., 2015. New Insights About Wage Inequality in Colombia.Abstract

This paper presents a descriptive analysis of wage inequality in Colombia by cities and industries and attempts to evaluate the impact of the inequality of industries on inequality of cities. Using the 2010-2014 Colombian Social Security data, we calculate the gini coefficient for cities and industries and draw comparisons between their distributions. Our results show that while cities are unequal in similar ways, industries differ widely on how unequal they can be with ginis. Moreover, industrial structure plays a significant role to determine city inequality. Industrial framework proves to be a key element in this area for researches and policymakers.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2014. How should Uganda grow?.Abstract

Income per capita in Uganda has doubled in the last 20 years. This remarkable performance has been buoyed by significant aid flows and large external imbalances. Economic growth has been concentrated in non-tradable activities leading to growing external imbalances and a growing gap between rural and urban incomes. Future growth will depend on achieving sufficient export dynamism. In addition, growth faces a number of other challenges: low urbanization rate, rapid rural population growth and high dependency ratios. However, both the dependency ratio and fertility rates have begun to decline recently. Rural areas are also severely overcrowded with low-productivity subsistence agriculture as a pervasive form of production. Commercial agriculture has great possibilities to increase output, but as the sector improves its access to capital, inputs and technology it will shed jobs rather than create them.

These challenges combined tell us that future growth in Uganda will require a rapid rate of export growth and economic diversification. The country faces the prospect of an oil boom of uncertain size and timing. It could represent an important stepping stone to achieve external sustainability, expanded income and infrastructure and a greater internal market. However, as with all oil booms, the challenges include avoiding the Dutch disease, managing the inevitable volatility in oil incomes and avoiding inefficient specialization in oil. Policies that set targets for the non-oil deficit could help manage some of these effects, but a conscious strategy to diversify would still be needed.

The best strategy is therefore to use the additional oil revenue and accompanying investments to promote a diversification strategy that is sustainable. To determine how to encourage such a transformation, we draw on a new line of research that demonstrates how development seldom implies producing more of the same. Instead, as countries grow, they tend to move into new industries, while they also increase productivity in existing sectors. In this report, we analyze what those new industries might be for Uganda.

To do so, we first look to those products which balance the desire to increase the diversification and complexity of production, while not over-stretching existing capabilities. These include mostly agricultural inputs, such as agrochemicals and food processing. In addition, Uganda should concurrently develop more complex industries, such as construction materials, that are reasonably within reach of current capabilities and will be in great demand in the context of an oil boom. Here, the fact that Uganda is landlocked and faces high import costs will provide natural protection to the expanding demand in Uganda and neighboring countries. We conclude with a discussion of the government policies that will support Uganda in developing new tradable industries.