Faculty Working Papers

Rubinstein, A., et al., 2022. An Integrated Epidemiological and Economic Model of COVID-19 NPIs in Argentina.Abstract
We added a multi-sectoral economic framework to a SVEIR epidemiological model, combining the economic rationale of the DAEDALUS model with a detailed treatment of lockdown fatigue and declining compliance with Public Health and Social Measures reported in recent empirical work, to quantify the epidemic and economic benefits and costs of alternative lockdown and PHSM policies, both in terms of intensity and length. Our calibration replicates key features of the case and death-curves and economic cost for Argentina in 2021. The model allows us to quantify the short-term policy trade-off between lives and livelihoods and show that it can be significantly improved with targeted pharmaceutical policies such as vaccine rollout to reduce mainly severe disease and the death toll from COVID-19, as has been highlighted by previous studies.
Javorcik, B.S., et al., 2022. Economic Costs of Friend-shoring.Abstract
Geo-political tensions and disruptions to global value chains have led policymakers to reevaluate their approach to globalisation. Many countries are considering regionalisation and friend-shoring – trading primarily with countries sharing similar values – as a way of minimising exposure to weaponisation of trade and securing access to critical inputs. If followed through, this process has the potential to reverse global economic integration of recent decades. This paper estimates the economic costs of friend-shoring using a quantitative model incorporating inter-country inter-industry linkages. The results suggest that friend-shoring may lead to real GDP losses of up to 4.6% of global GDP. Thus, although friend-shoring may provide insurance against extreme disruptions and increase the security of supply of vital inputs, it would come at a significant cost.
Eichengreen, B., Hausmann, R. & Panizza, U., 2022. Yet it Endures: The Persistence of Original Sin.Abstract
Notwithstanding announcements of progress, "international original sin" (the denomination of external debt in foreign currency) remains a persistent phenomenon in emerging markets. Although some middle-income countries have succeeded in developing markets in local-currency sovereign debt and attracting foreign investors, they continue to hedge their currency exposures through transactions with local pension funds and other resident investors. The result is to shift the locus of currency mismatches within emerging economies but not to eliminate them. Other countries have limited original sin by limiting external borrowing, passing up valuable investment opportunities in pursuit of stability. We document these trends, analyzing regional and global aggregates and national case studies. Our conclusion is that there remains a case for an international initiative to address currency risk in low- and middle-income economies so they can more fully exploit economic development opportunities.
Levy-Yeyati, E. & Gómez, J.F., 2022. Leaning-against-the-wind intervention and the “carry-trade” view of the cost of reserves.Abstract

For a sample of emerging economies, we estimate the quasi-fiscal costs of sterilized foreign exchange interventions as the P&L of an inverse carry trade. We show that these costs can be substantial when intervention has a neo-mercantilist motive (preserving an undervalued currency) or a stabilization motive (appreciating the exchange rate as a nominal anchor) but are rather small when interventions follow a countercyclical, leaning-against-the-wind (LAW) pattern to contain exchange rate volatility. We document that under LAW, central banks outperform a constant size carry trade, as they additionally benefit from buying against cyclical deviations, and that the cost of reserves under the carry-trade view is generally lower than the one obtained from the credit-risk view (which equals the marginal cost to the country´s sovereign spread).

Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. Overcoming Remoteness in the Peruvian Amazonia: A Growth Diagnostic of Loreto.Abstract

Is there a tradeoff between environmental sustainability and economic development? If there is a place where that question can be approximated, that is Loreto. Located on the western flank of the Amazon jungle, Loreto is Peru’s largest state and the one with the lowest population density. Its capital, Iquitos, is the largest city without road access in the world. For three decades, the region’s income and development has diverged from that of Peru and its other Amazonian peers by orders of magnitude. And yet, despite plummeting contributions from natural resources – that predominate in the policy discussion in and on the state – Loreto has developed a more complex productive ecosystem than one would expect, given its geographical isolation. As a result, it has a stock of productive capabilities that can be redeployed in economic activities with higher value-added, able to sustain higher wages and better living standards.

We deployed a thorough Growth Diagnostic of Loreto to identify the most binding constraints preventing private investment and development in sustainable economic activities. In the process, we relied on domestic databases available to the public in Peru and international datasets, combining and validating our analytical insights with extensive field visits to the Peruvian Amazonia and lengthy interviews with policymakers, private businesses, and academia. Improving fluvial connectivity, developing the capacity to sort out coordination failures associated with the process of self-discovery, and substituting oil for solar energy, are the three policy goals that would deliver the largest bang for the reform buck. The latter presents an opportunity for environmental organizations – subsidizing solar – to move away from their status quo of preventing bad things from happening, to a more constructive one that entails enabling good things and sustainable industries to happen.

Project page: Economic Growth and Structural Transformation in Loreto, Peru

Hausmann, R., Schetter, U. & Yildirim, M.A., 2022. On the Design of Effective Sanctions: The Case of Bans on Exports to Russia.Abstract
We analyze the effects of bans on exports at the level of 5,000 products and show how our results can inform economic sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. We begin with characterizing export restrictions imposed by the EU and the US until mid May 2022. We then propose a theoretically-grounded criterion for targeting export bans at the 6-digit HS level. Our results show that the cost to Russia are highly convex in the market share of the sanctioning parties, i.e., there are large benefits from coordinating export bans among a broad coalition of countries. Applying our results to Russia, we find that sanctions imposed by the EU and the US are not systematically related to our arguments once we condition on Russia’s total imports of a product from participating countries. Quantitative evaluations of the export bans show (i) that they are very effective with the welfare loss typically ∼100 times larger for Russia than for the sanctioners. (ii) Improved coordination of the sanctions and targeting sanctions based on our criterion allows to increase the costs to Russia by about 60% with little to no extra cost to the sanctioners. (iii) There is scope for increasing the cost to Russia further by expanding the set of sanctioned products.
Diodato, D., Hausmann, R. & Schetter, U., 2022. A Simple Theory of Economic Development at the Extensive Industry Margin.Abstract
We revisit the well-known fact that richer countries tend to produce a larger variety of goods and analyze economic development through (export) diversifcation. We show that countries are more likely to enter ‘nearby’ industries, i.e., industries that require fewer new occupations. To rationalize this finding, we develop a small open economy (SOE) model of economic development at the extensive industry margin. In our model, industries differ in their input requirements of non-tradeable occupations or tasks. The SOE grows if profit maximizing frms decide to enter new, more advanced industries, which requires training workers in all occupations that are new to the economy. As a consequence, the SOE is more likely to enter nearby industries in line with our motivating fact. We provide indirect evidence in support of our main mechanism and then discuss implications: We show that there may be multiple equilibria along the development path, with some equilibria leading on a pathway to prosperity while others resulting in an income trap, and discuss implications for industrial policy. We finally show that the rise of China has a non-monotonic effect on the growth prospects of other developing countries, and provide suggestive evidence for this theoretical prediction.
di Giovanni, J., et al., 2022. Global Supply Chain Pressures, International Trade, and Inflation.Abstract

We study the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Euro Area inflation and how it compares to the experiences of other countries, such as the United States, over the two-year period 2020-21. Our model-based calibration exercises deliver four key results: 1) Compositional effects – the switch from services to goods consumption – are amplified through global input-output linkages, affecting both trade and inflation. 2) Inflation can be higher under sector-specific labor shortages relative to a scenario with no such supply shocks. 3) Foreign shocks and global supply chain bottlenecks played an outsized role relative to domestic aggregate demand shocks in explaining Euro Area inflation over 2020-21. 4) International trade did not respond to changes in GDP as strongly as it did during the 2008-09 crisis despite strong demand for goods. These lower trade elasticities in part reflect supply chain bottlenecks. These four results imply that policies aimed at stimulating aggregate demand would not have produced as high an inflation as the one observed in the data without the negative sectoral supply shocks.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. Cutting Putin’s Energy Rent: ‘Smart Sanctioning’ Russian Oil and Gas.Abstract

Following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, major sanctions have been imposed by Western countries, most notably with the aim of limiting Russia’s access to hard international currency. However, Russia remains the world’s first exporter of oil and gas, and at current energy prices this provides large hard currency revenues. As the war continues, European governments are under increased pressure to scale-up their energy sanctions, following measures taken by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. This piece argues that given the inelasticity of Russia’s oil and gas supply, for Europe the most efficient way to sanction Russian energy would not be an embargo, but the introduction of an import tariff that can be used flexibly to control the degree of economic pressure on Russia.

E-Letter in Science: How to weaken Russian oil and gas strength

Hausmann, R., et al., 2011. Growth and Competitiveness in Kazakhstan: Issues and Priorities in the Areas of Macroeconomic, Industrial, Trade and Institutional Development Policies.Abstract

Kazakhstan has achieved many of its goals and faces enormous opportunities. It has been able to transform itself into a market economy, thus unleashing the productive capacity of its citizens and creating the conditions for the country to benefit from international trade and investment. In addition, it has discovered large quantities of oil reserves that will allow it to sustain a tripling of oil production in the next two decades.

Under these conditions, the recent performance of the economy has been characterized by rapid growth with declining unemployment. The economy has been propped up by increased fiscal spending and by private investment. Macroeconomic management has been prudent in the sense that inflation has been kept low, the government has accumulated significant fiscal savings in the National Fund and the Central Bank has built up a significant stock of international reserves. The question is how to make this situation last over the medium and long term and how to make the economy resilient to the shocks that may come.

This report is a collection of policy memos that deal with the choices the government faces going forward in the broad area of macroeconomic policies, including fiscal policy and institutions, monetary and exchange rate arrangements and policies, financial policies, industrial policy, trade policy and broad issues in institutional development.

O'Brien, T., et al., 2022. What Will It Take for Jordan to Grow?.Abstract
This report aims to answer the critical but difficult question: "What will it take for Jordan to grow?" Though Jordan has numerous active growth and reform strategies in place, they do not clearly answer this fundamental question. The Jordanian economy has experienced more than a decade of slow growth. Per capita income today is lower than it was prior to the Global Financial Crisis as Jordan has experienced a refugee-driven population increase. Jordan’s comparative advantages have narrowed over time as external shocks and responses to these shocks have changed the productive structure of Jordan’s economy. This was a problem well before the country faced the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jordanian economy has lost productivity, market access, and, critically, the ability to afford high levels of imports as a share of GDP. Significant efforts toward fiscal consolidation have further constrained aggregate demand, which has slowed non-tradable activity and the ability of the economy to create jobs. Labor market outcomes have worsened over time and are especially bad for women and youth. Looking ahead, this report identifies clear and significant opportunities for Jordan to strengthen new engines of export growth that would enable better overall job creation and resilience, even amidst the continued unpredictability of the pandemic. This report argues that there is need for a paradigm shift in Jordan’s growth strategy to focus more direct attention and resources on activating “agents of change” to accelerate the emergence of key growth opportunities, and that there are novel roles that donor countries can play in support of this.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. The Economic Complexity of Namibia: A Roadmap for Productive Diversification .Abstract
After a large growth acceleration within the context of the commodity super cycle (2000-2015), Namibia has been grappling with three interrelated challenges: economic growth, fiscal sustainability, and inclusion. Accelerating technological progress and enhancing Namibia’s knowhow agglomeration is crucial to the process of fostering new engines of growth that will deliver progress across the three targets. Using net exports data at the four-digit level, we estimate the economic complexity of Namibia – a measure of knowhow agglomeration – vis-à-vis its peers. Our results suggest that Namibia’s economy is relatively less complex and attractive opportunities to diversify tend to be more distant. Based on economic complexity metrics, we define a place-specific path for productive diversification, identifying industries with high potential and providing inputs – related to their feasibility and attractiveness in Namibia – for further prioritization. Namibia’s path to structural transformation will likely be steeper than for most peers, calling for a more active policy stance geared towards progressive accumulation of productive capacities, well-targeted “long jumps”, and strengthening state capacity to sort out market failures associated with the process of self-discovery.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. A Growth Diagnostic of Namibia.Abstract

In the thirty years that have passed since independence, Namibia has been characterized by its over-reliance on its mineral resource wealth, procyclicality of macroeconomic policy, and large income disparities. After an initial decade marked by nation building and slow growth (1990-2000), the Namibian economy embarked on a rapid growth acceleration that lasted 15 years, within the context of the global commodity super cycle. Favorable terms of trade translated into an investment and export boom in the mining sector, which was amplified to the non-tradable sector of the economy through a significant public expenditure spree from 2008 onwards. Between 2000 and 2015 income and consumption per capita expanded at an average annual rate of 3.1%, poverty rates halved, and access to essential public goods expanded rapidly. As the commodity super cycle came to an end and the fiscal space was exhausted, Namibia experienced a significant reversal. Investment and exports plummeted, bringing GDP per capita to contract by 2.1% between 2015-2019. With debt-to-GDP ratios 3.5 times higher than those in 2008, the country embarked on a fiscal consolidation effort which brought the primary fiscal deficit from 6.8% of GDP in 2016 to 0.6% by March 2020. Along all these years, inequality has been endemic and is reflected across demographic characteristics and employment status. At present, a large majority of Namibians are unable to access well-paying formal sector jobs, as these tend to be particularly scarce outside of the public sector. Looking forward, the road to sustained inclusive growth and broad prosperity entails expanding the formal private labor market by diversifying the Namibian economy, while at the same time removing the barriers preventing Namibians from accessing these opportunities inherited from the apartheid.

The Growth Lab at Harvard University has partnered with the Government of Namibia to develop research that results in inputs for a policy strategy aimed at promoting sustainable and inclusive growth. The Growth Diagnostic is a cornerstone of the ongoing research engagement and is meant at providing an overview of the most binding constraints to Namibia’s economic performance and outlining how these relate in a systemic way to the concurrent challenges of growth, fiscal sustainability, and inclusion. 

Inclusive growth in Namibia is currently facing a set of self-reinforcing constraints. The country is missing both the productive capabilities (words) and required skills (letters) to sustain longer periods of growth. The low degree of knowhow agglomeration that can be inferred from its current productive structure – as gathered by the Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – leaves very little opportunities of diversification that can be pursued by redeploying existing skills (low connectedness). Our analysis reveals that Namibia has been able to diversify differentially more that most of its peers given its current set of productive capabilities, but the problem is that the set of adjacent opportunities are neither complex nor plenty. As the marginal cost of acquiring new capabilities tend to be high, the government needs to take a more active role in sorting coordination and information failures associated to the process of productive diversification and self-discovery.

Relatedly, Namibia’s growth prospects are also constrained by a shortage of specialized skills. Three empirical facts derived from econometric analysis of Labor Force Survey statistics point in this direction. First, certain skill-intensive industries and occupations exhibit differentially higher wage premiums. Second, highly educated, and experienced workers face the lowest unemployment rates in the economy, by a wide margin. Third, skill-intensive industries tend to grow less than the rest of the sectors in the economy.

The demand for high skilled foreign workers is high – as proxied by their wage premium. This skill shortage may be constraining not only existing industries but also the development of new engines of growth, limiting access to opportunity for Namibians across all skill levels. Missing skills at the top of the spectrum tends to depress job creation at the bottom. These two constraints – low knowhow agglomeration with poor connectedness and skills shortages – seem to reinforce each other. Using the Scrabble metaphor, Namibia is missing the letters (productive capabilities) and the entire words (more complex products).

Knowhow, by definition, resides in brains of people and it’s embedded in the goods and services a country produces. A broad knowhow-enhancing strategy aimed at targeting efficiency-seeking foreign direct investment (FDI, firms bringing entire new words to Namibia), and migration regulation policies (specific letters needed by more complex industries) is required to ease the binding constraints. Investment promotion efforts shall be targeted to ‘efficiency-seeking’ firms, which tend to take advantage of a competitive factor in the country (efficient labor force, access to international financial markets, infrastructure, etc.) to produce and export to foreign markets. This type of FDI is essentially different from the ‘natural resource-seeking’ investments that have characterized the Namibian economy and pose additional challenges. At the same time, the country would benefit from a more open immigration policy targeted towards high-skill workers. The evidence we have gathered suggests that high-skill foreigners tend to function as complements – rather than substitutes – to Namibian workers: industries with larger shares of high-skill workers tended to pay lower skill workers significantly higher wages. Easing the existing restrictions t labor flows and incentivizing inflows of high-skill foreigners will likely trickle down into the rest of the labor force and enhance the knowhow agglomeration of the Namibian productive ecosystem.

A challenge to productive diversification broadly, and attracting foreign investment and talent more particularly, might be policy uncertainty. Existing levels of policy uncertainty – instability or absence of the adequate regulating environment, worries about potential issues for property rights, inexperience with respect to the efficiency of domestic courts – in Namibia might not be enough to deter investments in resource-based industries, but might be an important hurdle for other type of industries, especially the ones that have a choice regarding their international location. To attract these investments, a simpler and more transparent investment environment, coped a more comprehensive set of international investment treaties, might be necessary.

The report is organized in six sections, including this Executive Summary. Section 2 outlines the Growth Diagnostic methodology. Section 3 provides a summary of the growth trajectory of Namibia and the challenges facing inclusive growth. Section 4 covers the main takeaways of the analysis conducted in each of the branches of the Growth Diagnostics Tree, including those related to access to finance, low social returns, government failures and agglomeration of collective knowhow. Section 5 concludes by highlighting potential binding and providing inputs for a collaborative exploration of why these issues have persisted and become an equilibrium.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. Macroeconomic risks after a decade of microeconomic turbulence: South Africa 2007-2020.Abstract
This study analyses the performance of macroeconomic policy in South Africa in 2007–2020 and outlines challenges for policy in the coming decade. After remarkable economic growth in 1997–07, South Africa’s progress slowed dramatically in 2009 with the global financial crisis. Real GDP growth decelerated more than in other emerging markets and mineral exporting peers and never recovered pre-crisis levels. In addition, the budget deficit that provided counter-cyclical support to the economy was never reigned in, leading to a rapidly rising public debt load. The study assesses three accounts of South Africa’s post-GFC growth and fiscal slump: (1) an external story; (2) a macro story; and (3) a microeconomic story. Evidence of strong linkages between micro- and political developments and growth performance is provided.
Hausmann, R. & Bustos, S., 2021. New Avenues for Colombia’s Internationalization: Trade in Tasks.Abstract

One of the consequences of COVID-19 is the recognition that many tasks can be done from home. But anything that can done remotely, can be done from abroad.

Given large salary differences between white collar workers across countries, it would make sense for value chains to try to exploit them. This opens an opportunity for Colombia to further promote its integration into the world global value chains and access new markets.

This paper explores the possibility of exporting teleworkable services from Colombia. The goal is to provide useful information to guide strategic interventions to speed-up the development of such service industries in Colombia.

We first introduce a definition of teleworkable jobs and describe its occupations and industries along different dimensions. We show that there are many teleworkable jobs in the US, representing a significant share of industry costs. Then, we show that many industries intensive in teleworkable jobs are currently traded across borders. To quantify Colombia’s advantage providing teleworkable services, we study the cost structure of industries and quantify the potential savings in overall costs if the tasks were performed by Colombians. Given Colombia’s current presence and the density around teleworkable industries we can calculate a proxy of the latent advantage in teleworkable services. We propose an index that summarize these dimensions and rank the potential gains from including telework from Colombia in an industry. We end with a set of policy recommendations to move this agenda forward.

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