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.
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
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.
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.
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.
In this paper we establish six stylized facts related to marriage and work in Latin America and present a simple model to account for them. First, skilled women are less likely to be married than unskilled women. Second, skilled women are less likely to be married than skilled men. Third, married skilled men are more likely to work than unmarried skilled men, but married skilled women are less likely to work than unmarried skilled women. Fourth, Latin American women are much more likely to marry a less skilled husband compared to women in other regions of the world. Five, when a skilled Latin American woman marries down, she is more likely to work than if she marries a more or equally educated man. Six, when a woman marries down, she tends to marry the “better” men in that these are men that earn higher wages than those explained by the other observable characteristics. We present a simple game theoretic model that explains these facts with a single assumption: Latin American men, but not women, assign a greater value to having a stay-home wife.
This research is part of the "Closing the Global Gender Gap: A Call to Action," an initiative sponsored by the Women and Public Policy Program in collaboration with the Center for International Development at Harvard University, with support from ExxonMobil's Educating Women and Girls Initiative and the Women's Leadership Board of the Harvard Kennedy School.
Many countries, like Sri Lanka, are trying to diversify their economies but often lack the capabilities to lead diversification programs. One of these capabilities relates to targeting new sectors to promote and pursue through a diversification policy: countries know they are ‘doomed to choose’ sectors to target,1 but lack effective capabilities to do the targeting. This paper narrates a recent (and ongoing) initiative to establish this kind of capability in Sri Lanka. The initiative adopted a Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) process, where a team of Sri Lankan officials worked with Harvard Center for International Development (CID) facilitators to build capabilities. The paper tells the story of this process, providing documented evidence of the progress over time and describing the thinking behind the PDIA process. It shows how a reliable targeting mechanism can emerge in a reasonably limited period, when a committed team of public officials are effectively authorized and engaged. The paper will be of particular interest to those thinking about targeting for diversification and to those interested in processes (like PDIA) which are focused on building state capability and fostering policy implementation in public contexts.
1 The term here comes from Hausmann, R. and Rodrik, D. 2006. Doomed to Choose: Industrial Policy as Predicament. Draft.
We examine the role of financial aid in shaping the formation of human capital in economics. Specifically, we study the impact of a large merit-based scholarship for graduate studies in affecting individuals’ occupational choices, career trajectories, and labor market outcomes of a generation of Italian economists with special focus on gender gaps and the role of social mobility. We construct a unique dataset that combines archival sources and includes microdata for the universe of applicants to the scholarship program and follow these individuals over their professional life. Our unique sample that focuses on the high end of the talent and ability distribution also allows us to analyze the characteristics of top graduates, a group which tends to be under-sampled in most surveys. We discuss five main results. First, women are less likely to be shortlisted for a scholarship as they tend to receive lower scores in the most subjective criteria used in the initial screening of candidates. Second, scholarship winners are much more likely to choose a research career and this effect is larger for women. Third, women who work in Italian universities tend to have less citations than men who work in Italy. However, the citation gender gap is smaller for candidates who received a scholarship. Fourth, women take longer to be promoted to the rank of full professor, even after controlling for academic productivity. Fifth, it is easier to become a high achiever for individuals from households with a lower socio-economic status if they reside in high social mobility provinces. However, high-achievers from lower socio-economic status households face an up-hill battle even in high social mobility provinces.