Latin America

Student Stories: Fighting Altitude and Teaching Public Policy in Bolivia

Marco Brancher is a second-year MPA/ID student at Harvard Kennedy School. He was accepted into the Growth Lab's 2022 Summer Internship Program and participated in our engagement with the Master’s Programs for Development (MpD) at Catholic University of Bolivia. This focus of the project is to strengthen the teaching and studies of the public policy challenges in Bolivia.... Read more about Student Stories: Fighting Altitude and Teaching Public Policy in Bolivia

Lack of progress cannot be solved by a redistributive strategy
Hausmann, R., 2021. Lack of progress cannot be solved by a redistributive strategy. In I. Goldfajn & E. L. Yeyati, ed. Latin America: The Post-Pandemic Decade. London. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research Press, pp. 75-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Section II, "Policies for sustainable growth", includes dialogues with Mauricio Cárdenas, Marcela Eslava, Ricardo Hausmann, Rodrigo Valdés and Alejandro Werner.

Returning to sustained growth is a key challenge for Latin American economies. This section discusses the causes of the dismal performance of Latin America and the post-Covid policies needed to change this reality. Contributors in this section suggest that the region will witness important rebounds during 2021-2022. The recovery that started in the second half of 2020 gained strength as the economies gradually reopened following rising vaccination rates. Some countries will be reaching 2019 GDP levels in 2021; others, in 2022. However, the concern is that these recoveries will be short-lived. And if global financial conditions become less supportive, the next decade could be quite demanding.

In the medium term, Latin America is expected to exhibit significant scars from Covid, as growth is expected to be permanently below the levels anticipated before the pandemic. But the severe problem of the limited growth potential of the region predates the crisis. And, even for countries that grew more than the Latin American average, the post-pandemic future looks bleaker. The contributors highlight several reasons behind this modest performance. The first and the most commonly cited is macroeconomic mismanagement (high inflation, financial fragility leading to balance-of-payments crises). However, even countries that successfully achieved macroeconomic stabilisation failed to achieve sustained growth. It follows that the forces behind low growth are more complex: the business environment has been feeble; there is a lack of appropriate governance; the natural resource curse applies in some countries, with weak institutions and short-sighted governments with the perception that there is no need for further effort; there are social, political and institutional factors that complicate the building of a consensus around an economic policy framework that sets the foundations for medium-term inclusive growth. In addition, relatively slow technological progress widens the region’s technological gap with the advanced world. Moreover, while the lack of social progress cannot be solved merely with a redistributive strategy, the region’s regressive income distribution and structural poverty are detrimental to growth through their impact on the expected sustainability of economic regimes, as well as, on occasions, pure expropriation risk arising from social tensions. In the meantime, local talent remains undiscovered and undernourished for lack of opportunities.

Most doubt the possibility of implementing successful industrial policies in the region, sceptical that Latin American policymakers could efficiently substitute for the right market signals and incentives, and propose that the development strategy should be largely based on horizontal policies. But some see a role for the state to address the many unexploited externalities, arguing that public goods do not possess the market’s invisible hand to signal where the information about what is needed, the incentives to provide these public goods, and the allocation of resources.

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.

The Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy

After surveying over 30% of the diaspora of Colombia, Growth Lab researchers and their co-authors studied a number of factors related to this diaspora.

In this Growth Lab podcast, Ana Grisanti interviews Professors Ricardo Hausmann, Annalee Saxenian, and Ljubica Nedlkoska, who describe the internationalization mission in Colombia, the role of the diaspora in this mission, and the policy implications of this research.

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Grisanti, A., et al., 2021. Colombian Diaspora Survey Results Dashboard. Explore DashboardAbstract
As part of the "Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy" project, Growth Lab researchers surveyed 11,500 members of the Colombian diaspora, located in well over 100 countries. They studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia.
Fool’s Gold: On the Impact of Venezuelan Devaluations in Multinational Stock Prices
Bahar, D., Molina, C.A. & Santos, M.A., 2018. Fool’s Gold: On the Impact of Venezuelan Devaluations in Multinational Stock Prices. Economia LACEA , 19 (1) , pp. 93-128. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper documents negative cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) to five exchange rate devaluations in Venezuela within the context of stiff exchange controls and large black-market premiums, using daily stock prices for 110 multinational corporations with Venezuelan subsidiaries. The results suggest evidence of statistically and economically significant negative CARs of up to 2.07 percent over the ten-day event window. We find consistent results using synthetic controls to causally infer the effect of each devaluation on the stock prices of global firms active in the country at the time of the event. Our results are at odds with the predictions of the efficient market hypothesis stating that predictable devaluations should not affect the stock prices of large multinational companies on the day of the event, and even less so when they happen in small countries. We interpret these results as a suggestive indication of market inefficiencies in the process of asset pricing.
Nedelkoska, L., et al., 2021. The Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy.Abstract
We studied the geography as well as the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of 1.7 million members of the global Colombian diaspora (34% of the total estimated Colombian diaspora) using census and survey data from major host countries, and 3.5 million Twitter users located around the world presumed to be of Colombian origin. We also studied the locations and industries of Colombian senior managers and directors outside Colombia, using a global database of over 400 million companies. Moreover, we studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia, through a survey which received 11,500 responses from the diaspora in well over 100 countries in less than two months. We additionally interviewed 12 Colombian transnational entrepreneurs and professionals, to understand what attracts them professionally to Colombia, and what may stand in the way of more diaspora engagement and professional growth.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2021. Loreto’s Hidden Wealth: Economic Complexity Analysis and Productive Diversification Opportunities.Abstract

The Growth Lab at Harvard University, with funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, has undertaken this investigation with the aim of identifying the existing productive capacities in Loreto, as well as the economic activities with potential to drive the structural transformation of its economy. This paper is part of a broader investigation – Promoting Sustainable Economic Growth and Structural Transformation in the Amazon Region of Loreto, Peru – which seeks to contribute with context-specific inputs for the development of national and sub-national public policies that promote productive development and prosperity in this Peruvian state.

Place-specific determinants of income gaps: New sub-national evidence from Mexico
Hausmann, R., Pietrobelli, C. & Santos, M.A., 2021. Place-specific determinants of income gaps: New sub-national evidence from Mexico. Journal of Business Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The literature on wage gaps between Chiapas and the rest of Mexico revolves around individual factors, such as education and ethnicity. Yet, twenty years after the Zapatista rebellion, the schooling gap has shrunk while the wage gap has widened, and we find no evidence indicating that Chiapas indigenes are worse-off than their likes elsewhere in Mexico. We explore a different hypothesis and argue that place-specific characteristics condition the choices and behaviors of individuals living in Chiapas and explain persisting income gaps. Most importantly, they limit the necessary investments at the firm level in dynamic capabilities. Based on census data, we calculate the economic complexity index, a measure of the knowledge agglomeration embedded in the economic activities at the municipal level. Economic complexity explains a larger fraction of the wage gap than any individual factor. Our results suggest that the problem is Chiapas, and not Chiapanecos.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2010. Structural Transformation in Ecuador. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper applies new techniques and metrics to analyze Ecuador's past record of and future opportunities for structural transformation. Ecuador's export dynamics and the emergence of new export activities have been the historical drivers of the country's growth, but recently Ecuador's export basket has undergone little structural transformation. The same broad sectors continue to dominate, and the overall sophistication of the export basket has actually declined in recent years. In order to consider why movement to new, more sophisticated export activities has lagged in Ecuador, we examine export connectedness and find that the country is concentrated in a peripheral part of the product space. We quantitatively scan Ecuador's efficient frontier and identify new, high-potential export activities that are nearby in the product space. This sector evaluation provides valuable information for the government to prioritize dialogue and interventions, but it is not meant to be a conclusive identification of "winners". Rather, we provide policy guidelines to facilitate the emergence of these and other new export activities, dealing with the sector-specificity of much of what the government must provide to the private sector to succeed while at the same time avoiding the well-known perils of traditional industrial policies.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2020. Buscando virtudes en la lejanía: Recomendaciones de política para promover el crecimiento inclusivo y sostenible en Loreto, Peru.Abstract

Loreto es un lugar de contrastes. Es el departamento más grande del Perú, pero se encuentra entre los de menor densidad poblacional. Su capital, Iquitos, está más cerca de los estados fronterizos de Brasil y Colombia que de las capitales de sus regiones vecinas en el Perú - San Martín y Ucayali. Sólo se puede llegar a Iquitos por vía aérea o fluvial, lo que la convierte en una de las mayores ciudades del mundo sin acceso por carretera. Desde la fundación del departamento, la economía de Loreto ha dependido de la explotación de recursos naturales, desde el boom del caucho a finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX hasta la extracción petrolera y explotación de recursos forestales que predomina en nuestros días. Este modelo ha traído consigo daños ambientales significativos y ha producido un patrón de crecimiento lento y volátil, que ha abierto una brecha cada vez más amplia entre la economía de la región y la del resto del país. Entre 1980 y 2018, Loreto creció a una tasa promedio compuesta anual cuatro veces menor a la del resto del Perú. Es decir, mientras el resto del Perú triplicó el tamaño de su economía, la de Loreto creció algo menos que un tercio.

En la última década (2008-2018), la región también se ha venido distanciando de sus pares amazónicos en el país (Ucayali, San Martín y Madre de Dios), que han crecido a una tasa promedio anual cinco veces mayor. En este período, el ingreso promedio por habitante en Loreto ha pasado de ser tres cuartas partes del promedio nacional en 2008 a menos de la mitad para 2018. Además del rezago económico - o quizás como consecuencia de él -, Loreto también se ubica entre los departamentos con peores indicadores de desarrollo social, anemia y desnutrición infantil del Perú.

En este contexto, el Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard se asoció con la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore para desarrollar una investigación que proporcionara insumos y recomendaciones de política para acelerar el desarrollo de la región y generar prosperidad de forma sostenible.

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