The large economies have each, in sequence, offered "models" that once seemed attractive to others but that eventually gave way to disillusionment. Small countries may have some answers. They are often better able to experiment with innovative policies and institutions and some of the results are worthy of emulation. This article gives an array of examples. Some of them come from small advanced countries: New Zealand’s Inflation Targeting, Estonia’s flat tax, Switzerland’s debt brake, Ireland’s FDI policy, Canada’s banking structure, Sweden’s Nordic model, and the Netherlands’ labor market reforms. Some examples come from countries that were considered "developing" 40 years ago, but have since industrialized. Korea stands for education; among Singapore’s innovative polices were forced saving and traffic congestion pricing; Costa Rica and Mauritius outperformed their respective regions by, among other policies, foreswearing standing armies; and Mexico experimented successfully with the original Conditional Cash Transfers. A final set of examples come from countries that export mineral and agricultural commodities -- historically vulnerable to the "resource curse" -- but that have learned how to avoid the pitfalls: Chile’s structural budget rules, Mexico’s oil option hedging, and Botswana’s "Pula Fund."
The nation state has few friends these days. It is roundly viewed as an archaic construct that is at odds with 21st century realities. It has neither much relevance nor much power, analysts say. Increasingly, it is non-governmental organizations, global corporate social responsibility, or global governance on which pundits place their faith to achieve public purpose and social goals. It is common to portray national politicians as the sole beneficiary of the nation state, on which their privileges and lofty status depend.
The assault on the nation state transcends traditional political divisions, and is one of the few things that unite economic liberals and socialists. "How may the economic unity of Europe be guaranteed, while preserving complete freedom of cultural development to the peoples living there?" asked Leon Trotsky in 1934. The answer was to get rid of the nation state: "The solution to this question can be reached ... by completely liberating productive forces from the fetters imposed upon them by the national state."2Trotsky’s answer sounds surprisingly modern in light of the euro zone’s current travails. It is one to which most neoclassical economists would subscribe.
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.
Countries differ markedly in the diversification of their exports. Products differ in the number of countries that export them, which we define as their ubiquity. We document a new stylized fact in the global pattern of exports: there is a systematic relationship between the diversification of a country’s exports and the ubiquity of its products. We argue that this fact is not implied by current theories of international trade and show that it is not a trivial consequence of the heterogeneity in the level of diversification of countries or of the heterogeneity in the ubiquity of products. We account for this stylized fact by constructing a simple model that assumes that each product requires a potentially large number of non-tradable inputs, which we call capabilities, and that a country can only make the products for which it has all the requisite capabilities. Products differ in the number and specific nature of the capabilities they require, as countries differ in the number/nature of capabilities they have. Products that require more capabilities will be accessible to fewer countries (i.e., will be less ubiquitous), while countries that have more capabilities will have what is required to make more products (i.e., will be more diversified). Our model implies that the return to the accumulation of new capabilities increases exponentially with the number of capabilities already available in a country. Moreover, we find that the convexity of the increase in diversification associated with the accumulation of a new capability increases when either the total number of capabilities that exist in the world increases or the average complexity of products, defined as the number of capabilities products require, increases. This convexity defines what we term as aquiescence trap, or a trap of economic stasis: countries with few capabilities will have negligible or no return to the accumulation of more capabilities, while at the same time countries with many capabilities will experience large returns - in terms of increased diversification - to the accumulation of additional capabilities. We calibrate the model to three different sets of empirical data and show that the derived functional forms reproduce the empirically observed distributions of product ubiquity, the relationship between the diversification of countries and the average ubiquity of the products they export, and the distribution of the probability that two products are co-exported. This calibration suggests that the global economy is composed of a relatively large number of capabilities – between 23 and 80, depending on the level of disaggregation of the data – and that products require on average a relatively large fraction of these capabilities in order to be produced. The conclusion of this calibration is that the world exists in a regime where the quiescence trap is strong.
This paper updates our previous work on the level and evolution of original sin. It shows that while the number of countries that issue local-currency debt in international markets has increased in the past decade, this improvement has been quite modest. Although we find that countries have been borrowing at home, thanks to deepening domestic markets, we document that foreign participation in these markets is more limited than what is usually assumed. The paper shows that the recent decline of currency mismatches and the consequent ability to conduct countercyclical macroeconomic policies is due to lower net debt (abstinence) and not to redemption from original sin. We conclude that original sin continues to make financial globalization unattractive and developing countries have opted for abstinence because foreign currency debt is too risky. The promised paradise of financial globalization will need to wait for redemption from original sin.
Countries seldom grow rich by producing the same things more productively. They usually change what they produce in the process of development. Structural transformation is the process whereby countries move to new economic activities that are more productive and thus are able to pay higher wages. This process is very important for growth: countries that are able to upgrade their exports by developing new economic activities tend to grow faster (Hausmann and Rodrik, 2003; Hausmann, Hwang, and Rodrik, 2006).
The purpose of this paper is to apply new methodologies to analyze the history of and future opportunities for structural transformation in the Caribbean. We first look at the composition of exports from the Caribbean, and show that the region is specialized in relatively unsophisticated, ―poor-country‖ export products, and this is not simply a consequence of their small size or specialization in tourism and financial services.
We then review the concept of the ―product space‖ and determine where the Caribbean countries are specialized within this space. The results show that generally these countries export peripheral products that are intensive in capabilities with few alternative uses. In addition, we consider what effects regional integration would have on this opportunity set and show that future opportunities for structural transformation are much higher for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as a perfectly integrated zone—higher than for any of its members on their own.
The final section discusses the policy implications of these results. We show that for almost all countries in the Caribbean there is a need to move to new export activities. Some countries in the region have a set of nearby activities they could exploit, including in the services sector, which suggests a parsimonious approach to promoting new activities is appropriate. This approach involves the government better orienting itself to learn what emerging sectors need in the way of publically provided inputs. But for many countries in the region, there are few nearby activities, suggesting a more proactive search process is necessary. In the appendix we apply the product space data to this search for nearby and more distant export activities for Belize and Jamaica. However, such data is merely a starting point for what must be a continuous process of high-bandwidth dialogue with the private sector to learn what is needed for new activities to emerge. We provide general design guidelines for such a dialogue, both for nearby and more distant activities, and we outline some specific initiatives as examples.
For Adam Smith, wealth was related to the division of labor. As people and firms specialize in different activities, economic efficiency increases, suggesting that development is associated with an increase in the number of individual activities and with the complexity that emerges from the interactions between them. Here we develop a view of economic growth and development that gives a central role to the complexity of a country's economy by interpreting trade data as a bipartite network in which countries are connected to the products they export, and show that it is possible to quantify the complexity of a country's economy by characterizing the structure of this network. Furthermore, we show that the measures of complexity we derive are correlated with a country's level of income, and that deviations from this relationship are predictive of future growth. This suggests that countries tend to converge to the level of income dictated by the complexity of their productive structures, indicating that development efforts should focus on generating the conditions that would allow complexity to emerge in order to generate sustained growth and prosperity.
The main purpose of industrial policy is to speed up the process of structural change towards higher productivity activities. This paper builds on our earlier writings to present an overall design for the conduct of industrial policy in a low- to middle-income country. It is stimulated by the specific problems faced by South Africa and by our discussions with business and government officials in that country. We present specific recommendations for the South African government in the penultimate section of the paper.
Beneficiation, moving downstream, and promoting greater value added in natural resources are very common policy initiatives to stimulate new export sectors in developing countries, largely based on the premise that this is a natural and logical path for structural transformation. But upon closer examination, we find that very few countries that export raw materials also export their processed forms, or transition to greater processing. The quantitative analysis finds that broad factor intensities do a much better job of identifying patterns of production and structural transformation than forward linkages, which have an insignificant impact despite the fact that our data is biased against finding significant effects of factor intensities and towards finding significant effects of forward linkages. Moreover, the explanatory power of forward linkages is even smaller in sectors with high transport costs, and in sectors classified as primary products or raw materials, which are the most common targets of such policies. Finally, the results are the same even when only considering developed countries, meaning that colonial legacy inhibiting transitions to natural resource processing are not to blame. These results suggest that policies to promote greater downstream processing as an export promotion policy are misguided. Structural transformation favors sectors with similar technological requirements, factor intensities, and other requisite capabilities, not products connected in production chains. There is no reason for countries like South Africa to focus attention on beneficiation at the expense of policies that would allow other export sectors to emerge. This makes no sense conceptually, and is completely inconsistent with international experience. Quite simply, beneficiation is a bad policy paradigm.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze Colombia’s experiences with and opportunities for export led growth. We first review Colombia’s growth and export performance over the past 30 years and find that the country is indeed facing an export challenge. We then go on to develop new metrics and apply them to Colombia’s export challenge. First, we consider the opportunities for upgrading quality within existing exports, and find that Colombia has very little opportunity for growth in this dimension. Second, we consider the level of sophistication of the current export basket, and find that it is low and commensurate with the lack of export dynamism. Although not a significant drag on growth, the current export basket will not be sufficient to fuel future output growth. Finally, we develop the concept distances between products, open forest, and the option value of exports to examine the possibility that Colombia’s current structure of production is itself a barrier to future structural transformation. While improvements in the export package have been slow in the past, this evidence suggests that Colombia does now enjoy more options for future structural transformation. As there are attractive options for structural transformation nearby, a parsimonious approach to industrial strategy, rather than a risky strategic bet to move to a new part of the product space, seems appropriate. In order to inform such a strategy, we use the metrics developed in the diagnostic to evaluate new export activities in terms of their proximity to current activities, their sophistication, and their strategic value. We identify the sectors representing the best tradeoffs between these aims for Colombia as a whole, as well as its regions. We also devote separate attention to the topic of Agricultural exports, and to exports of services. Finally, we use these metrics to analyze the list of ‘high-potential’ sectors in the United States, developed by another firm, as well as the sectors prioritized in Colombia’s Agenda Interna. These external lists of high-potential sectors are found to be sensible, but could be further rationalized using these metrics. This identification of nearby, high-potential, and strategically valuable sectors is not meant to be a definitive list for targeted subsidies and ‘picking winners’. Rather, it provides a robust data-driven approach to inform the next steps in achieving export-led growth in Colombia: which private sector actors should be consulted first? What sector-specific reforms should be stressed? How should public spending on infrastructure and training, which are also sector-specific, be prioritized? What foreign firms should be targeted by FDI promotion agencies? These decisions can be informed by our analysis and the accompanying data.
Structural transformation is the process by which countries change what they produce and move from low-productivity, low-wage activities to high-productivity, high-wage activities. The purpose of this report is to use emerging methodologies to analyze Pakistan’s history of and opportunities for structural transformation, in an effort to better understand past economic performance and accelerate future economic growth. Part 1 looks at the composition of Pakistan’s export basket and establishes that the country is specialized in relatively unsophisticated export activities that are typical of poorer countries. Compared to other countries in Asia, Pakistan has not been moving to new and better export activities, and consequently has fallen behind. We show that this is in part because the actual products that Pakistan currently produces are intensive in capabilities with few alternative uses. Pakistan is specialized in a relatively peripheral part of the product space, and has not explored the productive possibilities as actively as its comparators. Given this record, an important priority in the future is to accelerate structural transformation. Pakistan’s current orientation in the product space suggests that such acceleration would require a mix of facilitating movements to nearby activities, as well as encouraging more strategic jumps to new areas of the product space. Part 2 uses the data and methodologies of Part 1 to identify what those nearby and more distant activities might be, while Part 3 discusses appropriate policies that follow from these results and promote structural transformation, without suffering common failures of past industrial policies. The key message is that the government of Pakistan must actively learn the sector-specific constraints to structural transformation and overcome them in order to accelerate future economic growth.
This paper performs a Growth Diagnotic for Brazil. It shows that many aspects of the Brazilian economy have been improving including the macro picture, educational progress and the external front. Moreover, Brazil has many productive possibilities and high-return investments. Yet growth is hampered because of a relatively old-fashioned problem that has been solved in many other countries in the region: creating a financially viable st ate that does not over-borrow, over-tax or under-invest. We show that domestic saving is the binding constraint on growth and that it has a fiscal cause. Although things are trending in the right direction, the challenge is to exploit the current good times to create the fiscal basis for a sustained growth acceleration.
This paper systematizes the implementation of the Growth Diagnostics framework. It aims to give the meta-steps that a persuasive growth diagnosis should have, and elaborates on the strategies and methods that may be used. Rather than a step-by-step instruction manual or handbook, this paper is meant to be a ‘mindbook’, suggesting how to think about the problem of identifying a country’s constraints to growth.
This paper presents a growth diagnostic of Peru. It notes that although Peru has recently enjoyed high rates of economic growth, this growth is actually a recovery from a significant and sustained growth collapse that began in the 1970s. The growth collapse was caused by a decline in export earnings due to the fall in international prices and an inadequate investment regime in export activities that led to a fall in market share. This situation led to collateral damage in the form of a balance of payments, fiscal and financial crisis, accompanied by hyperinflation and violence, but these aspects were corrected in the 1990s. However, the transformation of the export sector has been surprisingly small: the same activities that declined – mining and energy – are the ones that are leading the current recovery in exports to levels that in real per capita terms are similar to those achieved 30 years ago. We argue that the lack of structural transformation is associated with Peru’s position in a poorly connected part of the product space and this accentuates coordination failures in the movement to new activities. In addition, Peru’s current export package, is very capital intensive and generates few jobs, especially in urban areas where the bulk of the labor force is now located. This limits the welfare benefits of the current growth path. The key policy message is that the public sector must act to encourage the development of new export activities that better utilize the human resources of the country. This involves action on the macro front to achieve a more competitive real exchange rate, improvements in the capacity to solve coordination failures in the provision of specific public sector inputs and programs to stimulate investment in new tradable activities.
Much of development policy has been based on the search for a short to do list that would get countries moving. In this paper I argue that economic activity requires a large and highly interacting set of public policies and services, which constitute inputs into the production process. This is reflected in the presence, in all countries, of hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation and hundreds of public agencies. Finding out what is the right mix of the public inputs, and more importantly, what is a valuable change from the current provision is as complex as determining what is the right mix of private provision of goods. In the latter case, economists agree that this process cannot be achieved through central planning and that the invisible hand of the market is the right approach, because it allows decisions to be made in a more decentralized manner with more information. I argue that a similar solution is required to deal with the complexity of the public policy mix.
The main finding of this analysis is that Chile’s pattern of specialization implies little opportunities for easy movements to new activities. Chile is specialized in an extremely sparse part of the product space and has a relatively unsophisticated export package. Past growth has been surprisingly strong given this pattern of specialization, as has been performance in the services sector, and it appears that there does remain some room to continue growing through quality upgrading in existing products. However, Chile has little room to increase its market share in existing products, and its current export package does not offer a path to future structural transformation and growth. Furthermore, this isn’t due to Chile’s status as a natural resource-based economy, as the country lags in these dimensions even when compared to countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Movements to new sectors are necessary, but will be difficult given this pattern of specialization. This suggests that there should be some scope for public investment in the study and coordination of new export activities to fuel long-term economic growth.
Paraguay’s growth history is characterized by prolonged periods of stagnation, interrupted by a few small recessions and growth accelerations. These dynamics reveal that growth in Paraguay has been dependent on latching on to particular export goods enjoying favorable external conditions, rather than driven by macroeconomic or political cycles. Moreover, the country currently has significant room for further export growth in existing products, as well as many new export products that are nearby and have high potential. But these available channels to generate sustained growth have all gone unexploited. Our growth diagnostic indicates that the underlying obstacles that have prevented the country from developing many of the available opportunities are related to two constraints: the provision of infrastructure and a lack of appropriability due to corruption and a poor regulatory environment. The current environment is one where the only activities that can survive have to be un-intensive in infrastructure, and either unintensive in transactions requiring an efficient business environment or at least at a scale where informality and corruption is a viable alternative to institutional blockages. We provide policy recommendations that will help alleviate these problems, focusing on not only on institutional and infrastructure reforms in the abstract, but outlining a process of learning from the relevant private sector actors what sector-specific needs in the areas of regulations and infrastructure are the most important for achieving accelerated growth in Paraguay.
This paper establishes a robust stylized fact: changes in the revealed comparative advantage of nations are governed by the pattern of relatedness of products at the global level. As countries change their export mix, there is a strong tendency to move towards related goods rather than to goods that are farther away. The pattern of relatedness of products is only very partially explained by similarity in broad factor or technological intensities, suggesting that the relevant determinants are much more product-specific. Moreover, the pattern of relatedness of products exhibits very strong heterogeneity: there are parts of this ‘product space’ that are dense while others are sparse. This implies that countries that are specialized in a dense part of the product space have an easier time at changing their revealed comparative advantage than countries that are specialized in more disconnected products.