In the past, industrial countries have tended to pursue countercyclical or, at worst, acyclical fiscal policy. In sharp contrast, emerging and developing countries have followed procyclical fiscal policy, thus exacerbating the underlying business cycle. We show that, over the last decade, about a third of the developing world has been able to escape the procyclicality trap and actually become countercyclical. We then focus on the role played by the quality of institutions, which appears to be a key determinant of a country's ability to graduate. We show that, even after controlling for the endogeneity of institutions and other determinants of fiscal procyclicality, there is a causal link running from stronger institutions to less procyclical or more countercyclical fiscal policy.
This paper evaluates if, after ten years of implementation, the conditional cash transfer program Progresa/Oportunidades has had an effect on labor market outcomes among young beneficiaries in rural Mexico. We use a specific module for the young aged 14 to 24 in the 2007 wave of the Rural Households Evaluation Survey and apply a multi-treatment methodology for different time exposition to the program to identify effects on employment probability, wages, migration and intergenerational occupational mobility. Our results show very little evidence of program impacts on employment, wages or inter-generational occupational mobility among the cohort of beneficiaries under study. This suggests that, despite well documented effects on human capital accumulation of the beneficiaries, labor market prospects in the localities under the program remain sparse.
Mauritius is a top performer among African countries. It developed a manufacturing sector soon after independence and has managed to respond well to new external shocks. What explains this success? This paper draws on the history of the island, the writings of foreign economists, the ideas of locals, and the results of econometric tests. Mauritius has mostly followed good policies. They include: creating a well-managed Export Processing Zone, conducting diplomacy regarding trade preferences, spending on education, avoiding currency overvaluation, and facilitating business. The good policies can in turn be traced back to good institutions. They include: forswearing an army, protecting property rights (particularly non-expropriation of sugar plantations), and creating a parliamentary structure with comprehensive participation (in the form of representation for rural districts and ethnic minorities, the “best loser system,” ever-changing coalition governments, and cabinet power-sharing). But from where did the good institutions come? They were chosen around the time of independence in 1968. Why in Mauritius and not elsewhere? Luck? Some fundamental geographic and historical determinants of trade and rule of law help explain why average income is lower in Africa than elsewhere, and trade and rule of law help explain performance within Africa just as they do worldwide. Despite these two econometric findings, the more fundamental determinants are not much help in explaining relative performance within Africa. Fundamental determinants that work worldwide but not within Africa are remoteness, tropics, size and fragmentation. (Access to the sea is the one fundamental geographic determinant of trade and income that is always important.) A case in point is the high level of ethnic diversity in Mauritius, which in many places would make for dysfunctional politics. Here, however, it brings cosmopolitan benefits. The institutions manage to balance the ethnic groups; none is excluded from the system. It is intriguing that the three African countries with the highest governance rankings (Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde) are all islands that had no indigenous population. It helps that everyone came from somewhere else.
Countries with oil, mineral or other natural resource wealth, on average, have failed to show better economic performance than those without, often because of undesirable side effects. This is the phenomenon known as the Natural Resource Curse. This paper reviews the literature, classified according to six channels of causation that have been proposed. The possible channels are: (i) long-term trends in world prices, (ii) price volatility, (iii) permanent crowding out of manufacturing, (iv) autocratic/oligarchic institutions, (v) anarchic institutions, and (vi) cyclical Dutch Disease. With the exception of the first channel – the long-term trend in commodity prices does not appear to be downward – each of the other channels is an important part of the phenomenon. Skeptics have questioned the Natural Resource Curse, pointing to examples of commodity-exporting countries that have done well and arguing that resource exports and booms are not exogenous. The relevant policy question for a country with natural resources is how to make the best of them.
The literature on knowledge diffusion shows that it decays strongly with distance. In this paper we document that the probability that a product is added to a country’s export basket is, on average, 65% larger if a neighboring country is a successful exporter of that same product. For existing products, having a neighbor with comparative advantage in them is associated with a growth of exports that is higher by 1.5 percent per annum. While these results could be driven by a common third factor that escapes our controls, they are what would be expected from the localized character of knowledge diffusion.
The paper argues that demise of the autocratic bargain in the Arab world, ushered by the uprisings of 2010-11, has been driven by a split in the ruling class. The bargain authoritarians struck with their societies in the recent decade is best characterized as a repressive regime that relied on a narrow elite base. The paper explores the dynamic factors that have affected this bargain over time, and in particular, the increased autonomy of the middle class, the rise of crony capitalism, the increased popularity of Political Islam among the middle class, and the "indignities" associated with unpopular foreign alliances. The recent political changes are interpreted as the moment when the middle class, traditionally allied with the autocrats, and affected by these latent pull and push factors, preferred to "tip" its support to a transition towards a democratic settlement. The 3-player model I develop is shown to explain the characteristics of the ongoing Arab Spring and of the key future challenges facing the region better than the classical autocratic bargain model.
Violence has increased all around Mexico in the last years, reflecting an uprise in the rate of homicides, and especially after some federal intervention took place to fight the drug cartels in some states. In this paper we use data at the municipal level to link social and institutional factors with the rates of homicides. We exploit the entrance for federal army interventions in 2007 and 2008 in some states to fight drug cartels. Using different estimation methods, we find that inequality, access to social security and income, as well as local provision of security and law are relevant in explaining homicides. We also find that the army interventions have increased not only drug related homicides, but also general homicides in municipalities under intervention compared with those with no intervention.
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.
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.
From 2010-2011, a team from the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development collaborated with the Dominican government to develop a strategy to create a highly-productive, internationally competitive economy. With a vision for 2030, this team of scholars, practitioners, and government agencies hopes to revitalize the Dominican economy, promoting inclusive growth and sustainable human development.
The faculty team advised on a growth strategy based on diversification and development of the tradable sector. The five-tiered approach focuses on education, exports, fiscal reform, financial architecture, and development along the Haitian border, culminating in overall economic growth, job creation, demographic transitions, and restructured formal sectors.
Also included in the overall plan are investment promotion, infrastructure development, active scouting of new and innovative goods and services, maximization of the country's tourist potential, improved governance, and a revised tax regime. Specific financial recommendations include encouraging and reorganizing pension fund investment and changing the average savings rate as a benchmark for higher return on those funds.
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.
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.
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.