Countries seldom grow rich by producing more of the same. Development implies changes in what countries produce. Structural transformation is the process by which countries move into new economic activities. In turn, new economic activities are the ones that are able to achieve higher levels of productivity, pay higher wages and increase the level of prosperity of a country’s population. Structural transformation is crucial for economic growth: countries that are able to upgrade their production and exports by moving into new and more complex economic activities tend to grow faster.
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."