Venezuela has seen an unprecedented exodus of people in recent months. In response to a dramatic economic downturn in which inflation is soaring, oil production tanking, and a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding, many Venezuelans are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. However, the lack of official numbers on emigration from the Venezuelan government, and receiving countries largely refusing to acknowledge a refugee status for affected people, it has been difficult to quantify the magnitude of this crisis. In this note we document how we use data from the social media service Twitter to measure the emigration of people from Venezuela. Using a simple statistical model that allows us to correct for a sampling bias in the data, we estimate that up to 2,9 million Venezuelans have left the country in the past year.
Although Venezuela’s experience since the 1980s would seem to make it a classic example of the resource curse, that perspective fails to explain the country’s impressive economic, social and institutional performance—including healthy public debate—during the first five decades after oil was first produced on a large scale. This chapter takes a long view of the Venezuelan experience and argues that this initial performance was lengthy and positive but fragile, given the incapacity of the country’s institutions to adapt to the different environment that developed afterwards, characterized by high oil price volatility and significant and sudden declines in oil revenues. The prolonged initial period of equilibrium became a curse of sorts. Lacking adaptive efficiency, political institutions were forced to rely increasingly on maintaining an illusion of harmony, and as faltering performance became evident, Venezuelans began questioning the model and its hegemonic arrangements. The scope and magnitude of the economic, social and institutional devastation that followed were such that public debate became one the first casualties. One of the main problems in contemporary Venezuela is the polarization of politics. This makes it difficult for the country’s population to arrive at reasonable solutions through public discussion.
The central question we will explore in this document is: Can we anticipate the opportunities that Colombian cities have to export specific products based on their existing productive capabilities?
In the following pages, we report a collection of results, analyses, and advances in which we assess how industry-related capabilities affect export possibilities. Our final goal will be to create a single measure that synthesizes all the knowledge and existing information about the productive capabilities of each city, both “horizontal” and “vertical”, and that quantifies how competitive a city can be if it aims at exporting a given product it does not yet export.
This document is broken in two main efforts: First, we want to understand the “mechanics” of diversification processes. And second, we want to be able to provide recommendations of products that are not produced in cities, but should be. The first effort requires a multitude of analyses, each trying to describe the characteristics of firms, of cities, and of the mechanisms that expand the export baskets of places. The second effort requires the development of a statistical model that is accurate when predicting the appearances of products in cities. These two efforts, explaining and predicting, are complementary, but different.
Explanations that lack the power of accurately predicting the future are useless in practice; predictions of phenomena for which we lack understanding are dangerous. But together they provide a unified story that can inform policy decisions.
Are the well-known facts about urbanization in the United States also true for the developing world? We compare American metropolitan areas with analogous geographic units in Brazil, China and India. Both Gibrat’s Law and Zipf’s Law seem to hold as well in Brazil as in the U.S., but China and India look quite different. In Brazil and China, the implications of the spatial equilibrium hypothesis, the central organizing idea of urban economics, are not rejected. The India data, however, repeatedly rejects tests inspired by the spatial equilibrium assumption. One hypothesis is that spatial equilibrium only emerges with economic development, as markets replace social relationships and as human capital spreads more widely. In all four countries there is strong evidence of agglomeration economies and human capital externalities. The correlation between density and earnings is stronger in both China and India than in the U.S., strongest in China. In India the gap between urban and rural wages is huge, but the correlation between city size and earnings is more modest. The cross-sectional relationship between area-level skills and both earnings and area-level growth are also stronger in the developing world than in the U.S. The forces that drive urban success seem similar in the rich and poor world, even if limited migration and difficult housing markets make it harder for a spatial equilibrium to develop.
Venezuela is at a breaking point. The political, economic, financial, social and humanitarian crisis that has gripped the country is intensifying. This unsustainable situation raises several urgent questions: Which path will the embattled OPEC country take out of the current turmoil? What type of political transition lies ahead? What short-term and long-term impact will the crisis have on its ailing oil industry, economy and bond debt? What would be the best and most effective prescription for oil and economic recovery under a new governance regime? To discuss these matters, the Center on Global Energy Policy brought together on June 19, 2017 a group of about 45 experts, including oil industry executives, investment bankers, economists and political scientists from leading think tanks and universities, consultants, and multilateral organization representatives. This note provides some of the highlights from that roundtable discussion, which was held under the Chatham House rule.
We present the first evidence that international emigrant selection on education and earnings materializes through occupational skills. Combining novel data from a representative Mexican task survey with rich individual-level worker data, we find that Mexican migrants to the United States have higher manual skills and lower cognitive skills than non-migrants. Conditional on occupational skills, education and earnings no longer predict migration decisions. Differential labor-market returns to occupational skills explain the observed selection pattern and significantly outperform previously used returns-to-skills measures in predicting migration. Results are persistent over time and hold within narrowly defined regional, sectoral, and occupational labor markets.
This report aims to summarize the main findings of the project as gathered by the three baseline documents, and frame them within a coherent set of policy recommendations that can help Panama to maintain their growth momentum in time and make it more inclusive. Three elements stand out as cornerstones of our proposal:
(i) attracting and retaining qualified human capital;
(ii) maximizing the diffusion of know-how and knowledge spillovers, and
(iii) leveraging on public-private dialog to tackle coordination problems that are hindering economic activity outside the Panama-Colón axis.
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 multinationals with Venezuelan subsidiaries. The results suggest evidence of statistically and economically significant negative CARs of up to 2.07% 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 predicaments of the efficient market hypothesis stating that predictable devaluations should not impact 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 suggestive indication of market inefficiencies in the process of asset pricing.
Are regions poor because they have bad institutions or are they poor because they are disconnected from the social channels through which technology diffuses? This paper tests institutional and technological theories of economic convergence by looking at income convergence across Colombian municipalities. We use formal employment and wage data to estimate growth of income per capita at the municipal level. In Colombia, municipalities are organized into 32 departamentos or states. We use cellphone metadata to cluster municipalities into 32 communication clusters, defined as a set of municipalities that are densely connected through phone calls. We show that these two forms of grouping municipalities are very different. We study the effect on municipal income growth of the characteristics of both the state and the communication cluster to which the municipality belongs. We find that belonging to a richer communication cluster accelerates convergence, while belonging to a richer state does not. This result is robust to controlling for state fixed effects when studying the impact of communication clusters and vice versa. The results point to the importance of social interactions rather than formal institutions in the growth process.
Recent work suggests a connection between domestic debt and external default. We examine potential linkages for Venezuela, where the evidence reveals a nexus among domestic debt, financial repression, and external vulnerability. The financial repression tax (as a share of GDP) is similar to OECD economies, in spite of higher debt ratios in the latter. The financial repression “tax rate” is higher in years of exchange controls and legislated interest rate ceilings. We document a link between domestic disequilibrium and a weakening of the net foreign asset position via private capital flight. We suggest these findings are not unique to Venezuela.
Venezuela has an oil-dependent economy subject to large exogenous shocks and a rigid labor market. These features go straight to the heart of two weaknesses of real business cycle (RBC) theory widely reported in the literature: neither shocks are volatile enough nor real salaries suf ficiently flexible as required by the RBC framework to replicate the behavior of the economy. We calibrate a basic RBC model and compare a set of relevant statistics from RBC-simulated time series with actual data for Venezuela and the benchmark case of the United States (1950–2008). Despite Venezuela being a heavily regulated economy, RBC-simulated series provide a good fit, in particular with regard to labor markets.
Labor informality, associated with low productivity and lack of access to social security services, dogs developing countries around the world. Rates of labor (in)formality, however, vary widely within countries. This paper presents a new stylized fact, namely the systematic positive relationship between the rate of labor formality and the working age population in cities. We hypothesize that this phenomenon occurs through the emergence of complex economic activities: as cities become larger, labor is allocated into increasingly complex industries as firms combine complementary capabilities derived from a more diverse pool of workers. Using data from Colombia, we use a network-based model to show that the technological proximity (derived from worker transitions between industry pairs) of current industries in a city to potential new complex industries governs the growth of the formal sector in the city. The mechanism proposed has robust strong predictive power, and fares better than alternative explanations of (in)formality.
Cities thrive through the diversity of their occupants because the availability of complementary skills enables firms in the formal sector to grow, delivering increasingly sophisticated products and services. The appearance of new industries is path dependent in that new economic activities build on existing strengths, leading cities to both diversify and specialize in distinct areas. Hence, the location of necessary capabilities, and in particular the distance between firms and people with the skills they need, is key to the success of urban agglomerations. Using data for Colombia, this paper assesses the extent to which cities benefit from skills and capabilities available in their surrounding catchment areas. Without assuming a prioria a definition for cities, we sequentially agglomerate the 96 urban municipalities larger than 50,000 people based on commuting time. We show that a level of agglomeration equivalent to between 45 and 75 minutes of commuting time, corresponding to between 62 and 43 cities, maximizes the impact that the availability of skills has on the ability of agglomerations to generate formal employment. Smaller urban municipalities stand to gain more in the process of agglomeration. A range of policy implications are discussed.
Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in the world: for many countries it represents the single largest product in their export basket. However, it is a product difficult to chart: "exporters" of tourism do not ship it abroad, but they welcome importers inside the country. Current research uses social accounting matrices and general equilibrium models, but the standard industry classifications they use make it hard to identify which domestic industries cater to foreign visitors. In this paper, we make use of open source data and of anonymized and aggregated transaction data giving us insights about the spend behavior of foreigners inside two countries, Colombia and the Netherlands, to inform our research. With this data, we are able to describe what constitutes the tourism sector, and to map the most attractive destinations for visitors. In particular, we find that countries might observe different geographical tourists' patterns - concentration versus decentralization -; we show the importance of distance, a country's reported wealth and cultural affinity in informing tourism; and we show the potential of combining open source data and anonymized and aggregated transaction data on foreign spend patterns in gaining insight as to the evolution of tourism from one year to another.
Venezuela has one of the most abundant geological endowments in the world. Oil proven reserves are among the largest globally, even if a more conservative criterion than the one used by the current government is applied. However, these resources are qualitatively different than those of other abundant regions such as the Middle East. The large majority constitutes extra-heavy oil, which generally requires higher oil prices to be extracted profitably.
During the last decade, the Venezuelan oil industry wasted a unique opportunity to increase investment and production. At the high oil prices that prevailed, the massive oil reserves could have been monetized by rapidly increasing production with a large margin of profitability. Quite to the contrary, production steadily dropped due either to lack of investment in the new unconventional oil projects or for failing to compensate the decline of the older conventional fields. It is a tragic story of great potential with dismal performance.
A series of trends were negatively impacting the Venezuelan oil industry even before the oil price collapse in 2014. From the revenue side, although oil prices showed an increase in real terms of 120% between 2000 and 2014, the barrels that effectively generate cash for Venezuela have shown a continuous decline. This is not just because production has been declining for the most part during the last eighteen years (a trend that has gotten significantly worse during the last year), but also because of a number of developments. First, during that period, total exports have declined more rapidly than production, and recently, net exports have declined more than total exports. Consumption in the massively subsidized domestic market increased until 2013 (when it started to decline likely because of the recession in the local economy), while imports of oil products for the domestic market have increased since 2012. The domestic market not only generates negative cash-flow for the national oil company (NOC), PDVSA, but also its expansion reduced the barrels available to export. More recently, there has also been an increase in imports of light oil and naphtha as diluents for the extra-heavy oil. Second, the Venezuelan production basket has become heavier and the share of unconventional production, generally less profitable, has increased. Third, the production wholly operated by PDVSA has been falling much more rapidly, while the production share of joint-ventures increased. Fourth, a significant share of the exports to Latin America and the Caribbean is subsidized (although these exports have declined recently). Fifth, some oil exports are committed to repay debts of PDVSA and specially the Venezuelan government, limiting the actual cash flow received by the company. In particular, the government’s debt agreements with China involve a significant and increasing amount of production, although recently those agreements were restructured, allowing for a grace period with no capital amortization. From the expenditure side, PDVSA was increasingly responsible of carrying social expenditures and activities not related to the oil industry, which limited the resources for highly profitable investments. That is in addition to the increased fiscal take due to changes in the tax legislation. Also, higher investment requirements due to an increase in the equity share of PDVSA in joint venture projects, has had an impact on its cash flow.
The explanations for the underperformance of the Venezuelan oil industry basically fall into two connected categories: the multiple problems facing PDVSA; and the increase in above-ground risks for foreign investors operating in the country. The deterioration of the institutional framework, led to radical fiscal and regulatory changes, and to the nationalization of the majority of the industry. In 7 addition, the substantial over-extraction of resources from the NOC, the significant macroeconomic distortions affecting the cost structure of oil companies, and the constraints imposed by the energy infrastructure and human capital availability; have combined to produce dismal results. The massive firing of the majority of the management and technical experts from PDVSA in 2003 following the political conflict that led to a strike, has left the company with limited capabilities to operate effectively.
The recent decline in oil prices, and the changes in the international market structure, have exposed more dramatically the difficulties facing the Venezuelan oil sector, and call into question its ability to prevent a continuation of the declining trend in oil extraction. This situation becomes particularly severe if we take into account the cash flow constraints facing PDVSA, as well as its multiple operational problems, power cuts, and conflicts with oilfield services providers. These challenges are proportional to the enormous investments required to finance the projects in the Orinoco Oil Belt, where most of the reserves in Venezuela are located, and where the quality of the crude and the lack of development of the region, are just two of the many issues that need to be addressed.
Since this paper is part of a wider project to understand the macroeconomic challenges facing the country in 2016-17, it focuses narrowly on the financial problems of the oil industry in the short-term and the operational challenges that could impede its recovery in the next couple of years. Within this context, it largely analyzes the upstream operations, i.e. oil extraction, rather than the downstream, given that in the former is where the oil rents are generated and constitutes the main source of foreign exchange and fiscal revenues of Venezuela. Other areas for further research are mentioned at the end of the document.2
Official figures are used to the extent that they are publicly available. An important aspect that prevents an exhaustive evaluation of the oil sector in Venezuela is the lack of available information regarding key performance indicators affecting the cost structure of oil projects, the cash flow of PDVSA, and the fiscal contributions of the oil sector to the government, among other important variables. Thus, on occasion, estimations for variables of interest and explanations for their divergence from official figures are provided.
The paper has two main sections. The first one analyzes the issues affecting the cash flow of PDVSA, the effects of macroeconomic and fiscal variables on both revenues and costs, as well as other financial issues affecting the performance of the company. The second section discusses some of the operational challenges facing the industry and mentions areas for further research.
2For a more general overview of the recent developments of the oil sector in Venezuela see Monaldi (2015).
Special Economic Zones (SEZ) have played an important role in Panama's successful growth story over the previous decade. SEZ have attracted local and foreign investment by leveraging a business-friendly environment of low transaction costs, and created many stable, well-paid jobs for Panamanians. Beyond that, SEZ shall be assessed as place-based policy by their capacity to boost structural transformations, namely attracting new skills and more complex know-how not to be found in the domestic economy.
The aim of this paper is to evaluate the three largest SEZ in Panama:
Colon Free Zone
City of Knowledge
Our results suggest that SEZ have been successful as measured by static indicators, such as foreign investment, job creation and productivity. We also find that SEZ have boosted inflows of high-skill immigrants, who are most likely generating positive knowledge spillovers on Panamanians productivity and wages. However, significant legal instruments and institutional designs are preventing Panama from taking full advantage of the skill variety hosted at the SEZ. Complex immigration processes inhibiting foreigners from transitioning out of the SEZ, a long list of restricted professions and even citizenships considered as a national security concern, are hindering the flow of knowledge, keeping the benefits coming from more complex multinational companies locked inside the gates of SEZ.
The economy of Panama has thrived for more than a decade, based on a modern service sector on the activities surrounding the Canal. Panama has inserted its economy into global value chains, providing competitive services in logistics, ship handling, financial intermediation, insurance, communication and trade. The expansion of the modern service sector required significant non-residential construction, including office buildings, commercial outlets, warehouses, and even shopping malls. Large public infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the Canal, the Metro, and Tocumen airport, have provided an additional drive and paved the road for productive diversification. But productive diversification does not spread randomly. A country diversifies towards activities that demand similar capacities than the ones already in place. Current capabilities and know-how can be recombined and redeployed into new, adjacent activities, of higher value added.
This report identifies productive capabilities already in place in Panama, as signaled by the variety and ubiquity of products and services that is already able to manufacture and provide competitively. Once there, we move on to identifying opportunities for productive diversification based on technological proximity. As a result, we provide a roadmap for potential diversification opportunities both at the national and sub-national level.
Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the previous decade. Growth has been spearheaded by the development of a modern service sector on the activities surrounding the Canal, and non-residential construction. Large public infrastructure projects and the private provision for infrastructure demanded by the service sector, have fueled growth and created a vibrant labor market for non-skilled workers.
Two warning signals hover over Panama´s stellar performance. The construction sector has been growing for a decade at a rate that is equivalent to doubling its stock of structures every four years. The demand for non-residential construction cannot grow indefinitely at a higher rate than the rest of the economy. This feeds into the second signal: Income inequality. In spite of the minor improvements registered over the accelerated-growth spell, Panama remains amongst the world´s top five most unequal countries.
Both warning signals point out to the need of further diversifying the Panamanian economy, and promoting economic activity in the provinces so as to deconcentrate growth and make it more inclusive.
We deployed our Growth Diagnostic methodology in order to identify potential binding constraints to that process. Skilled labor, necessary to gradually diversify into more complex and high value-added activities, is relatively scarce. This scarcity manifests into large wage-premiums to foreigners across all occupations, which are particular large within more complex industries.
Major investments in education have improved indicators of schooling quantitatively, but quality remains a major concern. We find that Panama’s immigration policies are preventing skills from spilling over from their special economic zones into the rest of the economy. On top of that, the list of professions restricted to Panamanians and other constraints on skilled labor flows, are constraining even further the pool of skills. As we document here, these efforts are not helping the Panamanian workers, quite the contrary.
We also find that corruption, and to a lesser extent, red tape, are other important factors that shall be addressed in order to allow Panama to shift the gears of growth, tackle inequality and continue growing at a fast pace.
Venezuela’s business environment is systematically evaluated as one of the worst in the world. Producing and investing in the country imposes costs and risks arising from macroeconomic instability. Beyond the problems of inflation, fiscal deficit and trade balance; firms and entrepreneurs also face enormous difficulties and discouragement going from the uncertainty about property rights to lack of electricity. To identify binding microeconomic constraints for investment in Venezuela, we reviewed international rankings and experiences about key elements of the business environment and conducted interviews with members of guilds and managers at large companies in the country. We find that the most biding constraints to investment are within the functioning of institutions, including weak property rights, and arbitrary, unbalanced and unpredictable enforcement of the law. Also binding is the flawed functioning of markets, including access to inputs and price controls.