South America

2018
Sánchez, R.R., Hinojosa, A.S. & Wright, S.S., 2018. Growth Diagnostic for the State of Oaxaca.Abstract

Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico. It is also growing more slowly than the national average, leading to regional divergence. This paper seeks to diagnose the binding constraints that keep GDP growth in Oaxaca low.

There is significant variation in average monthly incomes within Oaxaca, with a 12x gap between the municipality with the highest salary and that with the lowest. Oaxaca has 570 municipalities, whereas given its population and the national average for people per municipality it should have 66. And it is very indigenous: 58% of the population speaks an indigenous language, compared to a national average of 15%. Oaxaca’s product space, a measure of how many kinds of industries provide employment in the state, is very low and has seen very limited change since 2004. The state shares some similarities with other states in southern Mexico, such as Chiapas and Guerrero. All three share a limited manufacturing base which, even after signing NAFTA, remained flat as a proportion of state GDP. They also have a poverty rate nearly 3 times the national average. 

Oaxaca is a large state with a rugged natural landscape. Its population is highly dispersed, relative to other states in Mexico. This makes infrastructure critical. However, widespread road construction between 2004 and 2014 does not seem to have made a difference to either growth rates or economic complexity at the municipality level, suggesting the infrastructure constraint is not binding. We believe, however, that mobility might be. Transportation costs as a proportion of wages are very high, and are further increased by costly road blockages. This limits the flexibility of the labor force and the aggregation of talent.

Low human capital can reduce the social returns to investment. Even though education is contentious in the state’s politics, Oaxaca’s education gap has been falling over time relative to the national average and its neighbors. This relative increase in years of education, however, has not been translated into economic development. We find that returns to education in the state are very similar to the returns to education in the rest of Mexico and higher than returns to education in Chiapas. We also note that the proportion of schooling undertaken in private institutions is in line with that in other states with higher quality of education. Finally, a Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition suggests that education does not explain wage differentials between Oaxaca and other states. All this evidence suggests that education is not a binding constraint to growth in Oaxaca.

Governance challenges increase the risk of investing in Oaxaca. For instance, over 75% of the municipalities in Oaxaca are governed through Usos y Costumbres. Only 153 of the 570 municipalities use a government-run election to determine their leader, and out of those, four did not elect a municipal president in the June 2016 election due to internal conflicts. 146 municipalities lack a police service. While Usos y Costumbres is a key part of the local social contract, it creates problems, such as in contract enforceability. It also limits migration in and out of the state. We also observe a negative correlation between Usos y Costumbres and local wages that is not explained by factors like indigenous origin.

We also explore access to finance as a constraint to GDP growth. While enterprise surveys confirm that high interest rates, and distance to banks are a problem, Oaxaca’s microenterprises bypass these problems by borrowing from cajas de ahorro or local credit unions. However, most borrowing is destined for consumption rather than investment. We also observe that FDI flows into Oaxaca are very scarce. For these reasons, we believe the binding constraint in Oaxaca is not access to finance, but rather low returns to investment.

It is helpful to think whether there is an underlying syndrome that might explain the two binding constraints we identified: transportation costs and governance. One possible hypothesis is the isolation of people into very small communities that have very strong bonds within the community and very weak bonds outside of it. Oaxaca shows high variety in ethnic groups, languages, and government systems. On average, each municipality has 6,670 people, but there are 110 municipalities with less than 1,000 people. Elsewhere in Mexico, dispersed rural populations gradually converged into urban clusters around job opportunities. In Oaxaca, the process is not yet afoot because of a “productivity trap”, in which low productivity means urban salaries do not cover the costs of transportation or permanent moves, and dispersion keeps productivity low by failing to concentrate employees. Cultural diversity has a side effect of encouraging spatial dispersion and isolation, and of having hundreds of different sets of “rules of the game” covering the state’s population. Increasing the complexity of this economy requires breaking the trap by finding new business models (i.e., encouraging discovery) and coordinating economic activities.  

Economic complexity analysis can point us to new industries that are feasible given Oaxaca’s productive capabilities and the existing constraints we discussed. While Oaxaca’s municipalities have among the least complex economies in the country, some industries stand out from our complexity analysis as potentially promising for Oaxaca. The end of the report singles out some industries for further analysis.

growth_diagnostic_oaxaca_rfwp95.pdf
Hausmann, R., Pietrobelli, C. & Santos, M.A., 2018. Place-specific Determinants of Income Gaps: New Sub-National Evidence from Chiapas, Mexico.Abstract

The literature on income 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 between Chiapas and the other Mexican entities has shrunk while the income 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. Based on census data, we calculate the economic complexity index, a measure of the knowledge agglomeration embedded in the economic activities at a municipal level in Mexico. Economic complexity explains a larger fraction of the income gap than any individual factor. Our results suggest that chiapanecos are not the problem, the problem is Chiapas. These results hold when we extend our analysis to Mexico’s thirty-one federal entities, suggesting that place-specific determinants that have been overlooked in both the literature and policy, have a key role in the determination of income gaps.

 

2020-02-cid-wp-343-revised-determinants-chiapas.pdf
Revised February 2020
Hausmann, R., Hinz, J. & Yildirim, M.A., 2018. Measuring Venezuelan Emigration with Twitter.Abstract
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.
ven_emigration_cidwp342.pdf
Venezuela: Public Debate and the Management of Oil Resources and Revenues
Villasmil, R., 2018. Venezuela: Public Debate and the Management of Oil Resources and Revenues. In Public Brainpower. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 347-367. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.
venezuela_public_debate_villasmil.pdf
2017
Ravinutala, S., Gomez-Lievano, A. & Lora, E., 2017. How Industry-Related Capabilities Affect Export Possibilities, Cambridge: Center for International Development at Harvard University.Abstract

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.

industry_capabilities_exports_colombia.pdf
What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States
Chauvin, J.P., et al., 2017. What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States. Journal of Urban Economics , 98 (March 2017) , pp. 17-49. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.
Halff, A., et al., 2017. Apocalypse Now: Venezuela, Oil and Reconstruction, Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

CGED_apocalypse_now_venezuela_oil_reconstruction7_17_1.pdf
Patt, A., et al., 2017. International Emigrant Selection on Occupational Skills.Abstract
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.
emigrant_selection_cidwp84.pdf
Hausmann, R., Santos, M.A. & Obach, J., 2017. Appraising the Economic Potential of Panama: Policy Recommendations for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.Abstract

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.

panama_policy_wp_334.pdf
Bahar, D., Molina, C.A. & Santos, M.A., 2017. Fool’s Gold: On the Impact of Venezuelan Devaluations in Multinational Stock Prices.Abstract

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.

devaluations_ven_cidrfwp83.pdf
Coscia, M., Cheston, T. & Hausmann, R., 2017. Institutions vs. Social Interactions in Driving Economic Convergence: Evidence from Colombia.Abstract

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.

 

colombia_convergence_cidwp_331.pdf
2016
Santos, M. & Reinhart, C., 2016. From Financial Repression to External Distress: The Case of Venezuela. Emerging Markets Finance and Trade , (Jan. 2016) , pp. 1-30. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.
from_financial_-emerging_markets_finance_and_.pdf
Santos, M., 2016. The Right Fit for the Wrong Reasons: Real Business Cycle in an Oil-Dependent Economy. Latin American Journal of Economics (former Cuadernos de Economía) , 53 (1) , pp. 61-94. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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.
107764_laje_53161.pdf
O'Clery, N., Gomez-Lievano, A. & Lora, E., 2016. The Path to Labor Formality: Urban Agglomeration and the Emergence of Complex Industries.Abstract

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.

rfwp_78.pdf
O'Clery, N. & Lora, E., 2016. City Size, Distance and Formal Employment.Abstract

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.

citysize_rfwp77.pdf
Coscia, M., Hausmann, R. & Neffke, F., 2016. Exploring the Uncharted Export: An Analysis of Tourism-Related Foreign Expenditure with International Spend Data.Abstract

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.

tourism_cid_wp_328.pdf
Hernandez, I. & Monaldi, F., 2016. Weathering Collapse: An Assessment of the Financial and Operational Situation of the Venezuelan Oil Industry.Abstract

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).

venezuela_oil_cidwp_327.pdf
Hausmann, R., et al., 2016. Towards a Prosperous and Productive Chiapas: Institutions, Policies, and Public-Private Dialog to Promote Inclusive Growth.Abstract

Since the Zapatista revolution of January 1994, enormous amount of resources coming from the federal government have poured over Chiapas. The gap in years and quality of education has been reduced significantly; and road, port and airport infrastructure have undergone a dramatic transformation. And yet, the income gap between Chiapas and the rest of Mexico has only widened. To understand why, a multi-disciplinary team of twelve experts have devoted significant time and resources to study different aspects of the development dynamic of Chiapas. As a result, 5 base documents have been published analyzing Chiapas:

- Complexity profile
- Growth Diagnostic
- Institutional Diagnostic
- Poverty profile
- Pilot of productive dialogs and inclusive growth in an indigenous community

This report resumes the findings from these and articulates their corresponding recommendations into a policy plan.

According to our hypothesis, Chiapas is wedged in a low productivity trap. A modern production system, responsible for productivity increases, income and development elsewhere in the world, requires a number of complementary inputs or capacities that are absent in Chiapas. As a result, its economy consists of a few primary products of little or no technological sophistication, and a vibrant service industry fueled by public expenditure in its larger cities. In this situation, there are no incentives to acquire additional education or skills because there is no demand for them in the economy. As we have proved, the few that manage to emigrate earn salaries elsewhere in Mexico slightly above other migrants with similar qualifications. As it turns out, it is not about the Chiapanecos, it is about Chiapas.

To overcome the current dilemmas and spark the engine of growth, Chiapas needs to resolve its issues of coordination, connectivity and gradually promote economic activities of higher complexity. Yazaki, one of the few manufacturers present in Chiapas, is an example of the role of the state in helping the economy to overcome the chicken-and-egg dilemmas, providing the public goods required - in an initial push – by a more complex economy. Our recommendations are based in identifying the productive capabilities embedded within the current productive structure of Chiapas four largest urban agglomerations, and leveraging on them to board on different potential, more complex industries that use a similar base of knowledge. To conquer those industries and diversify its economy, Chiapas needs a public-private agency empowered to iteratively solve the issues and bottlenecks these potential industries face in each particular place. Public transport and housing policy can be used as means to incorporating the surrounding communities into the increasingly modern economies of urban centers. Special economic zones and agro-industrial parks can be used to spur productivity in those areas where labor and appropriability are the most binding constrains.

chiapas_policy_recommendations_cidwp_317_english.pdf chiapas_recomendaciones_de_politica_cid_wp_317.pdf
Hausmann, R., Obach, J. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Special Economic Zones in Panama: Technology Spillovers from a Labor Market Perspective.Abstract

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
  • Panama-Pacific
  • 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.

sez_panama_wp_326.pdf sez_panama_spanish.pdf

Originally published October 2016. Revised May 2017.

Hausmann, R., Morales, J.R. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Panama beyond the Canal: Using Technological Proximities to Identify Opportunities for Productive Diversification.Abstract

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_complexity_wp_324.pdf

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