Juan Obach

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Diagnóstico de Crecimiento.Abstract

Since 2003, the GDP per capita of Tabasco has consistently figured among the 4 largest in the country. However, this level of economic activity has not translated into an equally favorable performance in other social welfare metrics. According to CONEVAL, the Tabasco poverty rate in 2016 was 50.9%, seven percentage points higher than the national rate (43.6%). On the other hand, the average monthly income of the workers of the state is in the 40th percentile of all the states.

This discrepancy can be explained because the mining activity, despite accumulating only 3% of jobs, represents more than 50% of the state's GDP. If we only consider non-oil GDP, we have that the GDP per capita of the state has tended to be located around the country's median, and for 2016 it was in the 30th percentile nationwide.

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Baja California: Diagnóstico de Crecimiento.Abstract

Baja California se ha ubicado consistentemente entre los estados más prósperos de México, pero también entre los de crecimiento más volátil. De hecho, el desempeño económico reciente del estado estuvo marcado por una fuerte fase de desaceleración (como consecuencia de la crisis financiera en Estados Unidos), y una de recuperación, en la que si bien la entidad logró alcanzar sus niveles de crecimiento pre-crisis, solo ha podido hacerlo de manera parcial en términos de productividad, ingresos laborales, y empleo.

Esta trayectoria de colapso y recuperación parcial invita a una reflexión sobre los dilemas que enfrenta la entidad, particularmente en torno a sus fuentes de vulnerabilidad. Como se vio, una parte importante de la caída del producto durante el periodo de desaceleración viene explicada por la contracción de la demanda en los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, factores más específicos al estado, tales como su integración multidimensional con California (incluyendo la del mercado inmobiliario), jugaron un papel amplificador de los efectos de la crisis. Adicionalmente, el hecho de que la entidad no haya sido capaz de mitigar los efectos de la transición tecnológica de su principal producto de exportación o de re-desplegar estos conocimientos productivos en actividades que permitieran recuperar plenamente los ingresos medianos, el empleo y la productividad laboral, puede ser indicio que existen características, propias de su naturaleza productiva, que abonan bien sea a aumentar la vulnerabilidad o a reducir la capacidad de recuperación.

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. There is a Future after Cars: Economic Growth Analysis for Hermosillo.Abstract

For 30 years, Hermosillo has been wondering whether it has a future after Ford. Until the early 1980s, the city relied mainly on agricultural activity. When the multinational motor company arrived in this northwestern Mexican city in 1986, it changed the history of a region that up until that point had relied heavily on agriculture. The assembly plant was established and many auto parts suppliers sprang up, triggering industrialization and increasing the complexity of its economy, its productivity, and wages. Intensive manufacturing development turned Hermosillo into the fifth richest metropolitan area in Mexico in 1998.

Broadly speaking, this growth trajectory was maintained. In 2015, Hermosillo was in the top 5% of wealthiest municipalities, with poverty levels and informal employment rates significantly lower than in the rest of the country. But the economy of this city in Sonora State has clearly lost its dynamism over the past few years. Even in Mexico’s low-growth context during the period 2005-2015, growth in per capita gross domestic product in Hermosillo (1.3%) fell below the federal average (1.4%). Hermosillo’s relative performance during this decade was not uniform. Between 2005 and 2010, it grew at a rate of 1.3%, placing it in the 66th percentile (among the top 34% for growth rate) of all municipalities in Mexico. In the second half of the decade, Hermosillo barely reached 1.2% growth, falling to the 47th percentile (53% of Mexican municipalities grew more). The situation worsened in the years 2013-2015, when output per worker fell by 7.2%.

What happened in Hermosillo? Can the current economic structure sustain the municipality’s high wages and guarantee future growth? What policy interventions are needed?

Seeking answers to these questions, the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development joined forces with the Inter-American Development Bank or IDB, in particular with its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program (ESC). This program is a technical assistance initiative that provides support to regional governments to develop and execute urban sustainability projects. ESC’s goal is to contribute to priority urban interventions to provide the sustainable, harmonious growth of cities. This part of its vision is aligned with the idea of promoting inclusive growth and prosperity that guides the Growth Lab's research.


hermosillo_economic_analysis_cidrfwp96.pdf analisis_de_crecimiento_economico_para_hermosillo_cidrfwp96.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.

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.