After a large growth acceleration within the context of the commodity super cycle (2000-2015), Namibia has been grappling with three interrelated challenges: economic growth, fiscal sustainability, and inclusion. Accelerating technological progress and enhancing Namibia’s knowhow agglomeration is crucial to the process of fostering new engines of growth that will deliver progress across the three targets. Using net exports data at the four-digit level, we estimate the economic complexity of Namibia – a measure of knowhow agglomeration – vis-à-vis its peers. Our results suggest that Namibia’s economy is relatively less complex and attractive opportunities to diversify tend to be more distant. Based on economic complexity metrics, we define a place-specific path for productive diversification, identifying industries with high potential and providing inputs – related to their feasibility and attractiveness in Namibia – for further prioritization. Namibia’s path to structural transformation will likely be steeper than for most peers, calling for a more active policy stance geared towards progressive accumulation of productive capacities, well-targeted “long jumps”, and strengthening state capacity to sort out market failures associated with the process of self-discovery.
The war in Ukraine has been waging for a month now, not only causing human suffering on a massive scale, but also sending economic tremors that are felt far beyond the country’s borders. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s economy has been pulled between its strong historical ties with the Russian economy and the opportunities in forging new ties with the European Union (EU). With the help of Metroverse, an online tool for analyzing the local economies of over a thousand cities worldwide, and of the data that power this tool, we analyze the evolving economic relations between Ukraine, Russia and the West and weigh the consequences of their disruption.
We analyze how poverty and a country’s fiscal space impact policy and welfare in times of a pandemic. We introduce a subsistence level of consumption into a tractable heterogeneous agent framework, and use this framework to characterize optimal joint policies of a lockdown and transfer payments. In our model, a more stringent lockdown helps fighting the pandemic, but it also deepens the recession, which implies that poorer parts of society find it harder to subsist. This reduces their compliance with the lockdown, and may cause deprivation of the very poor, giving rise to an excruciating trade-off between saving lives from the pandemic and from deprivation. Transfer payments help mitigate this trade-off. We show that, ceteris paribus, the optimal lockdown is stricter in richer countries and the aggregate death burden and welfare losses smaller. We then consider a government borrowing constraint and show that limited fiscal space lowers the optimal lockdown and welfare, and increases the aggregate death burden during the pandemic. This is particularly true in societies where a larger fraction of the population is in poverty. We discuss evidence from the literature and provide reduced-form regressions that support the relevance of our main mechanisms. We finally discuss distributional consequences and the political economy of fighting a pandemic.
In the thirty years that have passed since independence, Namibia has been characterized by its over-reliance on its mineral resource wealth, procyclicality of macroeconomic policy, and large income disparities. After an initial decade marked by nation building and slow growth (1990-2000), the Namibian economy embarked on a rapid growth acceleration that lasted 15 years, within the context of the global commodity super cycle. Favorable terms of trade translated into an investment and export boom in the mining sector, which was amplified to the non-tradable sector of the economy through a significant public expenditure spree from 2008 onwards. Between 2000 and 2015 income and consumption per capita expanded at an average annual rate of 3.1%, poverty rates halved, and access to essential public goods expanded rapidly. As the commodity super cycle came to an end and the fiscal space was exhausted, Namibia experienced a significant reversal. Investment and exports plummeted, bringing GDP per capita to contract by 2.1% between 2015-2019. With debt-to-GDP ratios 3.5 times higher than those in 2008, the country embarked on a fiscal consolidation effort which brought the primary fiscal deficit from 6.8% of GDP in 2016 to 0.6% by March 2020. Along all these years, inequality has been endemic and is reflected across demographic characteristics and employment status. At present, a large majority of Namibians are unable to access well-paying formal sector jobs, as these tend to be particularly scarce outside of the public sector. Looking forward, the road to sustained inclusive growth and broad prosperity entails expanding the formal private labor market by diversifying the Namibian economy, while at the same time removing the barriers preventing Namibians from accessing these opportunities inherited from the apartheid.
The Growth Lab at Harvard University has partnered with the Government of Namibia to develop research that results in inputs for a policy strategy aimed at promoting sustainable and inclusive growth. The Growth Diagnostic is a cornerstone of the ongoing research engagement and is meant at providing an overview of the most binding constraints to Namibia’s economic performance and outlining how these relate in a systemic way to the concurrent challenges of growth, fiscal sustainability, and inclusion.
Inclusive growth in Namibia is currently facing a set of self-reinforcing constraints. The country is missing both the productive capabilities (words) and required skills (letters) to sustain longer periods of growth. The low degree of knowhow agglomeration that can be inferred from its current productive structure – as gathered by the Economic Complexity Index (ECI) – leaves very little opportunities of diversification that can be pursued by redeploying existing skills (low connectedness). Our analysis reveals that Namibia has been able to diversify differentially more that most of its peers given its current set of productive capabilities, but the problem is that the set of adjacent opportunities are neither complex nor plenty. As the marginal cost of acquiring new capabilities tend to be high, the government needs to take a more active role in sorting coordination and information failures associated to the process of productive diversification and self-discovery.
Relatedly, Namibia’s growth prospects are also constrained by a shortage of specialized skills. Three empirical facts derived from econometric analysis of Labor Force Survey statistics point in this direction. First, certain skill-intensive industries and occupations exhibit differentially higher wage premiums. Second, highly educated, and experienced workers face the lowest unemployment rates in the economy, by a wide margin. Third, skill-intensive industries tend to grow less than the rest of the sectors in the economy.
The demand for high skilled foreign workers is high – as proxied by their wage premium. This skill shortage may be constraining not only existing industries but also the development of new engines of growth, limiting access to opportunity for Namibians across all skill levels. Missing skills at the top of the spectrum tends to depress job creation at the bottom. These two constraints – low knowhow agglomeration with poor connectedness and skills shortages – seem to reinforce each other. Using the Scrabble metaphor, Namibia is missing the letters (productive capabilities) and the entire words (more complex products).
Knowhow, by definition, resides in brains of people and it’s embedded in the goods and services a country produces. A broad knowhow-enhancing strategy aimed at targeting efficiency-seeking foreign direct investment (FDI, firms bringing entire new words to Namibia), and migration regulation policies (specific letters needed by more complex industries) is required to ease the binding constraints. Investment promotion efforts shall be targeted to ‘efficiency-seeking’ firms, which tend to take advantage of a competitive factor in the country (efficient labor force, access to international financial markets, infrastructure, etc.) to produce and export to foreign markets. This type of FDI is essentially different from the ‘natural resource-seeking’ investments that have characterized the Namibian economy and pose additional challenges. At the same time, the country would benefit from a more open immigration policy targeted towards high-skill workers. The evidence we have gathered suggests that high-skill foreigners tend to function as complements – rather than substitutes – to Namibian workers: industries with larger shares of high-skill workers tended to pay lower skill workers significantly higher wages. Easing the existing restrictions t labor flows and incentivizing inflows of high-skill foreigners will likely trickle down into the rest of the labor force and enhance the knowhow agglomeration of the Namibian productive ecosystem.
A challenge to productive diversification broadly, and attracting foreign investment and talent more particularly, might be policy uncertainty. Existing levels of policy uncertainty – instability or absence of the adequate regulating environment, worries about potential issues for property rights, inexperience with respect to the efficiency of domestic courts – in Namibia might not be enough to deter investments in resource-based industries, but might be an important hurdle for other type of industries, especially the ones that have a choice regarding their international location. To attract these investments, a simpler and more transparent investment environment, coped a more comprehensive set of international investment treaties, might be necessary.
The report is organized in six sections, including this Executive Summary. Section 2 outlines the Growth Diagnostic methodology. Section 3 provides a summary of the growth trajectory of Namibia and the challenges facing inclusive growth. Section 4 covers the main takeaways of the analysis conducted in each of the branches of the Growth Diagnostics Tree, including those related to access to finance, low social returns, government failures and agglomeration of collective knowhow. Section 5 concludes by highlighting potential binding and providing inputs for a collaborative exploration of why these issues have persisted and become an equilibrium.
This study analyses the performance of macroeconomic policy in South Africa in 2007–2020 and outlines challenges for policy in the coming decade. After remarkable economic growth in 1997–07, South Africa’s progress slowed dramatically in 2009 with the global financial crisis. Real GDP growth decelerated more than in other emerging markets and mineral exporting peers and never recovered pre-crisis levels. In addition, the budget deficit that provided counter-cyclical support to the economy was never reigned in, leading to a rapidly rising public debt load. The study assesses three accounts of South Africa’s post-GFC growth and fiscal slump: (1) an external story; (2) a macro story; and (3) a microeconomic story. Evidence of strong linkages between micro- and political developments and growth performance is provided.
Technological improvement is the most important cause of long-term economic growth. In standard growth models, technology is treated in the aggregate, but an economy can also be viewed as a network in which producers buy goods, convert them to new goods, and sell the production to households or other producers. We develop predictions for how this network amplifies the effects of technological improvements as they propagate along chains of production, showing that longer production chains for an industry bias it toward faster price reduction and that longer production chains for a country bias it toward faster growth. These predictions are in good agreement with data from the World Input Output Database and improve with the passage of time. The results show that production chains play a major role in shaping the long-term evolution of prices, output growth, and structural change.
Populist upheavals like Trump, Brexit, and the Gilets Jaunes happen when the system really is rigged. Citizens the world over are angry not due to income inequality or immigration, but economic unfairness: that opportunity is not equal and reward is not according to contribution.
This forensic book draws on original research, cited by the UN and IMF, to demonstrate that illiberal populism strikes hardest when success is influenced by family origins rather than talent and effort. Protzer and Summerville propose a framework of policy inputs that instead support high social mobility, and apply it to diagnose the differing reasons behind economic unfairness in the US, UK, Italy, and France. By striving for a fair, socially-mobile economy, they argue, it is possible to craft a politics that reclaims the reasonable grievances behind populism.
Reclaiming Populism is a must-read for policymakers, scholars, and citizens who want to bring disenchanted populist voters back into the fold of liberal democracy.
Eric Protzer is a Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Growth Lab. Paul Summerville is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business.
Economic complexity offers a potentially powerful paradigm to understand key societal issues and challenges of our time. The underlying idea is that growth, development, technological change, income inequality, spatial disparities, and resilience are the visible outcomes of hidden systemic interactions. The study of economic complexity seeks to understand the structure of these interactions and how they shape various socioeconomic processes. This emerging field relies heavily on big data and machine learning techniques. This brief introduction to economic complexity has three aims. The first is to summarize key theoretical foundations and principles of economic complexity. The second is to briefly review the tools and metrics developed in the economic complexity literature that exploit information encoded in the structure of the economy to find new empirical patterns. The final aim is to highlight the insights from economic complexity to improve prediction and political decision-making. Institutions including the World Bank, the European Commission, the World Economic Forum, the OECD, and a range of national and regional organizations have begun to embrace the principles of economic complexity and its analytical framework. We discuss policy implications of this field, in particular the usefulness of building recommendation systems for major public investment decisions in a complex world.
Section II, "Policies for sustainable growth", includes dialogues with Mauricio Cárdenas, Marcela Eslava, Ricardo Hausmann, Rodrigo Valdés and Alejandro Werner.
Returning to sustained growth is a key challenge for Latin American economies. This section discusses the causes of the dismal performance of Latin America and the post-Covid policies needed to change this reality. Contributors in this section suggest that the region will witness important rebounds during 2021-2022. The recovery that started in the second half of 2020 gained strength as the economies gradually reopened following rising vaccination rates. Some countries will be reaching 2019 GDP levels in 2021; others, in 2022. However, the concern is that these recoveries will be short-lived. And if global financial conditions become less supportive, the next decade could be quite demanding.
In the medium term, Latin America is expected to exhibit significant scars from Covid, as growth is expected to be permanently below the levels anticipated before the pandemic. But the severe problem of the limited growth potential of the region predates the crisis. And, even for countries that grew more than the Latin American average, the post-pandemic future looks bleaker. The contributors highlight several reasons behind this modest performance. The first and the most commonly cited is macroeconomic mismanagement (high inflation, financial fragility leading to balance-of-payments crises). However, even countries that successfully achieved macroeconomic stabilisation failed to achieve sustained growth. It follows that the forces behind low growth are more complex: the business environment has been feeble; there is a lack of appropriate governance; the natural resource curse applies in some countries, with weak institutions and short-sighted governments with the perception that there is no need for further effort; there are social, political and institutional factors that complicate the building of a consensus around an economic policy framework that sets the foundations for medium-term inclusive growth. In addition, relatively slow technological progress widens the region’s technological gap with the advanced world. Moreover, while the lack of social progress cannot be solved merely with a redistributive strategy, the region’s regressive income distribution and structural poverty are detrimental to growth through their impact on the expected sustainability of economic regimes, as well as, on occasions, pure expropriation risk arising from social tensions. In the meantime, local talent remains undiscovered and undernourished for lack of opportunities.
Most doubt the possibility of implementing successful industrial policies in the region, sceptical that Latin American policymakers could efficiently substitute for the right market signals and incentives, and propose that the development strategy should be largely based on horizontal policies. But some see a role for the state to address the many unexploited externalities, arguing that public goods do not possess the market’s invisible hand to signal where the information about what is needed, the incentives to provide these public goods, and the allocation of resources.
In the short-term, economies shift preferentially into new activities that are related to ones they currently do. Such a tendency should have implications for the nature of an economy’s long-term development as well. We explore these implications using a dynamical network model of an economy’s movement into new activities. First, we theoretically derive a pair of coordinates that summarize long-term structural change. One coordinate captures overall ability across activities, the other captures an economy’s composition. Second, we show empirically how these two measures intuitively summarize a variety of facts of long-term economic development. Third, we observe that our measures resemble complexity metrics, though our route to these metrics differs significantly from previous ones. In total, our framework represents a dynamical approach that bridges short-and long-term descriptions of structural change, and suggests how different branches of economic complexity analysis could potentially fit together in one framework.
One of the consequences of COVID-19 is the recognition that many tasks can be done from home. But anything that can done remotely, can be done from abroad.
Given large salary differences between white collar workers across countries, it would make sense for value chains to try to exploit them. This opens an opportunity for Colombia to further promote its integration into the world global value chains and access new markets.
This paper explores the possibility of exporting teleworkable services from Colombia. The goal is to provide useful information to guide strategic interventions to speed-up the development of such service industries in Colombia.
We first introduce a definition of teleworkable jobs and describe its occupations and industries along different dimensions. We show that there are many teleworkable jobs in the US, representing a significant share of industry costs. Then, we show that many industries intensive in teleworkable jobs are currently traded across borders. To quantify Colombia’s advantage providing teleworkable services, we study the cost structure of industries and quantify the potential savings in overall costs if the tasks were performed by Colombians. Given Colombia’s current presence and the density around teleworkable industries we can calculate a proxy of the latent advantage in teleworkable services. We propose an index that summarize these dimensions and rank the potential gains from including telework from Colombia in an industry. We end with a set of policy recommendations to move this agenda forward.
The empirical literature on the contributions of human capital investments to economic growth shows mixed results. While evidence from OECD countries demonstrates that human capital accumulation is associated with growth accelerations, the substantial efforts of developing countries to improve access to and quality of education, as a means for skill accumulation, did not translate into higher income per capita. In this Element, we propose a framework, building on the principles of 'growth diagnostics', to enable practitioners to determine whether human capital investments are a priority for a country's growth strategy. We then discuss and exemplify different tests to diagnose human capital in a place, drawing on the Harvard Growth Lab's experience in different development context, and discuss various policy options to address skill shortages.
Cambridge Elements are a new concept in academic publishing and scholarly communication, combining the best features of books and journals. They consist of original, concise, authoritative, and peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific research, organised into focused series edited by leading scholars, and provide comprehensive coverage of the key topics in disciplines spanning the arts and sciences.
Regularly updated and conceived from the start for a digital environment, they provide a dynamic reference resource for graduate students, researchers, and practitioners.
Estimating the capabilities, or inputs of production, that drive and constrain the economic development of urban areas has remained a challenging goal. We posit that capabilities are instantiated in the complexity and sophistication of urban activities, the know-how of individual workers, and the city-wide collective know-how. We derive a model that indicates how the value of these three quantities can be inferred from the probability that an individual in a city is employed in a given urban activity. We illustrate how to estimate empirically these variables using data on employment across industries and metropolitan statistical areas in the USA. We then show how the functional form of the probability function derived from our theory is statistically superior when compared with competing alternative models, and that it explains well-known results in the urban scaling and economic complexity literature. Finally, we show how the quantities are associated with metrics of economic performance, suggesting our theory can provide testable implications for why some cities are more prosperous than others.
As part of the "Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy" project, Growth Lab researchers surveyed 11,500 members of the Colombian diaspora, located in well over 100 countries. They studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia.
A little over a year ago, the EU’s political leaders agreed on an unprecedented fiscal package – dubbed ‘Next Generation EU’ – to aid Europe’s recovery from the pandemic. Ricardo Hausmann, Miguel Angel Santos, Corrado Macchiarelli and Renato Giacon write that economic complexity theories can provide a useful tool for evaluating whether the recovery and resilience plans submitted by EU member states to receive this funding are well-designed. Assessing the case of Greece, they argue that investments should be tailored toward export-oriented sectors and aim to help close the country’s product complexity gap with other EU states.
Few countries have embraced active labor market policies to the same extent as Saudi Arabia. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the imperative of increasing Saudi employment became paramount. The country faced one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world while over 80 percent of its private sector consisted of foreign labor. Since 2011, a wave of employment nationalization efforts has been mainly implemented through a comprehensive and strictly enforced industry and firm specific quota system known as Nitaqat. This paper assesses the employment gains as well as the costs and unintended consequences resulting from Nitaqat and related policies between 2011 and 2017. We find that while job nationalization policies generated significant initial gains in Saudi employment and labor force participation, the effects were heterogeneous across workers, firms and sectors. Moreover, our analysis suggests that the resulting unintended consequences far outweighed the benefits over time generating a less cost-effective and productivity inhibiting labor market composition.
This paper analyzes the changes in Saudi employment and unemployment between 2009 and 2018 and argues that a supply-demand skill mismatch exacerbated by insufficient job creation, and prevalent Saudi preferences and beliefs about employment underpin the high unemployment problem that coexists with low Saudi employment in the private sector in the country.
We examine the role of financial aid in shaping the formation of human capital in economics. Specifically, we study the impact of a large merit-based scholarship for graduate studies in affecting individuals’ occupational choices, career trajectories, and labor market outcomes of a generation of Italian economists with special focus on gender gaps and the role of social mobility. We construct a unique dataset that combines archival sources and includes microdata for the universe of applicants to the scholarship program and follow these individuals over their professional life. Our unique sample that focuses on the high end of the talent and ability distribution also allows us to analyze the characteristics of top graduates, a group which tends to be under-sampled in most surveys. We discuss five main results. First, women are less likely to be shortlisted for a scholarship as they tend to receive lower scores in the most subjective criteria used in the initial screening of candidates. Second, scholarship winners are much more likely to choose a research career and this effect is larger for women. Third, women who work in Italian universities tend to have less citations than men who work in Italy. However, the citation gender gap is smaller for candidates who received a scholarship. Fourth, women take longer to be promoted to the rank of full professor, even after controlling for academic productivity. Fifth, it is easier to become a high achiever for individuals from households with a lower socio-economic status if they reside in high social mobility provinces. However, high-achievers from lower socio-economic status households face an up-hill battle even in high social mobility provinces.
We studied the geography as well as the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of 1.7 million members of the global Colombian diaspora (34% of the total estimated Colombian diaspora) using census and survey data from major host countries, and 3.5 million Twitter users located around the world presumed to be of Colombian origin. We also studied the locations and industries of Colombian senior managers and directors outside Colombia, using a global database of over 400 million companies. Moreover, we studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia, through a survey which received 11,500 responses from the diaspora in well over 100 countries in less than two months. We additionally interviewed 12 Colombian transnational entrepreneurs and professionals, to understand what attracts them professionally to Colombia, and what may stand in the way of more diaspora engagement and professional growth.
The Growth Lab at Harvard University, with funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, has undertaken this investigation with the aim of identifying the existing productive capacities in Loreto, as well as the economic activities with potential to drive the structural transformation of its economy. This paper is part of a broader investigation – Promoting Sustainable Economic Growth and Structural Transformation in the Amazon Region of Loreto, Peru – which seeks to contribute with context-specific inputs for the development of national and sub-national public policies that promote productive development and prosperity in this Peruvian state.