This paper presents a growth diagnostic of Peru. It notes that although Peru has recently enjoyed high rates of economic growth, this growth is actually a recovery from a significant and sustained growth collapse that began in the 1970s. The growth collapse was caused by a decline in export earnings due to the fall in international prices and an inadequate investment regime in export activities that led to a fall in market share. This situation led to collateral damage in the form of a balance of payments, fiscal and financial crisis, accompanied by hyperinflation and violence, but these aspects were corrected in the 1990s. However, the transformation of the export sector has been surprisingly small: the same activities that declined – mining and energy – are the ones that are leading the current recovery in exports to levels that in real per capita terms are similar to those achieved 30 years ago. We argue that the lack of structural transformation is associated with Peru’s position in a poorly connected part of the product space and this accentuates coordination failures in the movement to new activities. In addition, Peru’s current export package, is very capital intensive and generates few jobs, especially in urban areas where the bulk of the labor force is now located. This limits the welfare benefits of the current growth path. The key policy message is that the public sector must act to encourage the development of new export activities that better utilize the human resources of the country. This involves action on the macro front to achieve a more competitive real exchange rate, improvements in the capacity to solve coordination failures in the provision of specific public sector inputs and programs to stimulate investment in new tradable activities.
Much of development policy has been based on the search for a short to do list that would get countries moving. In this paper I argue that economic activity requires a large and highly interacting set of public policies and services, which constitute inputs into the production process. This is reflected in the presence, in all countries, of hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation and hundreds of public agencies. Finding out what is the right mix of the public inputs, and more importantly, what is a valuable change from the current provision is as complex as determining what is the right mix of private provision of goods. In the latter case, economists agree that this process cannot be achieved through central planning and that the invisible hand of the market is the right approach, because it allows decisions to be made in a more decentralized manner with more information. I argue that a similar solution is required to deal with the complexity of the public policy mix.
This paper clarifies how the valuation of hidden assets—what we call “dark matter”—changes our assessment of the U.S. external imbalance. Dark matter assets are defined as the capitalized value of the return privilege obtained by U.S. assets. Because this return privilege has been steady over recent decades, it is likely to persist in the future or even to increase, as it becomes leveraged by an increasingly globalized world. Once this is included in future projections of U.S. current accounts, the U.S. external position looks much more balanced than depicted in official statistics.
When local cost discovery generates knowledge spillovers, specialization patterns become partly indeterminate and the mix of goods that a country produces may have important implications for economic growth. We demonstrate this proposition formally and adduce some empirical support for it. We construct an index of the “income level of a country’s exports,” document its properties, and show that it predicts subsequent economic growth.
Economies grow by upgrading the products they produce and export. The technology, capital, institutions, and skills needed to make newer products are more easily adapted from some products than from others. Here, we study this network of relatedness between products, or “product space,” finding that more-sophisticated products are located in a densely connected core whereas less-sophisticated products occupy a less-connected periphery. Empirically, countries move through the product space by developing goods close to those they currently produce. Most countries can reach the core only by traversing empirically infrequent distances, which may help explain why poor countries have trouble developing more competitive exports and fail to converge to the income levels of rich countries.
Current account statistics may not be good indicators of the evolution of a country's net foreign assets and of its external position's sustainability. The value of existing assets may vary independently of current account flows, so-called ‘return privileges’ may allow some countries to obtain abnormal returns, and mismeasurement of FDI, unreported trade of insurance or liquidity services, and debt relief may also play a role. We analyse the relevant evidence in a large set of countries and periods, and examine measures of net foreign assets obtained by capitalizing the net investment income and then estimating the current account from the changes in this stock of foreign assets. We call dark matter the difference between our measure of net foreign assets and that measured by official statistics. We find it to be important for many countries, analyse its relationship with theoretically relevant factors, and note that the resulting perspective tends to make global net asset positions appear relatively stable.
This paper explores the role that uncertainty plays in the emergence of new products or services for export in developing countries. Using a comparative case study method, I explore the degree to which those entrepreneurs who discovered new export activities faced uncertainty, and what the nature of this uncertainty was. I then document how this uncertainty, when present, was resolved, and how this affected subsequent diffusion of the newly discovered activity. The cases suggest two important dimensions of uncertainty in the emergence of new export activities: productivity characteristics and demand characteristics. A new activity could feature one, both, or neither types of uncertainty. The reasons for lower inherent uncertainty in these cases suggest a new theory of product similarity that is heterogeneous, multi-dimensional, and operating at a highly disaggregated level. Furthermore, the degree of uncertainty has implications for the expected ‘triggers’ of discovery, and these are born out in the cases. Finally, when uncertainty was present, its resolution often provided significant benefits to subsequent entrants, and the manner in which high uncertainty was overcome suggests potential avenues for policy.
Belize’s economic history shows marked periods of growth accelerations and recessions. There have been two such expansions and collapses in the past two decades, with disturbingly similar features. While not always initiated by public spending, these booms quickly became public-investment led, until ballooning budget, trade, and current account deficits and the resulting shrinking reserves and growing debt required home-grown adjustment programs. The huge cuts in public investment and sharp increases in reserve requirements created marked recessions. In addition, the second acceleration happened after a significant collapse in private savings, and ended up creating a huge debt overhang which has eliminated public savings. As a consequence, Belize is a country with a low savings, little access to international finance, and an extremely high domestic cost of finance. Access to finance is the binding constraint to economic growth.
We show that other potential constraints are not binding. Returns to education are low, and there is little to no infrastructure congestion, suggesting that although Belize is a structurally high-cost country, lacking complementary factors of production are not holding back growth. Furthermore, tax, inflation, exchange rate stability, and law and order do not seem to restrict investment through lowering appropriability. Finally, the country is not being held back by a lack of self-discovery. Although the movement to new export goods is critical for Belize’s growth, this process is being hindered by the cost and availability of finance, both public and private.
The appropriate policy stance is therefore to institutionalize fiscal discipline and gradually reduce the cost of credit. Given that low public savings are presently the result of expensive debt service, and also that foreign debt has created barriers to foreign borrowing and a heightened tax on financial intermediation which are key contributors to the high cost of finance, fiscal sustainability is key for drawing down the cost of finance in Belize. Reforms to prevent a lack of fiscal discipline in the future, particularly surrounding political cycles, are critical to end the past two decade’s ‘stop-and-go’ growth pattern. Finally, the government must address the rapidly rising implicit tax expenditure on investment promotion, as well as the fall in the tax take.
But these reductions in the domestic cost of finance will, as best, be gradual given the size of the debt. In the meantime, there is a need for public investment in areas such as public safety, road maintenance, and rural airports that if ignored, could have deleterious effects on long-term growth. Creative ways to finance such productivity-enhancing investments, which would not increase publicly-guaranteed debt, must be pursued.
In addition, the industrial strategy of the country must adapt to the current financial constraints and focus on attracting investors who aren’t subject to the high domestic interest rate, namely foreign investors. The current industrial strategy is not consistent with Belize’s constraints to growth.
The main finding of this analysis is that Chile’s pattern of specialization implies little opportunities for easy movements to new activities. Chile is specialized in an extremely sparse part of the product space and has a relatively unsophisticated export package. Past growth has been surprisingly strong given this pattern of specialization, as has been performance in the services sector, and it appears that there does remain some room to continue growing through quality upgrading in existing products. However, Chile has little room to increase its market share in existing products, and its current export package does not offer a path to future structural transformation and growth. Furthermore, this isn’t due to Chile’s status as a natural resource-based economy, as the country lags in these dimensions even when compared to countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Movements to new sectors are necessary, but will be difficult given this pattern of specialization. This suggests that there should be some scope for public investment in the study and coordination of new export activities to fuel long-term economic growth.
Paraguay’s growth history is characterized by prolonged periods of stagnation, interrupted by a few small recessions and growth accelerations. These dynamics reveal that growth in Paraguay has been dependent on latching on to particular export goods enjoying favorable external conditions, rather than driven by macroeconomic or political cycles. Moreover, the country currently has significant room for further export growth in existing products, as well as many new export products that are nearby and have high potential. But these available channels to generate sustained growth have all gone unexploited. Our growth diagnostic indicates that the underlying obstacles that have prevented the country from developing many of the available opportunities are related to two constraints: the provision of infrastructure and a lack of appropriability due to corruption and a poor regulatory environment. The current environment is one where the only activities that can survive have to be un-intensive in infrastructure, and either unintensive in transactions requiring an efficient business environment or at least at a scale where informality and corruption is a viable alternative to institutional blockages. We provide policy recommendations that will help alleviate these problems, focusing on not only on institutional and infrastructure reforms in the abstract, but outlining a process of learning from the relevant private sector actors what sector-specific needs in the areas of regulations and infrastructure are the most important for achieving accelerated growth in Paraguay.
This paper establishes a robust stylized fact: changes in the revealed comparative advantage of nations are governed by the pattern of relatedness of products at the global level. As countries change their export mix, there is a strong tendency to move towards related goods rather than to goods that are farther away. The pattern of relatedness of products is only very partially explained by similarity in broad factor or technological intensities, suggesting that the relevant determinants are much more product-specific. Moreover, the pattern of relatedness of products exhibits very strong heterogeneity: there are parts of this ‘product space’ that are dense while others are sparse. This implies that countries that are specialized in a dense part of the product space have an easier time at changing their revealed comparative advantage than countries that are specialized in more disconnected products.
This paper documents large cross-country differences in the long run volatility of the real exchange rate. In particular, it shows that the real exchange rate of developing countries is approximately three times more volatile than the real exchange rate in industrial countries. The paper tests whether this difference in volatility can be explained by the fact that developing countries face larger shocks (both real and nominal) and recurrent currency crises or by different elasticities to these shocks. It finds that the magnitude of the shocks and the differences in elasticities can only explain a small part of the difference in RER volatility between developing and industrial countries. Results from ARCH estimations confirm that there is a substantial difference in long term volatilities between these two sets of countries and indicate that there is also a much higher persistence of deviations of the variance of the RER from its long run value when the economy suffers shocks of various kinds.
This paper clarifies how dark matter changes our assessment of the US external imbalance. Dark matter assets are defined as the capitalized value of the return privilege obtained by US assets. Because this return privilege has been steady over recent decades, it is likely to persist in the future or even to increase, as it becomes leveraged by an increasingly globalized world. Once this is included in future projections of US current accounts, the US external position looks much more balanced than depicted in official statistics.
We study episodes where economic growth decelerates to negative rates. While the majority of these episodes are of short duration, a substantial fraction last for a longer period of time than can be explained as the result of business-cycle dynamics. The duration, depth and associated output loss of these episodes differs dramatically across regions. We investigate the factors associated with the entry of countries into these episodes as well as their duration. We find that while countries fall into crises for multiple reasons, including wars, export collapses, sudden stops and political transitions, most of these variables do not help predict the duration of crises episodes. In contrast, we find that a measure of the density of a country's export product space is significantly associated with lower crisis duration. We also find that unconditional and conditional hazard rates are decreasing in time, a fact that is consistent with either strong shocks to fundamentals or with models of poverty traps.
This paper explores export performance in South Africa over the past 50 years, and concludes that a lagging process of structural transformation is part of the explanation for stagnant exports per capita. Slow structural transformation in South Africa is found to be a consequence of the peripheral nature of South Africa’s productive capabilities. We apply new tools to evaluate South Africa’s future prospects for structural transformation, as well as to explore the sectoral priorities of the DTI’s draft industrial strategy. We then discuss policy conclusions, advocating an ‘open-architecture’ industrial policy where the methods applied herein are but one tool to screen private sector requests for sector-specific coordination and public goods.
* See also the 7/27/07 Sciencenews article as well as the supplementary materials website.
China’s economic and social achievements since the beginning of reform and opening are unprecedented in global history. Managing the growth process in this continuously changing environment has required great skill and the use of unconventional economic policy. Now China has entered a new era in its development process with a set of challenges largely different from those of the recent past. Some problems - such as growing internal and external structural imbalances, increasing income and regional inequality – have arisen from, or been exacerbated by, the very pattern and success of high growth since reforms began. Others are newly posed by rapid changes in the global economy. These challenges can best be tackled in an integrated and coordinated fashion. This report, supported by the China Economic Research and Advisory Programme (CERAP), identifies the primary challenges facing China today and presents options for meeting them.
This book identifies the binding constraints to growth of Morocco. It applies an innovative procedure known as 'growth diagnostic' and has a central finding. The Moroccan economy suffers from a too slow process of structural transformation for achieving higher growth, especially for its exports that face unfavorable external shocks arising from competitor countries in the main markets for Moroccan exports. This process of so-called 'productive diversification' requires that Morocco enhance its competitiveness. Four government failures are identified as the binding constraints to growth in Morocco: a rigid labor market; a taxation regime that represents a heavy burden for firms and an obstacle to hiring skilled human capital; a fixed exchange rate regime that has allowed regaining price stability, but, given existing rigidities in the labor market, does not favor international competitiveness; and an anti-export bias, featuring a still high level of trade protectionism despite recent progress in tariff reductions and the signing of several Free Trade Agreements. In parallel, three market failures affect competitiveness and innovation: information failures, coordination failures between the public and private sector, and training failures that rank the country among those with the lowest level of training offered by businesses.
In this paper we examine the product space and its consequences for the process of structural transformation. We argue that the assets and capabilities needed to produce one good are imperfect substitutes for those needed to produce other goods, but the degree of asset specificity varies widely. Given this, the speed of structural transformation will depend on the density of the product space near the area where each country has developed its comparative advantage. While this space is traditionally assumed to be smooth and continuous, we find that in fact it is very heterogeneous, with some areas being very dense and others quite sparse. We develop a measure of revealed proximity between products using comparative advantage in order to map this space, and then show that its heterogeneity is not without consequence. The speed at which countries can transform their productive structure and upgrade their exports depends on having a path to nearby goods that are increasingly of higher value.
Unlike most cross-country growth analyses, we focus on turning points in growth performance. We look for instances of rapid acceleration in economic growth that are sustained for at least eight years and identify more than 80 such episodes since the 1950s. Growth accelerations tend to be correlated with increases in investment and trade, and with real exchange rate depreciations. Political-regime changes are statistically significant predictors of growth accelerations. External shocks tend to produce growth accelerations that eventually fizzle out, while economic reform is a statistically significant predictor of growth accelerations that are sustained. However, growth accelerations tend to be highly unpredictable: the vast majority of growth accelerations are unrelated to standard determinants and most instances of economic reform do not produce growth accelerations.