Policy Research

O'Brien, T., et al., 2020. Accelerating Growth in Albania through Targeted Investment Promotion, Cambridge: Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

The investment promotion process in Albania is underperforming versus its potential. Between 2014 and 2018, the Albanian economy saw accelerating growth and transformation, which has been tied to the arrival of foreign companies. However, Albania has the potential to realize much more and more diversified foreign direct investment (FDI), which will be critical to accelerating growth in the period of global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Albanian economy weathers the storm of COVID-19, it is critical to look to the future by enhancing the investment promotion process to be more targeted and proactive such that Albania can attract transformative global companies aligned with the country’s comparative advantages. This is not only a critical step toward faster and more resilient economic growth in Albania; it also happens to have very high returns in comparison to the limited fiscal spending required to implement the actions required.

The targeted investment promotion approach discussed in this note would capitalize on Albania’s many existing comparative advantages for attracting efficiency-seeking FDI. It would not displace Albania’s Strategic Investment Law nor the activities of the Albanian Investment Corporation (AIC), which aim to expand the country’s comparative advantages. Efficiency-seeking FDI — global companies that expand into Albania to serve global markets because it makes them more productive — do not need extensive tax incentives, regulatory exemptions, or other subsidies. In fact, an overreliance on these approaches can crowd out firms that do not want or need to rely on government support. Adding targeted investment promotion to Albania’s growth strategy would lead to more jobs, better quality jobs, more inclusive job growth, faster convergence with the income levels of the rest of Europe, and ultimately less outmigration.

This note summarizes the Growth Lab’s observations of the investment promotion process in Albania, over the last year in particular, and lays out recommendations to capture widespread opportunities for economic transformation that have been missed to date. The recommendations provided at the end of this note provide a roadmap for building an enhanced network for targeted investment promotion that is specific to Albania’s context. These recommendations recognize the current constraints that the COVID-19 pandemic creates but also look past the pandemic to prepare for opportunities that will emerge during the global recovery.

2022 May 11

Development Talks - A Journey of Impact in Namibia: From the Private Sector to Policymaking

12:00pm to 1:15pm


Zoom (registration information below)

The Growth Lab's Development Talks is a series of conversations with policymakers and academics working in international development. The seminar provides a platform for practitioners and researchers to discuss both the practice of development and analytical work centered on policy. 

Speaker: Nangula Uaandja, CEO, Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board

Moderator: ...

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O'Brien, T., et al., 2022. What Will It Take for Jordan to Grow?.Abstract
This report aims to answer the critical but difficult question: "What will it take for Jordan to grow?" Though Jordan has numerous active growth and reform strategies in place, they do not clearly answer this fundamental question. The Jordanian economy has experienced more than a decade of slow growth. Per capita income today is lower than it was prior to the Global Financial Crisis as Jordan has experienced a refugee-driven population increase. Jordan’s comparative advantages have narrowed over time as external shocks and responses to these shocks have changed the productive structure of Jordan’s economy. This was a problem well before the country faced the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jordanian economy has lost productivity, market access, and, critically, the ability to afford high levels of imports as a share of GDP. Significant efforts toward fiscal consolidation have further constrained aggregate demand, which has slowed non-tradable activity and the ability of the economy to create jobs. Labor market outcomes have worsened over time and are especially bad for women and youth. Looking ahead, this report identifies clear and significant opportunities for Jordan to strengthen new engines of export growth that would enable better overall job creation and resilience, even amidst the continued unpredictability of the pandemic. This report argues that there is need for a paradigm shift in Jordan’s growth strategy to focus more direct attention and resources on activating “agents of change” to accelerate the emergence of key growth opportunities, and that there are novel roles that donor countries can play in support of this.

Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in Kazakhstan

The aim of the project is to advance research towards proposing policies to boost economic growth and development in Kazakhstan, with particular emphasis on reducing socioeconomic inequalities.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. The Economic Complexity of Namibia: A Roadmap for Productive Diversification .Abstract
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.

Growth Co-Lab at LSE

Working to understand the dynamics of growth

Harvard’s Growth Lab and the LSE School of Public Policy have formed a new strategic collaboration to combine the expertise and reach of two of the world's leading academic research institutions.

Based in London at LSE, the first project of the Growth Co-Lab at LSE will be to contribute to the Growth Lab’s research agenda in South Africa. This is a two-...

Read more about Growth Co-Lab at LSE
2022 Mar 21

Knowledge Diffusion as a Cornerstone of Economic Recovery in the Post-COVID World

2:30pm to 4:00pm


Zoom (registration information below)

The Growth Lab has recently collaborated with the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics to launch the Growth Co-Lab at LSE. The strategic goal is to bring together the capacities, expertise, and reach of two top academic institutions to expand the activities of the Growth Lab globally.

In this public event marking the launch of the collaboration, a panel of high-level government officials and academic experts will discuss Knowledge Diffusion as a Cornerstone of Economic Recovery and Growth in the Post-COVID World.


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#DevTalks: A New Agenda for African Continental Integration

The Growth Lab's "Development Talks" is a series of conversations with policymakers and academics working in international development. The seminar provides a platform for practitioners and researchers to discuss both the practice of development and analytical work centered on policy.

In this conversation, Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank (2005-2015), discusses the current state of growth in Africa, the need for debt relief, the role of multilateral organizations, specific capabilities for global competitiveness, foreign...

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Analyzing Wyoming’s economic growth process and challenges using LEG tools

Guest blog by Marcio Paes-Barreto

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

When I got my first job in the field of economic development I started reading everything I could about it. I started...

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Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. A Growth Diagnostic of Namibia.Abstract

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.

#DevTalks: Confronting Post-COVID Macroeconomic Challenges in Namibia

The Growth Lab's "Development Talks" is a series of conversations with policymakers and academics working in international development. The seminar provides a platform for practitioners and researchers to discuss both the practice of development and analytical work centered on policy.

The end of the commodity super-cycle slowed growth in Namibia and the fiscal situation worsened with COVID-19. In this Development Talks Seminar, Ipumbu Shiimi, Namibia's Minister of Finance, discusses the growth challenges facing the country, including high poverty...

Read more about #DevTalks: Confronting Post-COVID Macroeconomic Challenges in Namibia