Policy Research

Hausmann, R., et al., 2011. Building a Better Future for the Dominican Republic.Abstract
From 2010-2011, a team from the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development collaborated with the Dominican government to develop a strategy to create a highly-productive, internationally competitive economy. With a vision for 2030, this team of scholars, practitioners, and government agencies hopes to revitalize the Dominican economy, promoting inclusive growth and sustainable human development.

The faculty team advised on a growth strategy based on diversification and development of the tradable sector. The five-tiered approach focuses on education, exports, fiscal reform, financial architecture, and development along the Haitian border, culminating in overall economic growth, job creation, demographic transitions, and restructured formal sectors.

Also included in the overall plan are investment promotion, infrastructure development, active scouting of new and innovative goods and services, maximization of the country's tourist potential, improved governance, and a revised tax regime. Specific financial recommendations include encouraging and reorganizing pension fund investment and changing the average savings rate as a benchmark for higher return on those funds.
Export Diversification in Algeria
Hausmann, R., Klinger, B. & López-Cálix, J.R., 2010. Export Diversification in Algeria. In Trade Competitiveness of the Middle East and North Africa. Washington, DC. Washington, DC: The World Bank, pp. 63-101.Abstract

This chapter applies new methodologies to examine the history of and future opportunities for export diversification in Algeria. The first section examines Algeria’s productive structure, which is highly concentrated in the hydrocarbons sector. It shows that this pattern of specialization is inconsistent with the country’s endowment of hydrocarbon resources. The lack of export diversification is suggestive of an inefficient distortion, reversal of which should be a clear policy priority.

The second section reviews some of the traditional explanations for a lack of export diversification in an oil-exporting country and shows that these explanations do not seem to hold for Algeria. It offers an alternative explanation, based not on macroeconomic volatility or real exchange rate appreciation but on the specificity of productive capabilities in the oil sector and their substitutability to other activities. This explanation underlies the notion of a “product space,” in which structural transformation occurs.

The third section introduces a new methodology to export diversification in Algeria, which is shown to be specialized in a highly peripheral part of the product space. Even activities that compose the non-oil export basket are highly peripheral in the product space, which helps explain the severe lack of export diversification.

The fourth section applies product space data to Algeria’s industrial strategy, using the methodology to identify high-potential export sectors. This data-driven approach has the benefit of systematically scanning the entire set of potential export goods using an empirically validated methodology. It complements other more qualitative and contextual approaches. This section uses the same methodology to review the sectors already identified by the Algerian government in the new industrial policy.

The last section discusses the policy implications of this analysis. A wide variety of methodologies can be used to generate lists of high potential export sectors; more difficult is determining what to do with such lists. The section offers a few specific policy recommendations and discusses some best practices. But the fact that most required public goods and constraints to investment are sector specific means that recommendations cannot be made at the macro level.

Hausmann, R. & Chauvin, J., 2015. Moving to the Adjacent Possible: Discovering Paths for Export Diversification in Rwanda.Abstract

How can Rwanda, which currently has one of the lowest levels of income and exports per capita in the world, grow and diversify its economy in presence of significant constraints? We analyze Rwanda's historical growth and trade performance and find that Rwanda's high transportation costs and limited productive knowledge have held back greater export development and have resulted in excessive rural density. Three basic commodities – coffee, tea, and tin – made up more than 80 percent of the country's exports through its history and still drive the bulk of export growth today. Given Rwanda’s high population density and associated land scarcity, these traditional exports cannot create enough jobs for its growing population, or sustainably drive future growth. Rwanda needs new, scalable activities in urban areas. In this report, we identify a strategy for greater diversification of exports in Rwanda that circumvents the key constraints and is separately tailored for regional and global export destinations. Our results identify more than 100 tradable products that lie at Rwanda's knowledge frontier, are not intensive in Rwanda's scarce resources, and economize on transportation costs. Our analysis produces a vision of a more diversified Rwanda, which can be used as a guide for investment promotion decisions. We illustrate an approach that can be applied to other settings in order to identify opportunities for export diversification that take seriously local constraints and external market opportunities.

Reinhart, C. & Santos, M.A., 2015. From Financial Repression to External Distress: The Case of Venezuela.Abstract

Recent work has supported that there is a connection between domestic debt level and sovereign default on external debt. We examine the potential linkages in a case study of Venezuela from 1984 to 2013. This unique example encompasses multiple financial crises, cycles of liberalization and policy reversals, and alternative exchange rate arrangements. The Venezuelan experience reveals a nexus among domestic debt, financial repression, and external vulnerability. Unlike foreign currency-denominated debt, debt in domestic currency may be reduced through financial repression, a tax on bondholders and savers producing negative real interest rates. Using a variety of methodologies we estimate the magnitude of the tax from financial repression. On average, this financial repression tax (as a share of GDP) is similar to those of OECD economies, in spite of much higher domestic debt-to-GDP ratios in the latter. The financial repression "tax rate" is significantly higher in years of exchange controls and legislated interest rate ceilings. In line with earlier literature on capital controls, our comprehensive measures of capital flight 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 the Venezuelan case.

Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Growth Diagnostics in Peru.Abstract

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.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2014. How should Uganda grow?.Abstract

Income per capita in Uganda has doubled in the last 20 years. This remarkable performance has been buoyed by significant aid flows and large external imbalances. Economic growth has been concentrated in non-tradable activities leading to growing external imbalances and a growing gap between rural and urban incomes. Future growth will depend on achieving sufficient export dynamism. In addition, growth faces a number of other challenges: low urbanization rate, rapid rural population growth and high dependency ratios. However, both the dependency ratio and fertility rates have begun to decline recently. Rural areas are also severely overcrowded with low-productivity subsistence agriculture as a pervasive form of production. Commercial agriculture has great possibilities to increase output, but as the sector improves its access to capital, inputs and technology it will shed jobs rather than create them.

These challenges combined tell us that future growth in Uganda will require a rapid rate of export growth and economic diversification. The country faces the prospect of an oil boom of uncertain size and timing. It could represent an important stepping stone to achieve external sustainability, expanded income and infrastructure and a greater internal market. However, as with all oil booms, the challenges include avoiding the Dutch disease, managing the inevitable volatility in oil incomes and avoiding inefficient specialization in oil. Policies that set targets for the non-oil deficit could help manage some of these effects, but a conscious strategy to diversify would still be needed.

The best strategy is therefore to use the additional oil revenue and accompanying investments to promote a diversification strategy that is sustainable. To determine how to encourage such a transformation, we draw on a new line of research that demonstrates how development seldom implies producing more of the same. Instead, as countries grow, they tend to move into new industries, while they also increase productivity in existing sectors. In this report, we analyze what those new industries might be for Uganda.

To do so, we first look to those products which balance the desire to increase the diversification and complexity of production, while not over-stretching existing capabilities. These include mostly agricultural inputs, such as agrochemicals and food processing. In addition, Uganda should concurrently develop more complex industries, such as construction materials, that are reasonably within reach of current capabilities and will be in great demand in the context of an oil boom. Here, the fact that Uganda is landlocked and faces high import costs will provide natural protection to the expanding demand in Uganda and neighboring countries. We conclude with a discussion of the government policies that will support Uganda in developing new tradable industries.

Torres, R.C., 2012. Capital and Labor Mobility and the Size of Sub-national Governments: Evidence from a Panel of Mexican States.Abstract

We examine in this paper the relation between government size and capital and labor openness employing a panel of the 32 Mexican states over the period 1996-2006. Making use of two alternative measures of capital and labor openness and employing several alternative econometric specifications, we first find systematic positive effects of our openness measures on the size of the states’ total government spending. Thereafter, we break down total government expenditure and focus on three subcategories of spending associated with social welfare: education, health and poverty alleviation programs. We find that FDI flows, our proxy for capital openness, are not significant determinants of the state’s social spending, but labor openness, in the form of international migration, has a significant and even greater impact on some of the aforementioned categories than on total spending.

Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Achieving Export-Led Growth in Colombia. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The purpose of this paper is to analyze Colombia’s experiences with and opportunities for export led growth. We first review Colombia’s growth and export performance over the past 30 years and find that the country is indeed facing an export challenge. We then go on to develop new metrics and apply them to Colombia’s export challenge. First, we consider the opportunities for upgrading quality within existing exports, and find that Colombia has very little opportunity for growth in this dimension. Second, we consider the level of sophistication of the current export basket, and find that it is low and commensurate with the lack of export dynamism. Although not a significant drag on growth, the current export basket will not be sufficient to fuel future output growth. Finally, we develop the concept distances between products, open forest, and the option value of exports to examine the possibility that Colombia’s current structure of production is itself a barrier to future structural transformation. While improvements in the export package have been slow in the past, this evidence suggests that Colombia does now enjoy more options for future structural transformation. As there are attractive options for structural transformation nearby, a parsimonious approach to industrial strategy, rather than a risky strategic bet to move to a new part of the product space, seems appropriate. In order to inform such a strategy, we use the metrics developed in the diagnostic to evaluate new export activities in terms of their proximity to current activities, their sophistication, and their strategic value. We identify the sectors representing the best tradeoffs between these aims for Colombia as a whole, as well as its regions. We also devote separate attention to the topic of Agricultural exports, and to exports of services. Finally, we use these metrics to analyze the list of ‘high-potential’ sectors in the United States, developed by another firm, as well as the sectors prioritized in Colombia’s Agenda Interna. These external lists of high-potential sectors are found to be sensible, but could be further rationalized using these metrics. This identification of nearby, high-potential, and strategically valuable sectors is not meant to be a definitive list for targeted subsidies and ‘picking winners’. Rather, it provides a robust data-driven approach to inform the next steps in achieving export-led growth in Colombia: which private sector actors should be consulted first? What sector-specific reforms should be stressed? How should public spending on infrastructure and training, which are also sector-specific, be prioritized? What foreign firms should be targeted by FDI promotion agencies? These decisions can be informed by our analysis and the accompanying data.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2006. South Africa's Export Predicament. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.