Policy Research

Gadgin Matha, S., Goldstein, P. & Lu, J., 2020. Air Transportation and Regional Economic Development: A Case Study for the New Airport in South Albania.Abstract

Considering the case of the proposed airport in Vlora, South Albania, this report analyzes the channels through which a new greenfield airport can contribute to regional economic development. In December 2019, the Government of Albania opened a call for offers to build a new airport in the south of the country. While there is evidence indicating that the airport could be commercially viable, this does not provide a grounded perspective on the channels by which the airport could boost the regional economy. To evaluate how the new airport would interact with existing and potential economic activities, this report evaluates three of the most important channels of impact by which the airport could serve as a promoter: (1) economic activities directly related to or promoted by airports, (2) the airport’s potential contribution to the region’s booming tourism sector and (3) the potential for the country’s development of air freight as a tool for export promotion. In each of these three cases, the report identifies complementary public goods or policies that could maximize the airport’s impact in the region.

The operation of the airport itself could stimulate a series of economic activities directly related to air traffic services. Airports have the ability to mold the economic structure of the places immediately around them, acting both as a consumer and as a supplier of air transport services. Not only activities related to transportation and logistics thrive around airports, but also a variety of manufacturing, trade and construction industries. Nevertheless, the agglomeration benefits of a successful aerotropolis are not guaranteed by the construction of an airport. For South Albania’s new airport to actualize its potential returns, integrated planning of the airport site will be required, with focus on real estate planification and provision of complementary infrastructure.

Establishing an airport in Vlora has the potential to spur regional development in South Albania through facilitating the growth of the tourism sector and its related activities. Albania’s tourism industry has seen strong growth in the last two decades, but still lags behind its potential. Albania only has a strong penetration in the tourism market of its neighboring markets, and the high seasonality of the tourism season further limits the sector’s growth. The establishment of an airport in South Albania would ease some of the tourism industry constraints tied to transportation into the country and region. Given the high reliance of the tourism industry on its many complementary inputs, more than one area of concern may have to be addressed for the impact of the new airport to be maximized. Facilitating transportation access around the South Albania region and specifically to tourist sites; preparing natural and cultural heritage sites for tourism use and expanding tourism infrastructure to accommodate potential growth are some of the interventions analyzed.

Airfreight infrastructure could in theory provide opportunities to improve the competitiveness of Albanian exports but developing a successful air cargo cluster is no simple task. An airport can facilitate an alternative mode of transport for specific types of goods and hence promote a country’s exports. In Albania’s case, not only existing textile and agriculture products could be competitively exported through air freight, but also air freight itself could improve Albania’s position to diversify into “nearby” industries, identified by the theory of Economic Complexity. Nevertheless, an effective air freight strategy does not and cannot uniquely depend on the simple availability of a nearby airport. Air cargo operations require both traffic volume that Albania may not be able to provide, as well as complementary cargo-specific infrastructure. Although the potential for air freight in South Albania could be high, it is by no means a safe bet nor does it imply with certainty significant impact in the immediate future.

Female Labor in Jordan

Women in Jordan are excluded from labor market opportunities at among the highest rates in the world. Previous efforts to explain this outcome have focused on specific, isolated aspects of the problem and have not exploited available datasets to test across causal explanations. In this podcast, Emma Cameron, student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, interviews Growth Lab Research Fellow Semiray Kasoolu. Semiray discusses Growth Lab...

Read more about Female Labor in Jordan
Hausmann, R. & Bustos, S., 2012. Structural Transformation in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia: A Comparison with China, South Korea, and Thailand. In African Development Bank, pp. 15-68. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Countries seldom grow rich by producing more of the same. Development implies changes in what countries produce. Structural transformation is the process by which countries move into new economic activities. In turn, new economic activities are the ones that are able to achieve higher levels of productivity, pay higher wages and increase the level of prosperity of a country’s population. Structural transformation is crucial for economic growth: countries that are able to upgrade their production and exports by moving into new and more complex economic activities tend to grow faster.

Hausmann, R., Nedelkoska, L. & Noor, S., 2020. You Get What You Pay for: Sources and Consequences of the Public Sector Premium in Albania and Sri Lanka.Abstract

We study the factors behind the public sector premium in Albania and Sri Lanka, the group heterogeneity in the premium, the sources of public sector wage compression, and the impact of this compression on the way individuals self-select between the public and the private sector. Similar to other countries, the public sectors in Albania and Sri Lanka pay higher wages than the private sector, for all but the most valued employees. While half of the premium of Sri Lanka and two-thirds of it in Albania are explained by differences in the occupation-education-experience mix between the sectors, and the level of private sector informality, the unexplained part of the premium is significant enough to affect the preferences of working in the public sector for different groups. We show that the compressed distributions of public sector wages and benefits create incentives for positive sorting into the public sector among most employees, and negative sorting among the most productive ones.

Listen to a podcast with author Ljubica Nedelkoska as she discusses the factors behind public sector wage premiums. 

Hausmann, R., et al., 2019. A Roadmap for Investment Promotion and Export Diversification: The Case of Jordan.Abstract

Jordan faces a number of pressing economic challenges: low growth, high unemployment, rising debt levels, and continued vulnerability to regional shocks. After a decade of fast economic growth, the economy decelerated with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. From then onwards, various external shocks have thrown its economy out of balance and prolonged the slowdown for over a decade now. Conflicts in neighboring countries have led to reduced demand from key export markets and cut off important trade routes. Foreign direct investment, which averaged 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003-2009, fell to 5.1% of GDP over the 2010-2017. Regional conflicts have interrupted the supply of gas from Egypt – forcing Jordan to import oil at a time of record prices, had a negative impact on tourism, and also provoked a massive influx of migrants and refugees. Failure to cope with 50.4% population growth between led to nine consecutive years (2008-2017) of negative growth rates in GDP per capita, resulting in a cumulative loss of 14.0% over the past decade (2009-2018). Debt to GDP ratios, which were at 55% by the end of 2009, have skyrocketed to 94%.

Over the previous five years Jordan has undertaken a significant process of fiscal consolidation. The resulting reduction in fiscal impulse is among the largest registered in the aftermath of the Financial Crises, third only to Greece and Jamaica, and above Portugal and Spain. Higher taxes, lower subsidies, and sharp reductions in public investment have in turn furthered the recession. Within a context of lower aggregate demand, more consolidation is needed to bring debt-to-GDP ratios back to normal. The only way to break that vicious cycle and restart inclusive growth is by leveraging on foreign markets, developing new exports and attracting investments aimed at increasing competitiveness and strengthening the external sector. The theory of economic complexity provides a solid base to identify opportunities with high potential for export diversification. It allows to identify the existing set of knowhow, skills and capacities as signaled by the products and services that Jordan is able to make, and to define existing and latent areas of comparative advantage that can be developed by redeploying them. Service sectors have been growing in importance within the Jordanian economy and will surely play an important role in export diversification. In order to account for that, we have developed an adjusted framework that allows to identify the most attractive export sectors including services.

Based on that adjusted framework, this report identifies export themes with a high potential to drive growth in Jordan while supporting increasing wage levels and delivering positive spillovers to the non-tradable economy. The general goal is to provide a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to a high economic growth path that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.

Revised March 2020
Bahar, D., et al., 2019. Migration and Post-conflict Reconstruction: The Effect of Returning Refugees on Export Performance in the Former Yugoslavia.Abstract
During the early 1990s Germany offered temporary protection to over 700,000 Yugoslavian refugees fleeing war. By 2000, many had been repatriated. We exploit this natural experiment to investigate the role of migrants in post-conflict reconstruction in the former Yugoslavia, using exports as outcome. Using confidential social security data to capture intensity of refugee workers to German industries–and exogenous allocation rules for asylum seekers within Germany as instrument—we find an elasticity of exports to return migration between 0.08 to 0.24. Our results are stronger in knowledge-intensive industries and for workers in occupations intensive in analytical and managerial skills.
Kasoolu, S., et al., 2019. Female Labor in Jordan: A Systematic Approach to the Exclusion Puzzle.Abstract

Women in Jordan are excluded from labor market opportunities at among the highest rates in the world. Previous efforts to explain this outcome have focused on specific, isolated aspects of the problem and have not exploited available datasets to test across causal explanations. We develop a comprehensive framework to analyze the drivers of low female employment rates in Jordan and systematically test their validity, using micro-level data from Employment and Unemployment Surveys (2008-2018) and the Jordanian Labor Market Panel Survey (2010-2016). We find that the nature of low female inclusion in Jordan’s labor market varies significantly with educational attainment, and identify evidence for different factors affecting different educational groups. Among women with high school education or less, we observe extremely low participation levels and find the strongest evidence for this phenomenon tracing to traditional social norms and poor public transportation. On the higher end of the education spectrum – university graduates and above – we find that the problem is not one of participation, but rather of unemployment, which we attribute to a small and undiversified private sector that is unable to accommodate women’s needs for work and work-family balance.

Listen to a podcast interview with author Semiray Kasoolu about her research on women and labor force exclusion in Jordan

Pan, C.I., 2019. Tax Avoidance in Buenos Aires: The Case of Ingresos Brutos.Abstract
This study presents evidence of tax avoidance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I exploit a break in the tax scheme of the most controversial tax, Ingresos Brutos (gross income), between the city and the greater area, which are otherwise identical law and regulation-wise for the studied population. When possible, workers would rather travel longer distances to their jobs than face the tax burden. Given that this type of avoidance is costly, results suggest that Ingresos Brutos might be acting as a binding constraint to growth for businesses.
"City Design, Planning & Policy Innovations" book cover
Barrios, D. & Santos, M.A., 2019. Is There Life After Ford?. In City Design, Planning & Policy Innovations: The Case of Hermosillo. Inter-American Development Bank, pp. 131-53. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This publication summarizes the outcomes and lessons learned from the Fall 2017 course titled “Emergent Urbanism: Planning and Design Visions for the City of Hermosillo, Mexico” (ADV-9146). Taught by professors Diane Davis and Felipe Vera, this course asked a group of 12 students to design a set of projects that could lay the groundwork for a sustainable future for the city of Hermosillo—an emerging city located in northwest Mexico and the capital of the state of Sonora. Part of a larger initiative funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and the North-American Development Bank in collaboration with Harvard University, ideas developed for this class were the product of collaboration between faculty and students at the Graduate School of Design, the Kennedy School’s Center for International Development and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Written by Miguel Angel Santos and Douglas Barrios—two Growth Lab research fellows—the fourth chapter titled “Is There Life After Ford?” focuses on Hermosillo’s economic competitiveness and, specifically, the reasons behind the city’s economic stagnation. It sees the city’s overreliance on the automobile industry as a primary concern. Based on two methodologies developed at the Growth Lab—the Growth Diagnostic and the Economic Complexity Analysis—this piece proposes alternative pathways for Hermosillo’s future economic growth.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2019. Jordan: The Elements of a Growth Strategy.Abstract

In the decade 1999-2009, Jordan experienced an impressive growth acceleration, tripling its exports and increasing income per capita by 38%. Since then, a number of external shocks that include the Global Financial Crisis (2008-2009), the Arab Spring (2011), the Syrian Civil War (2011), and the emergence of the Islamic State (2014) have affected Jordan in significant ways and thrown its economy out of balance. Jordan’s debt-to-GDP ratio has ballooned from 55% (2009) to 94% (2018). The economy has continued to grow amidst massive fiscal adjustment and balance of payments constraints, but the large increase in population – by 50% between 2008 and 2017 – driven by massive waves of refugees has resulted in a 12% cumulative loss in income per capita (2010-2017). Moving forward, debt sustainability will require not only continued fiscal consolidation but also faster growth and international support to keep interest payments on the debt contained. We have developed an innovative framework to align Jordan’s growth strategy with its changing factor endowments. The framework incorporates service industries into an Economic Complexity analysis, utilizing the Dun and Bradstreet database, together with an evaluation of the evolution of Jordan’s comparative advantages over time. Combining several tools to identify critical constraints faced by sectors with the greatest potential, we have produced a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to faster, more sustainable and more inclusive growth that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.

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. Tabasco: Reporte de Complejidad Ecónomica.Abstract

Este estudio busca identificar las capacidades productivas de Tabasco a partir de un análisis de la composición de sus exportaciones y su empleo basándose en la perspectiva de la complejidad económica. Asimismo, busca identificar productos potenciales que requieran una base de conocimientos productivos similar a la que ya tiene Tabasco y que le permita mejorar su complejidad económica actual y prospectiva.

Para tales efectos, primero se explora la evolución en el tiempo del valor de las exportaciones de Tabasco y la composición de las mismas, así como de los principales productos de exportación. En sentido, se tiene que las exportaciones de Tabasco están determinadas por el sector petrolero. Los envíos de petróleo representan alrededor del 97% de las exportaciones estatales y explican más del 90% del aumento de las exportaciones de la última década.

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Diagnóstico Industrial.Abstract

En este estudio se consideraron los productos priorizados en el Reporte de Complejidad Económica de Tabasco y se procedió a evaluar su potencial a partir de un conjunto de consideraciones de mercado. Luego, se agregó el potencial de cada producto en distintas colecciones de producto, y se seleccionó una industria cuya estimulación y desarrollo constituya una apuesta de desarrollo prometedora el estado. Respecto de éste se detallaron algunas estadísticas generales como una forma de evaluar su potencial de crecimiento e impacto para la economía local, estatal y nacional.

Para el objeto de este estudio, el sector industrial escogido para el análisis de cuellos de botella fue el de “Químicos” y, más puntualmente, los productos: “Agentes de limpieza orgánicos (ex. Jabón)”, “Aprestos y aceleradores de tintura”, “Mezclas de sustancias odoríferas”, “Placas fotográficas” y “Tinta”. El desarrollo de esta colección de productos representa una importante oportunidad, la que, a la fecha, los productores mexicanos no han podido aprovechar del todo. Sin embargo, estos productos han presentado un gran dinamismo dentro de México en los años recientes. Entre 2004 y 2014, las exportaciones de México en estos productos se han duplicado, el empleo en los sectores asociados a estos productos ha aumentado un 20%, y el salario promedio en estos sectores ha aumentado entre 40% y 50%.