Policy Research

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. There is a Future after Cars: Economic Growth Analysis for Hermosillo.Abstract

For 30 years, Hermosillo has been wondering whether it has a future after Ford. Until the early 1980s, the city relied mainly on agricultural activity. When the multinational motor company arrived in this northwestern Mexican city in 1986, it changed the history of a region that up until that point had relied heavily on agriculture. The assembly plant was established and many auto parts suppliers sprang up, triggering industrialization and increasing the complexity of its economy, its productivity, and wages. Intensive manufacturing development turned Hermosillo into the fifth richest metropolitan area in Mexico in 1998.

Broadly speaking, this growth trajectory was maintained. In 2015, Hermosillo was in the top 5% of wealthiest municipalities, with poverty levels and informal employment rates significantly lower than in the rest of the country. But the economy of this city in Sonora State has clearly lost its dynamism over the past few years. Even in Mexico’s low-growth context during the period 2005-2015, growth in per capita gross domestic product in Hermosillo (1.3%) fell below the federal average (1.4%). Hermosillo’s relative performance during this decade was not uniform. Between 2005 and 2010, it grew at a rate of 1.3%, placing it in the 66th percentile (among the top 34% for growth rate) of all municipalities in Mexico. In the second half of the decade, Hermosillo barely reached 1.2% growth, falling to the 47th percentile (53% of Mexican municipalities grew more). The situation worsened in the years 2013-2015, when output per worker fell by 7.2%.

What happened in Hermosillo? Can the current economic structure sustain the municipality’s high wages and guarantee future growth? What policy interventions are needed?

Seeking answers to these questions, the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development joined forces with the Inter-American Development Bank or IDB, in particular with its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program (ESC). This program is a technical assistance initiative that provides support to regional governments to develop and execute urban sustainability projects. ESC’s goal is to contribute to priority urban interventions to provide the sustainable, harmonious growth of cities. This part of its vision is aligned with the idea of promoting inclusive growth and prosperity that guides the Growth Lab's research.

 

Besra, N., 2018. Agritourism in Albania: Trends, Constraints, and Recommendations, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

In Albania, the average specific expenditure by foreign tourists (non-residents) was 13.3% of GDP during 2013-2017, which clocked a 30% growth within the four-year duration. The number of foreign citizen arrivals in the first half of 2018 has seen an increase by 9.1%, as compared to the same period in 2017. "Holiday" is the second most popular purpose of their visit reported after "Others." Tourism being the largest industry since 1990, with Europe representing 42%3 of its total share, there remain huge economic dividends to reap for the emerging tourism industry in Albania. Moreover, this sector can generate non-farm employment in the agriculture sector. The challenge then is it to understand what is driving tourism growth in Albania, and what binds Albania’s tourism opportunities from growing faster.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as an enterprise that achieves a balance between the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development for long-term benefits to recipient communities. The Government of Albania, led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, has identified Agritourism as a particularly inclusive and sustainable tourism opportunity and prioritized its development as a rural economic diversification tool within the country’s new "100+ villages Programme." Consistent with this program, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment (MoTE) has started certifying Agritourism businesses, while Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) through the Albanian Rural Development Agency (ARDA) is in the process of funding Agritourism projects. It is essential to understand the emerging patterns within the sector to strategize appropriately supportive policies.

The Movements of citizens in Albania (INSTAT) report for June 2018 indicates a decrease by 13.3% in the number of foreign citizens’ arrivals as compared to June 2017. There is (month-by-month) erratic traffic of tourists and hence undefined tourism season for the country. The Government of Albania faces a dearth of tourism specific information, like in attractions visited most by tourists, or mapping of identified agritourism farms to make better policy judgements required for seasonal tourism preparedness.

Sánchez, R.R., Hinojosa, A.S. & Wright, S.S., 2018. Growth Diagnostic for the State of Oaxaca.Abstract

Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico. It is also growing more slowly than the national average, leading to regional divergence. This paper seeks to diagnose the binding constraints that keep GDP growth in Oaxaca low.

There is significant variation in average monthly incomes within Oaxaca, with a 12x gap between the municipality with the highest salary and that with the lowest. Oaxaca has 570 municipalities, whereas given its population and the national average for people per municipality it should have 66. And it is very indigenous: 58% of the population speaks an indigenous language, compared to a national average of 15%. Oaxaca’s product space, a measure of how many kinds of industries provide employment in the state, is very low and has seen very limited change since 2004. The state shares some similarities with other states in southern Mexico, such as Chiapas and Guerrero. All three share a limited manufacturing base which, even after signing NAFTA, remained flat as a proportion of state GDP. They also have a poverty rate nearly 3 times the national average. 

Oaxaca is a large state with a rugged natural landscape. Its population is highly dispersed, relative to other states in Mexico. This makes infrastructure critical. However, widespread road construction between 2004 and 2014 does not seem to have made a difference to either growth rates or economic complexity at the municipality level, suggesting the infrastructure constraint is not binding. We believe, however, that mobility might be. Transportation costs as a proportion of wages are very high, and are further increased by costly road blockages. This limits the flexibility of the labor force and the aggregation of talent.

Low human capital can reduce the social returns to investment. Even though education is contentious in the state’s politics, Oaxaca’s education gap has been falling over time relative to the national average and its neighbors. This relative increase in years of education, however, has not been translated into economic development. We find that returns to education in the state are very similar to the returns to education in the rest of Mexico and higher than returns to education in Chiapas. We also note that the proportion of schooling undertaken in private institutions is in line with that in other states with higher quality of education. Finally, a Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition suggests that education does not explain wage differentials between Oaxaca and other states. All this evidence suggests that education is not a binding constraint to growth in Oaxaca.

Governance challenges increase the risk of investing in Oaxaca. For instance, over 75% of the municipalities in Oaxaca are governed through Usos y Costumbres. Only 153 of the 570 municipalities use a government-run election to determine their leader, and out of those, four did not elect a municipal president in the June 2016 election due to internal conflicts. 146 municipalities lack a police service. While Usos y Costumbres is a key part of the local social contract, it creates problems, such as in contract enforceability. It also limits migration in and out of the state. We also observe a negative correlation between Usos y Costumbres and local wages that is not explained by factors like indigenous origin.

We also explore access to finance as a constraint to GDP growth. While enterprise surveys confirm that high interest rates, and distance to banks are a problem, Oaxaca’s microenterprises bypass these problems by borrowing from cajas de ahorro or local credit unions. However, most borrowing is destined for consumption rather than investment. We also observe that FDI flows into Oaxaca are very scarce. For these reasons, we believe the binding constraint in Oaxaca is not access to finance, but rather low returns to investment.

It is helpful to think whether there is an underlying syndrome that might explain the two binding constraints we identified: transportation costs and governance. One possible hypothesis is the isolation of people into very small communities that have very strong bonds within the community and very weak bonds outside of it. Oaxaca shows high variety in ethnic groups, languages, and government systems. On average, each municipality has 6,670 people, but there are 110 municipalities with less than 1,000 people. Elsewhere in Mexico, dispersed rural populations gradually converged into urban clusters around job opportunities. In Oaxaca, the process is not yet afoot because of a “productivity trap”, in which low productivity means urban salaries do not cover the costs of transportation or permanent moves, and dispersion keeps productivity low by failing to concentrate employees. Cultural diversity has a side effect of encouraging spatial dispersion and isolation, and of having hundreds of different sets of “rules of the game” covering the state’s population. Increasing the complexity of this economy requires breaking the trap by finding new business models (i.e., encouraging discovery) and coordinating economic activities.  

Economic complexity analysis can point us to new industries that are feasible given Oaxaca’s productive capabilities and the existing constraints we discussed. While Oaxaca’s municipalities have among the least complex economies in the country, some industries stand out from our complexity analysis as potentially promising for Oaxaca. The end of the report singles out some industries for further analysis.

O'Brien, T., 2018. Sri Lanka's North Central Province: A Growth Diagnostic.Abstract

In 2018, the Growth Lab team turned attention to diagnosing growth problems at the subnational level. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka requested that the team start with the North Central Province, which had been experiencing recurring droughts, which had in turn been affecting national rice production. This presentation summarizes what the team found and presented to a local university in the North Central Province in September 2018. People in the province had long been working to escape from the vulnerability and low income levels of rice farming and the diagnostic found important areas for national-local coordination to support pathways to a stronger, and more connected, local economy.

Hausmann, R., Pietrobelli, C. & Santos, M.A., 2018. Place-specific Determinants of Income Gaps: New Sub-National Evidence from Chiapas, Mexico.Abstract

The literature on income gaps between Chiapas and the rest of Mexico revolves around individual factors, such as education and ethnicity. Yet, twenty years after the Zapatista rebellion, the schooling gap between Chiapas and the other Mexican entities has shrunk while the income gap has widened, and we find no evidence indicating that Chiapas indigenes are worse-off than their likes elsewhere in Mexico. We explore a different hypothesis. Based on census data, we calculate the economic complexity index, a measure of the knowledge agglomeration embedded in the economic activities at a municipal level in Mexico. Economic complexity explains a larger fraction of the income gap than any individual factor. Our results suggest that chiapanecos are not the problem, the problem is Chiapas. These results hold when we extend our analysis to Mexico’s thirty-one federal entities, suggesting that place-specific determinants that have been overlooked in both the literature and policy, have a key role in the determination of income gaps.

 

Revised February 2020
Hausmann, R., Hinz, J. & Yildirim, M.A., 2018. Measuring Venezuelan Emigration with Twitter.Abstract
Venezuela has seen an unprecedented exodus of people in recent months. In response to a dramatic economic downturn in which inflation is soaring, oil production tanking, and a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding, many Venezuelans are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. However, the lack of official numbers on emigration from the Venezuelan government, and receiving countries largely refusing to acknowledge a refugee status for affected people, it has been difficult to quantify the magnitude of this crisis. In this note we document how we use data from the social media service Twitter to measure the emigration of people from Venezuela. Using a simple statistical model that allows us to correct for a sampling bias in the data, we estimate that up to 2,9 million Venezuelans have left the country in the past year.
Guven, D. & Miagkyi, M., 2016. Albania's Credit Market, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Credit market activity in Albania has been sluggish in recent years in spite of low and declining interest rates. The economy lost its growth momentum after 2009. Investment and lending activity slowed down substantially despite low interest rates, relative macroeconomic resilience, and available capacity in the private sector to take on more debt. This study analyzes the supply (lenders’) and demand (borrowers’) sides of the market.

The reason behind the credit market failure is a supply-demand mismatch. Poor financial intermediation is the main problem on the supply side. Despite excess liquidity in the financial sector, banks are excessively risk-averse, bank practices and products are unsophisticated, and non-bank financial market is underdeveloped. Excessive risk aversion translates into tight credit standards, credit rationing and credit crunch for some economic sectors, in particular those dominated by SMEs. On the demand side, firms overall have a low appetite to expand, limited capacity to create bankable and financially viable projects, and are also constrained by infrastructural gaps and economic uncertainty. The mismatch results from the fragmentation of the credit market, with reliable borrowers from traditional sectors having easy access to finance, and other segments being almost fully deprived of credit.

Government and donor-led policies to mitigate the problem have had little success. Albania enjoys access to a number of domestic and external funding schemes primarily focused on alleviating funding constraints for credit-deprived sectors, but these programs have been ineffective. Further study is needed to understand the reasons behind the limited success of these programs.

A National Development Bank (NDB) could address some of the observed credit market challenges. While an NDB’s ability to directly resolve demand-side constraints would be limited, an NDB could effectively tackle supply-side constraints in the credit market as well as provide surveillance and collect information from the private sector, leverage technical assistance, and develop tailored financial products. Establishing an NDB should be considered carefully, taking into account functional, governance, funding, staffing and other risk factors.

Nedelkoska, L. & Khaw, N., 2015. The Albanian Community in the United States: Statistical Profiling of the Albanian-Americans, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

When the Albanian Communist regime fell in 1991-92, many Albanians saw their future outside the borders of Albania. At that time in history, no one anticipated the scale of migration that would take place in the subsequent two decades. Today, one third of Albania’s 1991 population lives abroad. Most of these migrants live and work in neighboring Greece and Italy. The third most popular destination is however the United States. Besides this new wave of migrants, the US has an old Albanian diaspora–the offspring of migrants who came to the US between the First and the Second World War. This is what mainly gives rise to the second generation Albanian-Americans.

To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no systematic documentation of the socio-demographic and economic characteristics of the Albanian community in the US. To bridge this gap, we use data from the American Community Survey 2012 and analyze these characteristics. The profiling could be of interest for anyone who focuses on the Albanians abroad – the Government’s Programs dealing with diaspora and migration issues, researchers interested in migration questions, the Albanian Community Organizations in the US or the diaspora members themselves.

We find that the first and the second generation Albanian-Americans have distinctive features. The first generation (those who arrived after the fall of Communism) is more educated than the non-Albanian Americans with comparable demographics. This is particularly true of Albanian women. The education of the second generation resembles more closely the US population with comparable demographic characteristics.

Despite the qualification advantage, first generation Albanian-Americans earn much less than non-Albanian Americans with comparable socio-demographic characteristics. We find that this is not associated with being Albanian per se but with being an immigrant more generally. The migrant-native gap narrows down with time spent in the US.

An important channel through which the current gap is maintained is qualification mismatch. We observe that first generation Albanian-Americans are over-represented in occupations requiring little skills and under-represented in occupations requiring medium and high skills, in direct contrast to them being more educated than non-Albanians.

When it comes to the earnings of second generation Albanian-Americans, the situation is more nuanced. The low skilled Albanian-Americans earn significantly more, and the highly skilled Albanian-Americans earn significantly less than the non-Albanian Americans with comparable socio-demographic characteristics. We currently do not have a straightforward explanation for this pattern.

The Albanian population in the US is highly concentrated in a few states: New York, Michigan and Massachusetts account for almost 60% of all Albanian Americans. The community in Massachusetts is the best educated; best employed and has the highest earnings among the three, but is also the oldest one in terms of demographics.

However, due to its sheer size (over 60,000 Albanian-Americans), New York is the host of most Albanians with BA degree (about 10,000). New York also hosts the largest number of high earning Albanians (about 1,800 earn at least $100,000 a year).

Nedelkoska, L. & Kosmo, M., 2015. Albanian-American Diaspora Survey Report, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

This survey studies the ways in which active Albanian-Americans would like to engage in the development of their home countries. Its results will help us define the focus of the upcoming events organized under the Albanian Diaspora Program.

Between March 6th and March 22nd 2015, 1,468 Albanian-Americans took part in the online survey, of which 869 completed the survey. The results presented in this report are based on the answers of the latter group. The results of this survey do not represent the opinions of the general Albanian-American community, but rather the opinions of those who are more likely to engage in an Albanian Diaspora Program.

The survey was jointly prepared with the following Albanian-American organizations: Massachusetts Albanian American Society (MAAS/BESA), Albanian American Success Stories, Albanian Professionals in Washington D.C., Albanian Professionals and Entrepreneurs Network (APEN), Albanian-American Academy, Albanian American National Organization, and VATRA Washington D.C. Chapter. The survey was sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, as a part of the grant OR2013-10995 Economic Growth in Albania granted to the Center for International Development at Harvard University.

Paul, B.V., 2015. Assessing the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Albania, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Harvard University’s Center for International Development and the Government of Albania has been engaged in a two year growth strategy exercise starting in 2013 till 2015. Discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture yielded that there is a need for conducting value chain studies on a few important product groups with the following objective:

  • Cultivate ‘value chain’ oriented thinking within the Ministry of Agriculture
  • Identify key issues ‘within’ the particular product groups and ‘across’ different product groups that need to be tackled at the public policy level

Here is a value chain study of the Medicinal & Aromatic Plants (MAPs), specifically of sage and lavender. The products have been chosen given its huge importance in the economy as the largest export commodity in agriculture and their contributions to a farmer’s income. A special black-belt team comprising ministry officials will take forward the findings of this study and will iteratively make policy, ensuring better policies and implementation at the same time.

Kumar, R., 2015. Conditions for Re-Opening Exports of Albanian Mussels to to the EU, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

The Centre for International Development (CID) at Harvard University has been leading a two year project with the Government of Albania to help identify and implement growth strategies by studying the constraints that bind specific sectors. In May this year, the Ministry of Agriculture tasked CID to look at the ban imposed by the European Union (EU) on the export of mussels from Albania. The research was sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, as a part of the grant OR2013-10995 Economic Growth in Albania granted to CID.

During the research project, we studied the value chain of mussel production and certification in Albania, mapped the requirements laid down by EU legislation and identified shortfalls in compliance. This report presents our findings and recommendations.

The Butrint lagoon is the main production center for mussels in Albania. By 1989, production from the lagoon had increased to 5,000 tons per year. It dropped dramatically in the 1990s due to an outbreak of cholera and the subsequent ban on the export of mussels by the EU. The ban has not been lifted since. Albania still cannot export mussels to the EU because these do not meet the required sanitary standards.

Our research finds that lack of reliable and affordable purification facilities is at the root of the problem. Unless this constraint is alleviated, it will continue to frustrate efforts to ensure compliance with standards.

Ajzenman, N., 2014. Fresh Tomatoes: Ideas to Build a Productive Ecosystem in Albania, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

During the last years production of fresh vegetables in Albania had an important growth due to the increase in the number of Ha using Greenhouses technologies. Many of the new investments came from former expats who spent a few years working abroad and came back -in some cases because of the crisis in Greece - with money and some experience in the field. However, although exports showed an important growth (in tomatoes, for example exports doubled from 2013 to 2011!), the sector has not been able to definitely take off and be a relevant player in the international market. The problem is not only that the share of Albania in the European trade is almost negligible but also that diversification didn't happen, quality has not improved and as a consequence the prices that Albanian producers get is very low - the lowest in Europe for some products like tomatoes. In this context, Albania has been focusing on the regional markets (probably not consciously but as a consequence of not having established a commercial relation with higher-end markets and not having a proper quality produce to offer), has been excluded from the best markets and has not improved the productive methods, practices, etc. Given this situation the building of new capacity was not necessarily a success: local markets started to be oversupplied and production losses are very high as a consequence.

In this report we analyzed the value chain of the fresh vegetables sector, focusing on the production of tomatoes. We detail the problems of the whole value chain (from the production to the marketing), pointing out the "missing links" that are preventing Albania to become a major tomato exporter in the European market. We find that there is a huge potential for the country - in terms of the natural conditions and also in terms of competitiveness -, but it is very difficult to be reached without making a re-organization of the sector to make it more integrated and give the proper incentives to solve simultaneously all the problems.

We found that in order to improve the general productivity of the sector it is not necessary to make huge capital disbursements. Although some of the constraints are clearly money-related, most of them are organization-related.

What the propose in this report is a method to re-organize the sector in a way that makes it easier for the economic agents to vertically and horizontally integrate and transform the sector into a "factory", where every participant has its defined role and work is divided with specific roles. The role of the Government is twofold: first, to facilitate the organization of this model, find the actors that can lead the change and provide them the incentives to coordinate. Second, to provide all the public goods that are now missing or incomplete (not only in terms of infrastructure but also in terms of marketing, negotiations, etc). In the next sections we explain with detail the constraints and missing links we found throughout the value chain of tomatoes and propose a new model to solve them. We show that with little organizational changes, Albania could increase its tomato exports by four times in a few years.

Hausmann, R., 2016. Constraints to Sustained and Inclusive Growth in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
In late 2015, CID was requested to conduct an initial analysis of constraints to sustained and inclusive economic growth in Sri Lanka. The findings of this analysis were presented at the Sri Lanka Economic Forum in Colombo in January 2016. This presentation outlined the initial findings and offered a series of questions that were then discussed at length with policymakers and academics during the two-day forum. The initial analysis found that recent growth and the sustainability of growth moving forward are constrained by weakness in Sri Lanka’s balance of payments, where a trade imbalance combined with low levels of foreign direct investment effectively puts a speed limit on economic growth. While monetary and exchange rate policy could be used to soften this constraint, solving the underlying problem requires structural transformation, which has proven difficult in Sri Lanka. At the same time, the analysis identified the government’s inability to raise revenues as a major risk that threatens to be more binding moving forward. Finally, the analysis identified the primary dimensions of inequality in the country as between regions and between cities and rural areas.
2016. Sri Lanka’s Edible Oils Exports, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
By request of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development reviewed edible oils exports in September 2016 based on the latest available international trade data. The analysis identified the products and markets key to Sri Lanka’s edible oils sector and compared with competitor countries. Although edible oils are non-complex products that make up a small share of the country’s total exports (0.5% in 2014), they help to diversify Sri Lankan exports and may serve as stepping stones toward further diversification into other more complex exports in the future. Coconut oil, which made up 86% of Sri Lanka’s edible oils exports in 2014, is particularly promising, with exports growing by more than a factor of 10 in just five years and much room to grow based on global demand.
2016. Targeting Investment from Japan: Promising Leads in Targeted Sectors in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract
In October 2016, at the request of the Government of Sri Lanka and in advance of a investment promotion trip to Japan, this presentation was prepared to experiment with new forms of communication to Japanese industry groups. The Growth Lab at CID used export data, qualitative research on companies, and comparative work on free trade agreements to identify promising opportunities for Japanese investment in Sri Lanka in targeted sectors, which were emerging through work by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade with the support of CID.

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