Policy Research

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.
2017. Immigration Policy Research, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Immigration and Economic Transformation: A Concept Note

Ljubica Nedelkoska, Tim O’Brien, Ermal Frasheri, Daniel Stock

In May 2017, CID prepared a concept note that described the connection between immigration and knowhow transfer internationally and profiled the current state of low immigration levels and immigration policy issues in Sri Lanka. The note identifies immigration policy reform as an important area of opportunity for unleashing higher levels of entrepreneurship and the introduction of new knowhow for economic diversification in Sri Lanka, but stops short of providing specific recommendations. Instead, the note lays out broad ideas for making immigration policy more flexible and encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to activate a cross-government policy team that is capable of developing reforms that meet Sri Lanka’s particular needs. 

A Comparative View on of Immigration Frameworks in Asia: Enhancing the Flow of Knowledge through Migration

Ermal Frasheri, Ljubica Nedelkoska, Sehar Noor, Tim O’Brien

Later in 2017, at the request of a policy team of the Government of Sri Lanka, CID conducted research to compare immigration policy frameworks in other countries in Asia to understand promising policy options for Sri Lanka. Our resulting research note focuses on Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. We find that the immigration policies of the six countries vary across numerous dimensions as each country prioritizes attracting the talents, skills and resources it needs from abroad in different ways. These variations provide a range of examples that may be relevant to decision-makers in Sri Lanka. Additionally, we find an emerging pattern among the six countries where more developed economies tend to have more elaborate immigration systems and target a more diverse set of people. By looking at available data, we also confirm that more elaborate immigration systems are closely associated with more actual immigration, higher presence of foreign firms, and higher levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) among this group of countries. Based on the comparative analysis, together with the issues identified by the Department of Immigration and Emigration’s Gap Analysis, it is possible to identify a number of principles around which future immigration reform in Sri Lanka should be organized. 

Malalgoda, C., Samaraweera, P. & Stock, D., 2018. Targeting Sectors For Investment and Export Promotion in Sri Lanka, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

In August 2016, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Building State Capability program of CID convened five teams of civil servants, tasking them with solving issues related to investment and export promotion. One of these teams, the “Targeting Team,” took on the task of formulating and executing a plan to identify promising new economic activities for investment and export promotion in Sri Lanka. With the assistance of CID’s Growth Lab, the Targeting Team assembled and analyzed over 100 variables from 22 datasets, studying all tradable activities and 29 representative subsectors. Their analysis highlighted the potential of investment related to electronics, electrical equipment and machinery (including automotive products), as well as tourism. Ultimately, the team’s recommendations were incorporated in GoSL strategies for investment promotion, export development, and economic diplomacy; extensions of the research were also used to help plan new export processing zones and target potential anchor investors.

This report summarizes the methodology and findings of the Targeting Team, including scorecards for each of the sectors studied.

targeting_report_figure15

Noor, S., O'Brien, T. & Stock, D., 2018. Can Industrial Zones Address the Binding Constraints to Sri Lanka’s Growth?, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

This note collects evidence related to possible constraints to economic growth, and their relation with GoSL’s industrial zone development agenda. We find that new zones are especially well-suited to help address Sri Lanka’s lack of industrial land and high policy uncertainty, both of which may be holding back growth. Less clear, however, are zones’ impact on Sri Lanka’s limited transport links beyond the Western Province. Finally, partnering with well-connected zone management companies may also help create opportunities to connect with firms in new, non-traditional sectors.

2018. Sri Lanka Growth Diagnostic, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Throughout 2016, CID conducted a growth diagnostic analysis for Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka, led by the Prime Minister’s Policy Development Office (PDO), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). This presentation report aggregates collaborative quantitative and qualitative analysis undertaken by the research team. This analysis was originally provided to the Government of Sri Lanka in April 2017 in order to make available a record of the detailed technical work and CID’s interpretations of the evidence. A written executive summary is provided here as a complement to the detailed presentation report. Both the report and the executive summary are structured as follows. First, the analysis identifies Sri Lanka’s growth problem. It then presents evidence from diagnostic tests to identify what constraints are most responsible for this problem. Finally, it provides a summary of what constraints CID interprets as most binding and suggests a “growth syndrome” that underlies the set of binding constraints. 

In brief, this growth diagnostic analysis shows that economic growth in Sri Lanka is constrained by the weak growth of exports, particularly from new sectors. Compared to other countries in the region, Sri Lanka has seen virtually no diversification of exports over the last 25 years, especially in manufactured goods linked through FDI-driven, global value chains. We found several key causes behind this lack of diversified exports and FDI: Sri Lanka’s ineffective land-use governance, underdeveloped industrial and transportation infrastructure, and a very high level of policy uncertainty, particularly in tax and trade policy. We believe that these issues trace back to an underlying problem of severe fragmentation in governance, with a critical lack of coordination between ministries and agencies with overlapping responsibilities and decision-making authority.

Sri Lanka's Growth Conundrum

Sri Lanka Product Space ClustersSri Lanka Growth Diagnostic Summary of Findings

Sri Lanka Growth Syndrome

Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment
Hausmann, R. & Nedelkoska, L., 2018. Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment. European Economic Review , 101 (January 2018) , pp. 101-132. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The recent economic depression in Greece hit the population of Albanian migrants in Greece particularly hard, spurring a wave of return migration that increased the Albanian labor force by 5% in less than four years, between 2011 and 2014. We study how this return migration affected the employment chances and earnings of Albanians who never migrated. We find positive effects on the wages of low-skilled non-migrants and overall positive effects on employment. The gains partially offset the sharp drop in remittances in the observed period. An important part of the employment gains are concentrated in the agricultural sector, where most return migrants engage in self-employment and entrepreneurship. Businesses run by return migrants seem to pull Albanians from non-participation, unemployment and subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture.
Klissurski, G. & Zuccolo, B., 2017. Diversification in the Industrial Sector of Albania: Identifying Strategic Areas, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

In this study, we analyzed Albania’s industrial exports using the frameworks of the Product Space and Economic Complexity in order to determine which products Albania could diversify into in the near future. In particular, we identified groups of products that are technologically close to those which Albania already exports and which at the same time are technologically more sophisticated (more complex) than Albania’s average exports. This analysis does not suggest that products that do not fulfill the criteria of technological proximity and product complexity should not be invested in. However, it suggests that some products may have higher chances of succeeding in Albania because of its existing technological capabilities, while also bringing about diversification towards more complex, higher value-added production.

We find that the top two sectors that satisfy the criteria of being in close proximity to the existing technological capabilities in Albania, while also having relatively highly complex products, are Plastics/Rubbers and Agriculture/Foodstuffs. Within each of these sectors, we list more specific products that make for good candidates for diversification.

What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States
Chauvin, J.P., et al., 2017. What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States. Journal of Urban Economics , 98 (March 2017) , pp. 17-49. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Are the well-known facts about urbanization in the United States also true for the developing world? We compare American metropolitan areas with analogous geographic units in Brazil, China and India. Both Gibrat’s Law and Zipf’s Law seem to hold as well in Brazil as in the U.S., but China and India look quite different. In Brazil and China, the implications of the spatial equilibrium hypothesis, the central organizing idea of urban economics, are not rejected. The India data, however, repeatedly rejects tests inspired by the spatial equilibrium assumption. One hypothesis is that spatial equilibrium only emerges with economic development, as markets replace social relationships and as human capital spreads more widely. In all four countries there is strong evidence of agglomeration economies and human capital externalities. The correlation between density and earnings is stronger in both China and India than in the U.S., strongest in China. In India the gap between urban and rural wages is huge, but the correlation between city size and earnings is more modest. The cross-sectional relationship between area-level skills and both earnings and area-level growth are also stronger in the developing world than in the U.S. The forces that drive urban success seem similar in the rich and poor world, even if limited migration and difficult housing markets make it harder for a spatial equilibrium to develop.
Venezuela: Public Debate and the Management of Oil Resources and Revenues
Villasmil, R., 2018. Venezuela: Public Debate and the Management of Oil Resources and Revenues. In Public Brainpower. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 347-367. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Although Venezuela’s experience since the 1980s would seem to make it a classic example of the resource curse, that perspective fails to explain the country’s impressive economic, social and institutional performance—including healthy public debate—during the first five decades after oil was first produced on a large scale. This chapter takes a long view of the Venezuelan experience and argues that this initial performance was lengthy and positive but fragile, given the incapacity of the country’s institutions to adapt to the different environment that developed afterwards, characterized by high oil price volatility and significant and sudden declines in oil revenues. The prolonged initial period of equilibrium became a curse of sorts. Lacking adaptive efficiency, political institutions were forced to rely increasingly on maintaining an illusion of harmony, and as faltering performance became evident, Venezuelans began questioning the model and its hegemonic arrangements. The scope and magnitude of the economic, social and institutional devastation that followed were such that public debate became one the first casualties. One of the main problems in contemporary Venezuela is the polarization of politics. This makes it difficult for the country’s population to arrive at reasonable solutions through public discussion.
Halff, A., et al., 2017. Apocalypse Now: Venezuela, Oil and Reconstruction, Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Venezuela is at a breaking point. The political, economic, financial, social and humanitarian crisis that has gripped the country is intensifying. This unsustainable situation raises several urgent questions: Which path will the embattled OPEC country take out of the current turmoil? What type of political transition lies ahead? What short-term and long-term impact will the crisis have on its ailing oil industry, economy and bond debt? What would be the best and most effective prescription for oil and economic recovery under a new governance regime? To discuss these matters, the Center on Global Energy Policy brought together on June 19, 2017 a group of about 45 experts, including oil industry executives, investment bankers, economists and political scientists from leading think tanks and universities, consultants, and multilateral organization representatives. This note provides some of the highlights from that roundtable discussion, which was held under the Chatham House rule.

Bahar, D., Molina, C.A. & Santos, M.A., 2017. Fool’s Gold: On the Impact of Venezuelan Devaluations in Multinational Stock Prices.Abstract

This paper documents negative cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) to five exchange rate devaluations in Venezuela within the context of stiff exchange controls and large black-market premiums, using daily stock prices for 110 multinationals with Venezuelan subsidiaries. The results suggest evidence of statistically and economically significant negative CARs of up to 2.07% over the ten-day event window. We find consistent results using synthetic controls to causally infer the effect of each devaluation on the stock prices of global firms active in the country at the time of the event. Our results are at odds with the predicaments of the efficient market hypothesis stating that predictable devaluations should not impact stock prices of large multinational companies on the day of the event, and even less so when they happen in small countries. We interpret these results as suggestive indication of market inefficiencies in the process of asset pricing.

Of Knights and Squires: European Union and the Modernization of Albania
Frasheri, E., 2016. Of Knights and Squires: European Union and the Modernization of Albania. North Carolina Journal of International Law , 42 (1) , pp. 1.Abstract

In this paper, I question the idea that a country develops and democratizes merely by pursuing a model of deeper regional integration with more prosperous countries. I examine the case of Albania’s integration into the European Union to show that more often than not, transition reproduces hierarchies and inequities that usually underpin relations between a prosperous center and a backward periphery. Instead of being a cure, a solution to the political primitivism and underdevelopment, the story with Europeanization as a model of modernization suggests that despite noble intentions and goals, reforms in the name of the European Union end up foregrounding a security state apparatus, impose an ideological hegemony, and maintain a political culture that inhibits democratization, while discouraging and displacing the need for endogenous growth strategies.

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