Publications on Product sophistication
Working Paper No. 638 | November 2010
An extensive literature argues that India’s manufacturing sector has underperformed, and that the country has failed to industrialize; in particular, it has failed to take advantage of its labor-abundant comparative advantage. India’s manufacturing sector is smaller as a share of GDP than that of East Asian countries, even after controlling for GDP per capita. Hence, its contribution to overall GDP growth is modest. Without greater participation of the secondary sector, the argument goes, the country will not be able to develop and become a modern economy. Standard arguments blame the “license-permit raj,” the small-scale industrial policy, and the supposedly stringent laws. All these were part of the industrial policy regime instituted after independence, which favored the heavy-machinery subsector. We show that this policy bias negatively affected the development of India’s labor-intensive sector, as the country should export with comparative advantage a larger number of these products, given its income per capita. However, India’s manufacturing sector is relatively well diversified and sophisticated, given also the country’s income per capita. In particular, India’s inroads into machinery, metals, chemicals, and other capital- and skilled labor–intensive products has allowed the country to accumulate a large number of capabilities. This positions India well to expand its exports of other sophisticated products.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar Arnelyn Abdon
Working Paper No. 613 | August 2010
From Capabilities to OpportunitiesWe develop an Index of Opportunities for 130 countries based on their capabilities to undergo structural transformation. The Index of Opportunities has four dimensions, all of them characteristic of a country’s export basket: (1) sophistication; (2) diversification; (3) standardness; and (4) possibilities for exporting with comparative advantage over other products. The rationale underlying the index is that, in the long run, a country’s income is determined by the variety and sophistication of the products it makes and exports, which reflect its accumulated capabilities. We find that countries like China, India, Poland, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil have accumulated a significant number of capabilities that will allow them to do well in the long run. These countries have diversified and increased the level of sophistication of their export structures. At the other extreme, countries like Papua New Guinea, Malawi, Benin, Mauritania, and Haiti score very poorly in the Index of Opportunities because their export structures are neither diversified nor sophisticated, and they have accumulated very few and unsophisticated capabilities. These countries are in urgent need of implementing policies that lead to the accumulation of capabilities.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar Arnelyn Abdon
Working Paper No. 611 | August 2010The key factor underlying China’s fast development during the last 50 years is its ability to master and accumulate new and more complex capabilities, reflected in the increase in diversification and sophistication of its export basket. This accumulation was policy induced and not the result of the market, and began before 1979. Despite its many policy mistakes, if China had not proceeded this way, in all likelihood it would be a much poorer country today. During the last 50 years, China has acquired revealed comparative advantage in the export of both labor-intensive products (following its factor abundance) and sophisticated products, although the latter does not indicate that there was leapfrogging. Analysis of China’s current export opportunity set indicates that it is exceptionally well positioned (especially taking into account its income per capita) to continue learning and gaining revealed comparative advantage in the export of more sophisticated products. Given adequate policies, carefully thought-out and implemented reforms, and skillful management of constraints and risks, China has the potential to continue thriving. This does not mean, however, that high growth will continue indefinitely.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar Norio Usui Arnelyn Abdon