New Economics Papers
on Central and South America
Issue of 2009‒02‒07
six papers chosen by

  1. The Basic Public Finance of Public-Private Partnerships By Engel, Eduardo; Fischer, Ronald; Galetovic, Alexander
  2. Growth Diagnostics in Peru By Hausmann, Ricardo; Klinger, Bailey
  3. The New Development Economics: We Shall Experiment, but How Shall We Learn? By Rodrik, Dani
  4. Is Search of the Chains That Hold Brazil Back By Hausmann, Ricardo
  5. Policymaking for Posterity By Summers, Lawrence; Zeckhauser, Richard
  6. Government Transfers and Political Support By Marco Manacorda; Edward Miguel; Andrea Vigorito

  1. By: Engel, Eduardo (Yale U); Fischer, Ronald (U of Chile); Galetovic, Alexander (U of the Andes)
    Abstract: Public-private partnerships (PPPs) cannot be justified because they free public funds. When PPPs are justified on efficiency grounds, the contract that optimally balances demand risk, user-fee distortions and the opportunity cost of public funds, features a minimum revenue guarantee and a revenue cap. However, observed revenue guarantees and revenue sharing arrangements differ from those suggested by the optimal contract. Also, this contract can be implemented via a competitive auction with realistic informational requirements. Finally, the allocation of risk under the optimal contract suggests that PPPs are closer to public provision than to privatization.
    JEL: H21
    Date: 2008–02
  2. By: Hausmann, Ricardo (Harvard U); Klinger, Bailey (Harvard U)
    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.
    JEL: O54
    Date: 2008–10
  3. By: Rodrik, Dani (Harvard U)
    Abstract: Development economics is split between macro-development economists--who focus on economic growth, international trade, and fiscal/macro policies--and micro-development economists--who study microfinance, education, health, and other social programs. Recently there has been substantial convergence in the policy mindset exhibited by micro evaluation enthusiasts, on the one hand, and growth diagnosticians, on the other. At the same time, the randomized evaluation revolution has led to an accentuation of the methodological divergence between the two camps. Overcoming the split requires changes on both sides. Macro-development economists need to recognize the distinct advantages of the experimental approach and adopt the policy mindset of the randomized evaluation enthusiasts. Micro-development economists, for their part, have to recognize that the utility of randomized evaluations is restricted by the narrow and limited scope of their application. As the Chinese example illustrates, extending the experimental mindset to the domain of economy-wide reforms is not just possible, it has already been practiced with resounding success in the most important development experience of our generation.
    Date: 2008–10
  4. By: Hausmann, Ricardo (Harvard U)
    Abstract: This paper performs a Growth Diagnostic for Brazil. It shows that many aspects of the Brazilian economy have been improving including the macro picture, educational progress and the external front. Moreover, Brazil has many productive possibilities and high-return investments. Yet growth is hampered because of a relatively old-fashioned problem that has been solved in many other countries in the region: creating a financially viable state that does not over-borrow, over-tax or under-invest. We show that domestic saving is the binding constraint on growth and that it has a fiscal cause. Although things are trending in the right direction, the challenge is to exploit the current good times to create the fiscal basis for a sustained growth acceleration.
    JEL: O54
    Date: 2008–10
  5. By: Summers, Lawrence (Harvard U); Zeckhauser, Richard (Harvard U)
    Abstract: Policymaking for posterity involves current decisions with distant consequences. Contrary to conventional prescriptions, we conclude that the greater wealth of future generations may strengthen the case for preserving environmental amenities; lower discount rates should be applied to the far future, and special effort should be made to avoid actions that impose costs on future generations. Posterity brings great uncertainties. Even massive losses, such as human extinction, however, do not merit infinite negative utility. Given learning, greater uncertainties about damages could increase or decrease the optimal level of current mitigation activities. Policies for posterity should anticipate effects on: alternative investments, both public and private; the actions of other nations; and the behaviors of future generations. Such effects may surprise. This analysis blends traditional public finance and behavioral economics with a number of hypothetical choice problems.
    JEL: D64 D81 D90 Q54
    Date: 2008–08
  6. By: Marco Manacorda; Edward Miguel; Andrea Vigorito
    Abstract: We estimate the impact of a large anti-poverty program -- the Uruguayan PANES -- on political support for the government that implemented it. The program mainly consisted of a monthly cash transfer for a period of roughly two and half years. Using the discontinuity in program assignment based on a pre-treatment score, we find that beneficiary households are 21 to 28 percentage points more likely to favor the current government (relative to the previous government). Impacts on political support are larger among poorer households and for those near the center of the political spectrum, consistent with the probabilistic voting model in political economy. Effects persist after the cash transfer program ends. We estimate that the annual cost of increasing government political support by 1 percentage point is roughly 0.9% of annual government social expenditures.
    JEL: D72 H53 O12 O23
    Date: 2009–02

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