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Economic network structures, growth and poverty
conference contributionposted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by B Parris
While investors are advised to diversify in order to manage risk, developing countries are advised instead to liberalise their trade regimes and specialise according to their current comparative advantage. This study uses 67 regions of the GTAP database to investigate the effects of unilateral liberalisation and its impacts on countries’ economic structures and the extent to which this affects countries’ vulnerability to an economic shock. While liberalisation resulted in improvements in GDP and welfare on average, there were significant variations. A number of countries experienced contractions in their GPDs and declines in welfare. While there was no evidence of a relationship between the percentage change in GDP and the initial export or output concentration, there was a positive relationship between the percentage change in GDP and the percentage change in export and output concentrations. On average, increases in GDP following liberalisation were associated with increases in concentration in both the export sector and in overall industrial output and also reductions in the fraction of unskilled labour employed by the main export sector. Initial GDP per capita has no significant effect, implying that once concentration measures and the fraction of costs in the main export are accounted for, the per capita income levels of a country show no systematic effects on the percentage change in GDP induced by the liberalisation. For developing countries undergoing unilateral liberalisation, the results imply that they are likely to experience an increase in GDP, but an increase accompanied by more highly concentrated industrial output and exports, and also a lower fraction of main export costs due to unskilled labour. Following liberalisation, the responses of liberalised and non-liberalised versions of the region’s economies to a shock were compared. The rest of the world’s productivity in the country’s main export was increased by 10%, with the liberalised economies faring marginally worse on average in welfare and terms of trade effects, but slightly better on GDP effects. When the net effects of the initial liberalisation and subsequent technology shock were compared, countries were better off on average if they had liberalised. But this average masked important sectoral differences. Countries specialising in sectors with high proportions of own-commodity inputs in their main export’s total cost, such as manufacturing, did best, while those specialising in food tended to suffer welfare declines. Higher levels of export and output concentration also tended to reduce welfare. This suggests that increased concentration does indeed make countries more vulnerable to certain economic shocks. Finally, the economic network structures of the two extreme cases, Tanzania and Vietnam are compared visually as an aid to interpretation.