Regional Integration, Growth and Convergence
This paper examines empirically whether and how regional integration leads to convergence and growth amongst developing countries. Using standard growth models for nearly 100 developing countries over 1970-2004 we cannot establish robust growth effects of regional integration as such at the aggregated level of analysis even after using alternative measures of regional integration. However, because we find that trade and FDI promote growth, and because regional integration tends to increase trade and FDI, regional integration still has a positive impact on growth in its members through the effects of increased trade and investment on growth. Further, country-specific growth diagnostics do suggest that regional integration can be a binding constraint to growth as “deep” regional approaches can help to address crucial rail, road, air and energy links amongst countries (e.g. in the East African Community). Our findings also suggest that initially high levels of regional income disparities will lead to greater decreases in disparities. Whilst the level of intra-regional trade and incomes do not explain changes in income disparities, the presence of a regional Development Finance Institutions (e.g. Central American or East African development banks) with a relatively high loan exposure to GDP ratio tends to reduce regional income disparities suggesting a useful role for deeper integration in achieving regional cohesion. A one percentage point increase in exposure by DFIs leads to a drop of σ of about one percentage point. Finally, while the macro economic literature on regional integration tends to highlight only limited expected effects of African regional integration itself, our work at the firm level in three African countries (Benin, Malawi and South Africa) is indicative of significant dynamic effects of regional integration through the effects on firm level productivity in Africa. We suggest that in the future, further growth analytical work is undertaken which combines the development of methods to examine the effects of regions and measurement of the various types of regional integration.
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