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Special Economic Zones in Panama: Technology Spillovers from a Labor Market Perspective

Author

Listed:
  • Ricardo Hausmann

    () (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

  • Juan Obach

    () (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

  • Miguel Angel Santos

    () (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

Abstract

Special Economic Zones (SEZ) have played an important role in Panama's successful growth story over the previous decade. SEZ have attracted local and foreign investment by leveraging a business-friendly environment of low transaction costs, and created many stable, well-paid jobs for Panamanians. Beyond that, SEZ shall be assessed as place-based policy by their capacity to boost structural transformations, namely attracting new skills and more complex know-how not to be found in the domestic economy. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the three largest SEZ in Panama: Colon Free Zone Panama-Pacific City of Knowledge Our results suggest that SEZ have been successful as measured by static indicators, such as foreign investment, job creation and productivity. We also find that SEZ have boosted inflows of high-skill immigrants, who are most likely generating positive knowledge spillovers on Panamanians productivity and wages. However, significant legal instruments and institutional designs are preventing Panama from taking full advantage of the skill variety hosted at the SEZ. Complex immigration processes inhibiting foreigners from transitioning out of the SEZ, a long list of restricted professions and even citizenships considered as a national security concern, are hindering the flow of knowledge, keeping the benefits coming from more complex multinational companies locked inside the gates of SEZ.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo Hausmann & Juan Obach & Miguel Angel Santos, 2016. "Special Economic Zones in Panama: Technology Spillovers from a Labor Market Perspective," CID Working Papers 326, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cid:wpfacu:326
    as

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    File URL: http://growthlab.cid.harvard.edu/files/growthlab/files/sez_panama_wp_326.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Hausmann, Ricardo & Espinoza, Luis & Santos, Miguel Angel, 2016. "Shifting Gears: A Growth Diagnostic of Panama," Working Paper Series rwp16-045, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Hausmann, Ricardo & Morales, Jose Ramon & Santos, Miguel Angel, 2016. "Economic Complexity in Panama: Assessing Opportunities for Productive Diversification," Working Paper Series rwp16-046, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Ricardo Hausmann & Jose Ramon Morales Arilla & Miguel Angel Santos, 2016. "Panama beyond the Canal: Using Technological Proximities to Identify Opportunities for Productive Diversification," CID Working Papers 324, Center for International Development at Harvard University.

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    Keywords

    Immigration International Economics Labor Economics Trade Policy;

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