IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/ecl/harjfk/rwp16-045.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Shifting Gears: A Growth Diagnostic of Panama

Author

Listed:
  • Hausmann, Ricardo

    (Harvard University)

  • Espinoza, Luis

    (Harvard University)

  • Santos, Miguel Angel

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

Panama has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world over the previous decade. Growth has been spearheaded by the development of a modern service sector on the activities surrounding the Canal, and non-residential construction. Large public infrastructure projects and the private provision for infrastructure demanded by the service sector, have fueled growth and created a vibrant labor market for non-skilled workers. Two warning signals hover over Panama's stellar performance. The construction sector has been growing for a decade at a rate that is equivalent to doubling its stock of structures every four years. The demand for non-residential construction cannot grow indefinitely at a higher rate than the rest of the economy. This feeds into the second signal: Income inequality. In spite of the minor improvements registered over the accelerated-growth spell, Panama remains amongst the world's top five most unequal countries. Both warning signals point out to the need of further diversifying the Panamanian economy, and promoting economic activity in the provinces so as to deconcentrate growth and make it more inclusive. We deployed our Growth Diagnostic methodology in order to identify potential binding constraints to that process. Skilled labor, necessary to gradually diversify into more complex and high value-added activities, is relatively scarce. This scarcity manifests into large wage-premiums to foreigners across all occupations, which are particular large within more complex industries. Major investments in education have improved indicators of schooling quantitatively, but quality remains a major concern. We find that Panama's immigration policies are preventing skills from spilling over from their special economic zones into the rest of the economy. On top of that, the list of professions restricted to Panamanians and other constraints on skilled labor flows, are constraining even further the pool of skills. As we document here, these efforts are not helping the Panamanian workers, quite the contrary. We also find that corruption, and to a lesser extent, red tape, are other important factors that shall be addressed in order to allow Panama to shift the gears of growth, tackle inequality and continue growing at a fast pace.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp16-045
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=1483
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. van der Marel, Erik & Shepherd, Ben, 2013. "International tradability indices for services," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6712, The World Bank.
    2. Hausmann, Ricardo & Obach, Juan & Santos, Miquel Angel, 2016. "Special Economic Zones in Panama: A Critical Assessment," Working Paper Series rwp16-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Claudio E. Montenegro & Harry Anthony Patrinos, 2014. "Comparable Estimates of Returns to Schooling Around the World," Working Papers wp390, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    4. 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.
    5. Ricardo Hausmann & Bailey Klinger & Rodrigo Wagner, 2008. "Doing Growth Diagnostics in Practice: A 'Mindbook'," CID Working Papers 177, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Bernt Bratsberg, 2002. "School Quality and Returns to Education of U.S. Immigrants," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(2), pages 177-198, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Hausmann, Ricardo & Obach, Juan & Santos, Miquel Angel, 2016. "Special Economic Zones in Panama: A Critical Assessment," Working Paper Series rwp16-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. 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.
    3. Juan Obach & Miguel Angel Santos & Ricardo Hausmann, 2017. "Appraising the Economic Potential of Panama Policy Recommendations for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth," CID Working Papers 334, Center for International Development at Harvard University.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp16-045. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/ksharus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.