Inventories in developing countries : levels and determinants - a red flag for competitiveness and growth
Raw materials inventories in the manufacturing sector in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were two to five times as high in developing countries as in the United States, despite the fact that in most developing countries real interest rates are at least twice as high. Given the high cost of capital in most developing countries, these high inventory levels have an enormous impact on the cost of doing business and on productivity and competitiveness. Poor infrastructure and ineffective regulation as well as deficiencies in market development - rather than the interest rates and uncertainty - are the main determinants of these differences. Cross-country estimates show that a one-standard-deviation improvement in infrastructure reduces raw materials inventories by 27-47 percent. Poorly functioning markets, as measured by the ratio of transfers and subsidies to GDP, are also an important factor, with a one-standard-deviation improvement leading to a 19-30 percent reduction in raw materials inventories. The authors show that these reductions in raw materials inventories are not offset by a reduction in finished goods inventories upstream. The policy implications are clear and strong. Improvements in infrastructure (roads, ports, and telecommunications) can help to significantly reduce inventory levels (and thus the cost of doing business), especially when accompanied by effective regulation and the development and deregulation of associated markets.
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