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Relative returns to policy reform - evidence from controlled cross-country regressions

  • de Castro Alxandre Samy
  • Goldin, Ian
  • Pereira da Silva, Luiz A.

The authors aim at contributing to understand the dispersion of returns from policy reforms using cross-country regressions. The authors compare the"before reform"with"after reform"GDP growth outcome of countries that undertook import-liberalization and fiscal policy reforms. They survey a large sample (about 54) of developing countries over the period 1980-99. The benefits of openness to trade and fiscal prudence have been extensively identified in the growth literature, but the evidence from simple cross-section analysis can sometimes be inconclusive and remains vulnerable to criticism on estimation techniques, such as identification, endogeneity, multi-colinearity, and the quality of the data. The authors use a different analytical framework that establishes additional controls. First, they construct a counterfactual control group. These are countries that-under specific thresholds-did not introduce policy reforms under scrutiny. Second, the authors also try to use the most appropriate variable of policy reform, for example, exogenous changes in import-tariffs instead of the endogenous sum of all trade flows. Third, the authors try to base the before-after reform comparison on the most accurate date for the beginning of a policy reform period (instead of comparing averages over fixed intervals of time). Once these controls are set, they explain the difference between average GDP growth rates during the country-specific post and the pre-reform periods, relative to the average GDP growth of the relevant control group. The explanatory variables in the regressions include the standard growth-regression controls. The results are the following: 1) With a better measurement and timing of the policy reforms, the growth effect (the"returns on reform") is generally smaller than in previous papers. 2) There is evidence of contingent relationships between policy and growth, corresponding to the country's size, its export profile, and its governance. 2) Within the group of policy reformers, some countries have exhibited a relatively weaker growth response. Overall, the findings suggest that more accurate measurement and definition of the timing of reforms does not strengthen the significance of the effects of reforms on GDP growth. In fact, the effects are weaker than indicated in most cross-section studies. This suggests that the policy implications to be derived from these relationships should be treated with even more caution than previously thought.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2898.

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Date of creation: 31 Oct 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2898
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  1. Barro, Robert J., 1990. "Government Spending in a Simple Model of Endogeneous Growth," Scholarly Articles 3451296, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Jeffrey Sachs & Andrew Warner, 1995. "Economic Reform and the Progress of Global Integration," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1733, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Easterly, William & Rebelo, Sergio, 1993. "Fiscal policy and economic growth: An empirical investigation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 417-458, December.
  4. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Where Did All The Growth Go? External Shocks, Social Conflict, and Growth Collapses," NBER Working Papers 6350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Carmen M. Reinhart & Ioannis Tokatlidis, 2003. "Financial Liberalisation: The African Experience," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 12(Supplemen), pages 53-88, September.
  6. Francisco Rodriguez & Dani Rodrik, 1999. "Trade Policy and Economic Growth: A Skeptic's Guide to Cross-National Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7081, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Philip R. Gerson, 1998. "The Impact of Fiscal Policy Variables on Output Growth," IMF Working Papers 98/1, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Foroutan, Faezeh, 1998. "Does membership in a regional preferential trade arrangement make a country more or less protectionist?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1898, The World Bank.
  9. Ann Harrison, 1995. "Openness and Growth: A Time-Series, Cross-Country Analysis for Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 5221, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Wacziarg, Romain, 2000. "Measuring the Dynamic Gains from Trade," Research Papers 1654, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  11. Faezeh Foroutan, 1998. "Does Membership in a Regional Preferential Trade Arrangement Make a Country More or Less Protectionist?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(3), pages 305-335, 05.
  12. Eric M. Engen & Jonathan Skinner, 1992. "Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 4223, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Ben-David, Dan, 1993. "Equalizing Exchange: Trade Liberalization and Income Convergence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 653-79, August.
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