The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Conceptual ambiguities and statistical weaknesses hamper the assessment of external competitiveness. The term competitiveness, while applied extensively, is often imprecisely defined, which can result in analytical errors and mistaken policy advice. Furthermore, aggregate statistical measures of competitiveness in terms of exchange rate misalignment can be biased. To address these issues, this paper makes two contributions. First, it clarifies the external competitiveness concept, highlighting the dichotomy between productivity-driven long-run growth and short-run deviations from the underlying growth trajectory, which can be related to exchange rate misalignment. Second, it develops a disaggregated statistical approach for examining competitiveness based on unit labor costs at the three digit industry level in a group of comparable countries. The case of Slovakia is used to illustrate these concepts, but the analytical insights have general application.