Abstract

Structural reforms aimed at increasing the role of the market and the private sector can enhance growth by improving the efficiency of resource allocation and by expanding the productive capacity of the economy. While this is a widely accepted notion, the empirical basis for making judgments on the effects of particular reforms on growth is often not well established. The difficulty of deriving simple quantitative measures to summarize the complex nature of structural reforms makes it hard to identify statistically robust relationships.71 Moreover, supply shocks and other exogenous factors can greatly affect measured productivity changes in the short term. Bearing in mind these constraints, two different approaches are used here to illustrate the links between structural reforms and output and productivity growth. First, evidence from the eight countries on the potential impact of various structural policies on productivity growth suggests that certain critical clusters of reforms appear to enhance efficiency gains. Although this information, by its nature, is difficult to compare across countries, some important common messages emerge; more detailed lessons for individual countries are summarized in Box 5. Second, an attempt is made to identify how closely trade and financial sector reforms in particular countries appear to have followed what are generally regarded as “best practices,” deemed most likely to yield an early response of investment and productivity. Fiscal, administrative, and public enterprise reform are discussed in more detail in the companion study.72

Structural reforms aimed at increasing the role of the market and the private sector can enhance growth by improving the efficiency of resource allocation and by expanding the productive capacity of the economy. While this is a widely accepted notion, the empirical basis for making judgments on the effects of particular reforms on growth is often not well established. The difficulty of deriving simple quantitative measures to summarize the complex nature of structural reforms makes it hard to identify statistically robust relationships.71 Moreover, supply shocks and other exogenous factors can greatly affect measured productivity changes in the short term. Bearing in mind these constraints, two different approaches are used here to illustrate the links between structural reforms and output and productivity growth. First, evidence from the eight countries on the potential impact of various structural policies on productivity growth suggests that certain critical clusters of reforms appear to enhance efficiency gains. Although this information, by its nature, is difficult to compare across countries, some important common messages emerge; more detailed lessons for individual countries are summarized in Box 5. Second, an attempt is made to identify how closely trade and financial sector reforms in particular countries appear to have followed what are generally regarded as “best practices,” deemed most likely to yield an early response of investment and productivity. Fiscal, administrative, and public enterprise reform are discussed in more detail in the companion study.72

Reforms and Productivity

What are the main messages from the eight countries with regard to reforms and productivity? To set the stage for the discussion, Table 11 presents a ranking of the countries by the severity of structural distortions in the 1970s. Using a categorization by Agarwala (1983) covering five key structural areas, it is possible to rank the countries as follows: Mexico and Thailand began with the fewest structural distortions, with Chile and Morocco in an intermediate category, whereas distortions were greatest in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, and Senegal.73

Table 11.

Severity of Structural Distortions in the 1970s

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Sources: Agarwala (1983) and IMF staff estimates.

High is when ERP is greater than 80 percent; low is when ERP is less than 40 percent;and moderate otherwise.

High is when real interest rates are less than –5 percent; low is when real rates are positive; and moderate otherwise.

High is when the implicit taxation (or protection) rate is greater than 30 percent; low when it is less than 10 percent; and moderate otherwise.

Proxied by distortions in pricing in the power sector. High is when rate of return on asset base in power utilities is less than 4 percent; low when rate of return is greater than 8 percent; and moderate otherwise. However, India was reclassified as “high” (rather than moderate) because other pricing distortions were large.

High is when real wage growth is considerably faster than productivity growth and there is marked intervention in labor market or the presence of powerful labor unions or both; low when neither is true; moderate when both are present in weak form. India and Senegal were reclassified as “high” rather than “moderate” because of the presence of significant labor market rigidities.

An examination of overall productivity (or TFP) trends in each country, drawing upon the information presented in Section II, suggests that countries that made the most progress in removing structural distortions, or where structural distortions were not large to begin with, were typically among the ones with more rapid growth in measured productivity (Chart 20). Chile made the most progress in implementing far-reaching structural reforms that served to increase substantially the role of the private sector in the economy. Thailand’s starting position of a relatively undistorted incentive structure and its longstanding policy stance of favoring the private sector also appear to have been associated with sustained productivity gains, despite the relatively slow pace of further structural reform. Other countries that experienced considerable initial productivity gains were those that began with severe structural distortions. For example, Ghana’s policies to decontrol prices and liberalize the exchange and trade regimes early in the adjustment process were followed by substantial productivity gains during the 1980s; to some extent, however, these may have reflected one-time gains stemming from the reversal of previous disastrous policies. Appreciable increases in TFP also took place in Bangladesh and India, where considerable, if uneven, progress was made in correcting distortions in key sectors. At the opposite end of the scale, Senegal’s slow and faltering progress in structural reforms appears to have been associated with slow growth in TFP during the adjustment period.

Chart 20.
Chart 20.

Export Market Shares and Real Effective Exchange Rates1

(In percentage points)

Sources: International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook, various issues, Information Notice System, International Financial Statistics; and IMF staff estimates.1t is the initial year of reform in each country; for India, data are only available through t + 3.2 Growth in export market share is defined as the growth in each country’s export volume less the growth in partner countries’ non-oil import volumes. For Mexico, non-oil export volumes are used.3 Average for (t + 1) to (t + 5) to exclude temporary fall in phosphate exports in 1989 (t + 6) owing to a trade dispute.

How Could Structural Reforms Have Been More Growth Enhancing?

With the benefit of hindsight, a different pace or composition of reforms might have been more growth enhancing in the eight countries. Abstracting from the fact that programs have to be designed to take into account administrative and political constraints, the following are the main lessons that emerge from the case studies.

Bangladesh

• Slow progress in public enterprise reform hampered financial sector development (and hence investment) by contributing to weaknesses in bank portfolios and also slowed the progress of trade reforms because of pressures to protect weak public enterprises.

• More extensive technical preparation at an early stage, aimed at improving public enterprise accounts, would have helped to identify the scope of the needed reforms.

• Financial sector reforms did not emphasize the strengthening of prudential regulations and bank supervision sufficiently early.

Chile

• Financial sector reforms included the early privatization of banks and a gradual liberalization of interest rates. However, weak bank supervision and a high concentration of ownership allowed excessive risk-taking in domestic and foreign currency operations. Rapid credit expansion at a time of high real interest rates should have been taken as a signal of bank portfolio problems, indicating the need for early corrective action to strengthen supervision and tighten prudential requirements.

Ghana

• Price reforms in agriculture would have yielded a faster supply response if they had been complemented by an early deregulation of cocoa marketing and increased emphasis on the provision of agricultural extension services.

• Insufficient attention to weaknesses in the banking system and continued financial repression discouraged financial savings.

• Faster progress in reducing the public sector’s role in key sectors of the economy (for example, gold production and cocoa exporting) would have stimulated greater private sector activity and yielded greater productivity gains.

India

• An earlier start and more rapid progress in reforming the tax system and earlier action to remove quantitative restrictions on consumer imports, would have eased the trade-off between tariff reform and fiscal consolidation.

• More progress in restructuring or closing “sick” companies (in the public and private sectors) would have eased pressure on the financial system and the budget, as well as enhancing productivity gains.

• A broadening of the reforms to cover the agricultural sector, where pricing distortions are still considerable, would have offered scope for considerable productivity gains.

• Adjustment programs have been largely concentrated at the level of the central government. The competition for investment has spurred reforms in some states, but in others the reform process has barely begun and distortions and inefficiencies remain.

• Faster progress to put in place a supporting framework governing private investment in areas previously reserved for the public sector (for example, power and telecommunications) would have reduced delays in the private investment response and eased interim supply bottlenecks.

Mexico

• Extensive trade liberalization since 1985 yielded a strong export response. However, a marked real exchange rate appreciation after 1987 eroded the competitiveness of import-competing sectors.

• Important progress was made in the privatization of public enterprises and increased private sector participation in some infrastructural sectors. Nevertheless, inefficiencies in infrastructure in railroads and telecommunications, together with limited progress in agricultural sector reform, continued to constrain growth. A number of important reforms have been introduced into these latter areas in the last several years, but may be too recent to have yet had a major impact on productivity.

• Financial sector reforms introduced since 1989 succeeded in reversing earlier disintermediation. Nevertheless, insufficient progress in evaluating credit risk at a time of rapid expansion in bank balance sheets increased the incidence of nonperforming bank loans. Limited competition in the banking system, partly on account of restricted entry of foreign banks, remained a constraining factor on the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Morocco

• Trade reforms were supported by an initially flexible exchange rate policy; reforms of the domestic tax system; removal of price controls, including on producer prices; and liberalization of marketing arrangements. However, even after the reforms the level and dispersion of tariffs remained quite high, a complex set of investment incentives and exemptions distorted resource allocation signals, and price controls remained.

• Faster progress in liberalizing interest rates and removing the large-scale pre-emption of financial resources by the public sector would have speeded the development of a more efficient and competitive financial sector.

• Substantive reform of the large public enterprise sector has occurred only in the last several years. An earlier start, together with a transparent regulatory framework for private sector activity in areas previously reserved for the public sector, would have yielded earlier efficiency gains and a faster response by domestic and foreign investors.

• The outdated commercial codes and lack of a comprehensive legal reference system also deterred the investment response.

Senegal

• Removal of distortions in the pricing of major cash crops would have facilitated a faster supply response to other agricultural reforms.

• Slow progress with public enterprise, industrial policy, and labor market reform impeded private sector development.

• Insufficient fiscal reform and an overvalued exchange rate resulted in almost full reversal of trade reforms.

Thailand

• Earlier implementation of domestic tax reform would have permitted a more rapid pace of tariff reforms.

• Delays in removing interest rate controls and in introducing greater competition in the banking system contributed, until recently, to the wide spread between deposit and lending rates.

• Nevertheless, the relatively low level of structural distortions meant that the generally modest pace of structural reforms was not a major impediment to growth.

Productivity developments in Mexico and Morocco do not appear to be explained solely by the extent of structural distortions. Such distortions were not only moderate to begin with, but both countries made major progress in several key areas, such as domestic and trade taxation, price liberalization, and financial sector reform. For Morocco, in addition to the influence of adverse supply shocks, the relatively low TFP growth has been attributed to the low rate of accumulation of human capital, as evidenced by the limited improvements in basic education and training, delays in financial sector reforms, and the continued dominance of the public sector in key areas. As for Mexico, although the reasons for the low TFP growth are not fully understood, and may partly reflect the inherent limitations (discussed in Section II) of the residual TFP measure, the World Bank has identified weaknesses in the financial system, especially the high cost of credit to small and medium private enterprises, as well as lagging reforms in the agricultural sector as important impediments to more rapid efficiency gains (see World Bank (1994b)). There are, however, signs that, prior to the recent crisis earlier structural initiatives were beginning to yield productivity gains in the manufacturing sector.74

Specific messages about the links between structural reforms and growth that emerge from the eight countries are as follows.

• The extent of the public enterprise sector and the pace of its reform appear to have been important in influencing productivity in a number of countries. For example, in India,75 industry-specific studies suggest that rates of return on investment in public manufacturing enterprises were very low (and much lower than the returns to public investment in infrastructure) and showed little improvement through most of the period under review. In contrast, estimated rates of return on investment in private manufacturing were always substantially higher and appear to have risen over time, perhaps in response to the limited liberalization of industrial, trade, financial, and tax policies that began in the 1980s. These findings suggest that there is a large potential payoff, in terms of efficiency gains, from more aggressive public enterprise reform, including privatization. In a number of countries, incomplete public enterprise reforms have also resulted in continuing fiscal problems and have proven to be an obstacle to more substantial trade reforms (Bangladesh, India, and Senegal), and deeper progress with financial sector reforms (Bangladesh and Ghana).

• Price decontrol and reduction of state intervention in domestic marketing are important complements to trade and exchange market reforms. They are also more likely to elicit a strong supply response when accompanied by concerted efforts to improve physical and institutional infrastructural support. Slow progress in these areas appears to have been detrimental to efficiency gains in key productive sectors in Ghana, Morocco, and Senegal.

• Extensive industrial regulation and heavy government intervention in investment choices have deterred productivity growth in some countries. The starkest example is India, where capital-intensive industries favored by trade and regulatory barriers and given preferential access to credit generally experienced lower TFP growth than other sectors.

• A sustained increase in private sector participation in areas previously reserved for the public sector requires the early installation of an appropriate institutional and regulatory framework aimed at signaling transparency and predictability in the direction of policy changes. Delays in the establishment of such a framework acted as a drag on private investment in India and Mexico.

The focus of the rest of this section is on a closer examination of reforms of the trade and financial systems.

Trade Reforms

The benefits of trade reform for growth can be ascribed to more efficient resource allocation following comparative advantage, the exploitation of scale economies, as well as to the possibility that a more open trade system encourages innovation and allows knowledge to more easily cross national borders.76 Cross-country studies of trade reforms have typically identified a number of “best practices.” Reforms are generally more successful in generating a rapid supply response and are less likely to be reversed when (1) they begin with a substantial initial effort; (2) they involve rapid dismantling of quantitative restrictions (QRs); (3) the exchange rate provides signals for exports and import-competing sectors that are consistent with medium-term external sustainability; and (4) they are accompanied, where necessary, by a liberalization of domestic markets and price controls. Each of these elements is important not only to furnish appropriate price incentives but also to increase confidence in the permanence of the reforms. Efficient adjustment in the allocation of resources will be impeded, and the dynamic growth effects dampened, if trade reforms are perceived to be short-lived.

How Closely Were Best Practices Followed?

Table 12 presents some indicators of trade distortions before and after the reforms, and Table 13 indicates how closely the reforms followed the best practices.77 Chile and Ghana made the most progress. In these two countries, bold trade reforms were accompanied by large initial depreciations of the real effective exchange rate and substantial tax reforms.78 Significant trade liberalization was also achieved in Mexico and Morocco. In Mexico, reforms initiated in 1985 were accompanied by a real effective exchange rate depreciation during the first two years of reform; subsequently, the real exchange rate appreciated when the nominal exchange rate was pegged in order to anchor inflation expectations. In Morocco, trade liberalization was supported by major reforms of the tax system, liberalization of domestic trade, some reductions in price controls, and a significant real exchange rate depreciation during most of the 1980s.79

Table 12.

Indicators of Trade Reform

(In percent unless otherwise indicated)

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Source: IMF staff estimates.

As a percentage of tariff lines.

Forward-looking three-year average, except for the post-reform period.

Number of goods or categories.

As a percentage of domestic production.

As a percentage of tradable goods production

Table 13.

Key Characteristics of Trade Reforms and Export Response

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Sources: IMF staff estimates; and International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook, various issues.

Defined as the difference between partner countries’ non-oil import volume growth less each countries’ export volume growth.

Non-oil export volume.

Bangladesh and India followed best practices in some respects, but with important exceptions: despite some liberalization and simplification, quantitative restrictions remain pervasive and the trade systems are still quite restrictive. In both countries, reductions in high average tariff rates involved difficult trade-offs with the goal of fiscal consolidation.

Finally, neither Senegal nor Thailand followed best practices in their reforms. Many of Senegal’s trade reforms of the mid-1980s were reversed after only three years because of fiscal problems. Thailand also implemented only moderate reforms, and some of the initial tariff reductions were temporarily reversed because of conflicts with tax revenue goals.

Supply Responses

The performance of exports following trade reforms warrants special attention because it is the area where the supply response can be most readily identified and because such reforms are unlikely to be sustained if they do not result in faster export growth.80 However, the potential benefits of trade re-form for growth are obviously not limited to the export sector.

On average, the export response (measured by an unweighted average of the growth in export market shares of each country) appears to be strongly positive and is typically realized within one to two years after the initiation of trade reforms (Chart 20). The variation in the supply response among countries serves to highlight the crucial linkages between trade reforms and other aspects of structural and macroeconomic policies. In particular, the following two aspects appear to be especially important:

• The supply response depends on the strength of supporting sectoral reforms. The shift from massively distorted systems and the concurrent simplification of complex and restrictive exchange regimes appears to have been associated with a pickup in export growth in Bangladesh, Ghana, and India. However, the experience of these three countries suggests that greater efficiency gains would have been forthcoming if certain critical supporting sectoral-level reforms had accompanied the trade and exchange reforms. As an illustration, Box 6 outlines some factors that appear to have impeded the supply response in Ghana. In Bangladesh and India, trade liberalization appears to have facilitated the process of reallocation resources in accordance with comparative advantage—in part, because of the predominance of informal, and highly flexible, labor markets in many sectors. However, several factors appear to have reduced some of the immediate productivity gains from the reforms: (1) pressures to protect weak public enterprises, which often led to continued bank lending; (2) especially in India, the existence of barriers to the exit of resources from noncompetitive sectors, including de jure or de facto restrictions on laying off workers in the formal sector; and (3) delayed implementation of legal and institutional reform to accompany broader industrial deregulation.

• Real effective exchange rate movements are also important. For example, the low average growth of export market shares in Chile during the early years following trade reform appears to be due, in part, to the appreciation of the real effective exchange rate, reflecting the trade-off faced by the Chilean authorities between the goals of disinflation and competitiveness in their exchange-rate-based stabilization program of 1978-82. Export growth accelerated markedly during the 1980s as competitiveness was restored. Trade liberalization in Mexico was followed by a strong response of manufactured (but not agricultural) exports, especially in the first two post-reform years, but the post-1987 real effective exchange rate appreciation was also associated with a substantial loss in competitiveness in import-competing sectors. Finally, Senegal’s poor performance in exports and overall productivity appears to be associated with both the lack of supporting structural reforms and an overvalued exchange rate.

Ghana: Constraints to a Stronger Supply Response

Prior to 1983, Ghana had a highly distorted domestic price system—particularly discriminating against agriculture1—a restrictive trade and exchange regime with a massively overvalued exchange rate, a monopolistic market structure dominated by state-owned enterprises, and a complex and rigid legal and regulatory framework.

Trade reforms were initiated early in the adjustment process; overall, they were implemented consistently and at a rapid pace, despite some partial reversal (see Table 12). They were complemented by an initial major exchange rate realignment, followed by more gradual exchange reform that served to eliminate exchange rate overvaluation by 1986. However, the supply response was weaker and slower to materialize than expected, despite progress in price decontrol early in the adjustment process. The main reason appears to be that supporting sectoral-level measures were delayed, inhibiting private sector initiative and hindering the efficient reallocation of resources.

First, agriculture, the largest sector, continued to suffer from price discrimination, despite evidence of a high price elasticity of agricultural supply, with enormous costs in terms of forgone agricultural income.2 As a result, growth in agriculture—which was also hampered by bottlenecks in infrastructure and lack of extension services in rural areas—picked up only marginally, and at 2.7 percent on average during the 1980s, fell far short of the developing country average of about 4 percent. Second, privatization was delayed,3 in effect maintaining the dominant position of the state-owned enterprises that because of over-staffing, extensive involvement in noncommercial operations, and monopoly power were less sensitive to improved incentives.4 Third, labor market rigidities persisted, particularly in the public sector, characterized by wage setting disconnected from productivity increases, unduly generous nonwage benefits, and restrictions on labor mobility. Fourth, financial sector reform did not get off the ground for several years after the adjustment program was launched. Finally, foreign investment remained modest, limiting the ability of the private sector to take full advantage of exchange and trade liberalization.

1 Ghana had the highest direct and indirect taxes on agriculture during 1960-84 among 18 developing countries examined by Krueger, Schiff and Valdes (1991).2 The World Bank (1993a) estimated that annual agricultural growth rates during 1980–93 could have been raised by1½–2 percentage points, if real farm prices had been 30 percent higher.3 Divestment of government ownership began only in 1994, when the Government’s controlling stake in seven companies listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange, including the Ashanti Gold Mines, was sold to foreign investors.4 For example, the Cocoa Board had a monopoly position in the marketing and export of cocoa (the biggest export earner) and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation monopolized the importation and distribution of oil products.

Financial Sector Reforms

The link between financial sector reforms and growth works primarily through establishing more efficient channels of intermediation between financial saving and investment.81 Best practices most likely to yield efficiency gains from financial sector reforms include (1) achieving and maintaining macroeconomic stability; (2) elimination of severe financial repression (that is, of significantly negative real interest rates) at an early stage of the reforms; (3) effective prudential regulation and supervision so that the reforms do not weaken bank balance sheets; and (4) where appropriate, supporting fiscal consolidation and reforms of the public enterprise sector. It is necessary to eliminate financial repression and keep real deposit rates positive to attract funds away from the informal toward the official sector where the real cost of borrowing tends to be lower and resource allocation more efficient. However, interest rate liberalization may be accompanied by substantial upward pressure on real lending (and deposit) rates if large public sector borrowing requirements are not reduced. In addition, excessive lending to financially weak public enterprises is frequently a major threat to bank portfolios.

Key elements of financial sector reforms in each country are presented in Appendix V, Table 21. Table 14 presents some indicators of conditions prior to and after the initiation of reforms.82 Prior to the reforms, financial sectors can be characterized as being severely repressed in Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, and Mexico; moderately repressed in Morocco and Senegal; and/or as having substantial government intervention in credit allocation in Bangladesh, Chile, India, and Mexico.83

Table 14.

Indicators of Financial Sector Reforms

(In percent unless otherwise indicated)

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Source: International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics.

Expost real rates calculated using current period inflation of the GDP deflator, except for Mexico in 1980 where consumer price index inflation is used.

Forward-looking three-year averages, except for 1993.

In Chile, financial sector reforms were initiated in 1974; the reform process was deepened in 1981.

How Closely Were Best Practices Followed?

Financial sector reforms went farthest and fastest in Chile where rapid progress was made in liberalizing interest rates, eliminating quantitative credit controls, and significantly restructuring the banking system. In many respects, Mexico can also be classified as having undertaken major reforms, although at a much later stage, with interest rates not decontrolled until the late 1980s and the banking system denationalized in 1991. Ghana, Morocco, and Senegal implemented more moderate financial sector reforms, which nevertheless reduced substantially the degree of government intervention in this sector, whereas Bangladesh and India undertook only limited banking sector reforms.84

The main messages that emerge from the eight countries’ experience with financial sector reforms follow.

• It is critically important to strengthen bank supervision and regulation along with financial liberalization. The case of Chile is especially instructive. While many elements of the reform process that began in the mid-1970s were implemented according to best practices, the initial results illustrate the risks of implementing reforms without strong and effective bank supervision and the potential serious macroeconomic consequence of weak bank balance sheets.85 A significant part of the very rapid private sector credit growth took place to refinance a growing volume of nonperforming loans and ultimately resulted in a serious banking crisis in the early 1980s that greatly exacerbated the ensuing recession. The excessive lending took place at a time when ex-ante real interest rates appeared to be extremely high, which complicated judgments on the tightness of monetary policy. The principal cause of the problems appears to have been the poor design and implementation of prudential regulations in the early stages of the reform, when there was extensive deregulation of commercial banking in the context of an oligopolistic banking structure dominated by a few industrial companies. Subsequent reforms strengthened supervision and regulation and attempted to increase competition in the financial sector. Although it is difficult to establish a direct empirical link, the post-reform period did witness a marked financial deepening.

Mexico provides a similar lesson. The high margins of financial intermediation,86 reflecting inefficient bank operations, lack of competition, and the deterioration in the quality of bank portfolios in recent years, seriously hindered the private sector’s investment response.

• Inadequate public enterprise reform can be a major obstacle to the development of efficient financial intermediation. The experience of Bangladesh is particularly illustrative. The persistent high proportion of nonperforming loans in bank portfolios—largely stemming from a weak public enterprise sector—widened interest rate spreads; the consequent high lending rates appear to be a major factor accounting for the muted response of private investment to adjustment policies and may have dampened the productivity response. Similar factors appear to be at work, to varying degrees, in Ghana, India, and Senegal.

Lessons from Adjustment Policies in Eight Economies
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    Export Market Shares and Real Effective Exchange Rates1

    (In percentage points)

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