Structural Change and Economic Development


Jose Antonio Ocampo, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), United Nations

The theme of this presentation is the determinants of “dynamic efficiency” in developing countries, which is seen as the result of two basic processes. The first is the ability of a given system to innovate, which, in the broad Schumpeterian sense, is defined as the capacity to generate new economic activities or new ways of doing previous activities; under this definition, the major form of “innovation” in developing countries is the transfer of production sectors previously developed in the industrial world. The second is the capacity of the innovation to generate complementarities, linkages or networks resulting in an integrated production fabric. These two forces are closely interlinked with a third, which is the capacity to reduce the dualism or structural heterogeneity that characterizes production structures in developing countries –i.e., the coexistence of high-productivity and low-productivity economic activities. A simple macroeconomic model shows how these forces interact with the macroeconomic balance, generating a dual link between GDP growth and productivity growth. The main policy implication of the paper is the need to concentrate on a strategy for the transformation of production structures that involves three major sets of policy interventions: inducing innovation (in the broad sense of the term), promoting linkages and reducing structural heterogeneity. The absence of such a strategy, together with the weak domestic linkages that characterize the new production activities generated during the liberalization process, can be seen, in this light, as essential explanations for weak growth in Latin America during the reform period.

About the speaker
José Antonio Ocampo has a BA degree in Economics and Sociology from the University of Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University. Former Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), he became the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs on 1 September, 2003. As such, he heads the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which is responsible for the follow-up to the major United Nations Summits and Conferences, and services the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Second and Third Committees of the General Assembly. He also chairs the UN Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs. Prior to assuming his present position in the United Nations, he held a number of posts in the Government of Colombia, including those of Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Director (Minister) of the National Planning Department, and Minister of Agriculture. As an academic, he has been Director of the Foundation for Higher Education and Development (FEDESARROLLO), Professor of Economics at Universidad de los Andes and Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Visiting Professor at Cambridge, Yale and Oxford Universities. He is the author or editor of a number of books and monographs, and has written several scholarly articles on subjects such as macroeconomic theory and policy, international financial and monetary issues, economic development, international trade, and Colombian and Latin American economic history. Mr. Ocampo has received a number of personal honours and distinctions, including the Alejandro Angel Escobar National Science Award.

Venue: Feestsalon, Bouillonstraat 3 (Faculty of Law), 6200 MD Maastricht

Date: 17 April 2007

Time: 16:00


UNU-MERIT