Promoting structural transformation: Strategic diversification vs laissez-faire approach

Clovis Freire Junior


Economic development is associated with structural transformation and the increase of complexity of production and exports. This paper examines whether strategic diversification is required to increase economic complexity or whether market incentives would be sufficient to drive this process of catching-up. The paper applies empirical methods of the strand of the literature on economic complexity to examine how path dependency and the demand for potential new products affect economic diversification. It argues that strategic diversification is required in cases when demand factors are very likely to create incentives for diversification towards less complex products, which hinders the increase of productive capacities of countries. The paper presents the results of analysis considering 221 economies and shows that less diversified economies would not be able to rely on market incentives alone. They have to strategically diversify towards more complex products, which require the selective promotion of economic activities through the use of targeted industrial, infrastructure, trade, investment and private sector development policies.

Keywords: Diversification, Structural Transformation, Productive Capacities, Industrial Policy, Economic Development

JEL Classification: O11, O14, O33, O38, O53, O57