Public Investment as an Engine of Growth

 
Author/Editor: Andrew M. Warner
 
Publication Date: August 11, 2014
 
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Disclaimer: This Working Paper should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed in this Working Paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy. Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to further debate
 
Summary: This paper looks at the empirical record whether big infrastructure and public capital drives have succeeded in accelerating economic growth in low-income countries. It looks at big long-lasting drives in public capital spending, as these were arguably clear and exogenous policy decisions. On average the evidence shows only a weak positive association between investment spending and growth and only in the same year, as lagged impacts are not significant. Furthermore, there is little evidence of long term positive impacts. Some individual countries may be exceptions to this general result, as for example Ethiopia in recent years, as high public investment has coincided with high GDP growth, but it is probably too early to draw definitive conclusions. The fact that the positive association is largely instantaneous argues for the importance of either reverse causality, as capital spending tends to be cut in slumps and increased in booms, or Keynesian demand effects, as spending boosts output in the short run. It argues against the importance of long term productivity effects, as these are triggered by the completed investments (which take several years) and not by the mere spending on the investments. In fact a slump in growth rather than a boom has followed many public capital drives of the past. Case studies indicate that public investment drives tend eventually to be financed by borrowing and have been plagued by poor analytics at the time investment projects were chosen, incentive problems and interest-group-infested investment choices. These observations suggest that the current public investment drives will be more likely to succeed if governments do not behave as in the past, and instead take analytical issues seriously and safeguard their decision process against interests that distort public investment decisions.
 
Series: Working Paper No. 14/148
Subject(s): Public investment | External borrowing | Mexico | Bolivia | Korea, Republic of | Taiwan Province of China | Philippines | Capital expenditure | Infrastructure | Economic growth | Cross country analysis

 
English
Publication Date: August 11, 2014
ISBN/ISSN: 9781498378277/1018-5941 Format: Paper
Stock No: WPIEA2014148 Pages: 76
Price:
US$18.00 (Academic Rate:
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