Working Papers

2006-17 | May 2006

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Measuring the Miracle: Market Imperfections and Asia's Growth Experience

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The newly industrialized economies (NIEs) of Asia are the fastest-growing economies in the world since 1960. A clear understanding of their rapid development remains elusive, with continuing disputes over the roles of technology growth, capital accumulation, and international trade and investment. We reconcile seemingly contradictory explanations by accounting for imperfections in output and capital markets. For instance, in Singapore, growth-accounting studies using quantities (the primal approach) find rising capital-output ratios and a constant labor share; but studies using real factor prices (the dual approach) find a constant user cost. We provide evidence that "favored" firms reaped economic profits and received preferential tax treatment, subsidies, and access to capital--market imperfections that are difficult to capture when implementing the dual approach. Further, declining pure profits can reconcile the constant or rising labor shares in revenue in the NIEs with theories of international trade that predict falling labor shares in cost. We provide empirical support for the quantitative importance of profits and heterogeneous user costs, describe the two-sector dynamics, and derive measures of technology growth, corrected for the imperfections that we quantify. We then discuss implications for broader disputes about Asian development.

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