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Policy Space: What, for What, and Where?, Discussion Paper No. 191

Discussion paper by Mayer, Jörg /UNCTAD, 2008

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The paper examines how developing countries can use existing policy space, and enlarge it, without opting out of international commitments. It argues that: (i) a meaningful context for policy space must extend beyond trade policy and include macroeconomic and exchange-rate policies that will achieve developmental goals more effectively; (ii) policy space depends not only on international rules but also on the impact of international market conditions and policy decisions taken in other countries on the effectiveness of national policy instruments; and (iii) international integration affects policy space through several factors that pull in opposite directions; whether it increases or reduces policy space differs by country and type of integration.

No. 191
October 2008




Jörg Mayer

No. 191
October 2008

Acknowledgement: The paper draws on the author’s contributions to UNCTAD’s Trade and
Development Report 2006. The author is grateful to Kevin Gallagher, Gerry Helleiner, Dieter
Hesse, Detlef Kotte, Andrew Mold, Sheila Page, Ugo Panizza, Ken Shadlen, Adrian Wood,
and participants of a Geneva Trade and Development Workshop for helpful comments and
suggestions, and an anonymous referee for an opinion, on an earlier draft. The opinions
expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNCTAD
or its Member States. Any citation of this paper should ascribe authorship to the author and
not to UNCTAD.





JEL classification: 02, F15, F42

The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author and are not to be taken as the official views
of the UNCTAD Secretariat or its Member States. The designations and terminology employed are also
those of the author.

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Comments on this paper are invited and may be addressed to the author, c/o the Publications Assistant,
Macroeconomic and Development Policies Branch (MDPB), Division on Globalization and
Development Strategies (DGDS), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),
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(4122) 9175896). Copies of Discussion Papers may also be obtained from this address.

New Discussion Papers are available on the UNCTAD website at http://www.unctad.org.





Abstract .........................................................................................................................1

I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................1


INTEGRATING ECONOMY.....................................................................................7

A. Macroeconomic and exchange-rate policies ..........................................................9

B. Integration and structural policies ........................................................................12

C. Institutions............................................................................................................13

POLICY SPACE ........................................................................................................13

V. CONCLUSION...................................................................................………………17

REFERENCES ...................................................................................................................19

Figure 1: Instrument-target relationships from a heterodox perspective……… ...................9

Table 1: Constraints on developing countries’ policy space and measures
for its enlargement................................................................................................14



Jörg Mayer


The paper examines how developing countries can use existing policy space, and enlarge
it, without opting out of international commitments. It argues that: (i) a meaningful
context for policy space must extend beyond trade policy and include macroeconomic
and exchange-rate policies that will achieve developmental goals more effectively;
(ii) policy space depends not only on international rules but also on the impact of
international market conditions and policy decisions taken in other countries on the
effectiveness of national policy instruments; and (iii) international integration affects
policy space through several factors that pull in opposite directions; whether it increases
or reduces policy space differs by country and type of integration.


The role of national policies in economic development has long been debated. Much of the
current debate concerns the concept of “policy space” and focuses on the tension between
international economic integration and the autonomy available to nation states to pursue
policies that effectively support their economic development. This tension arises from the
dilemma of “how to keep the manifold benefits of extensive international economic
intercourse free of crippling restrictions while at the same time preserving a maximum degree
of freedom for each nation to pursue its legitimate economic objectives”, as noted by Cooper
(1968: 5).

Recent concern about the tension between international integration and national policy
autonomy mainly relates to two factors. First, the policy agenda which many developing
countries pursued during the 1980s and 1990s did not result in the desired acceleration of
economic development (e.g. World Bank, 2005). Second, the greatly increased
internationalization of markets and the associated stronger impact of foreign factors on
national development have in many instances weakened the effectiveness of domestic
policies. These factors combined triggered a debate on the commonalities of successful
growth strategies that could frame the conduct of economic policies and the desirability of
more proactive policies in development strategies (UN Millennium Project (Sachs Report),
2005; World Bank, 2005; United Nations, 2007; Commission on Growth and Development
(Spence Report), 2008). This debate remains unsettled, but it generally emphasizes “that there
is no universal set of rules” and “that growth entails more than the efficient use of resources”
(World Bank, 2005: xii and 10).


However, it is often perceived that a desire to go beyond attaining the efficient use of
resources and pursue more proactive policies is faced with a reduced number of effective
policy instruments. For instance, the outcome of the Uruguay Round (UR) of multilateral
trade negotiations has extended the scope of multilateral disciplines to include rules that
impinge directly on domestic policies. This may explain why much of the debate on policy
space is confined to trade policy and concerned with how the UR agreements restrict the
sovereignty of nation states to make their own policy decisions (e.g. Gallagher, 2005;
Hamwey, 2005; Abugattas and Paus, 2006; Brown and Stern, 2006; DiCaprio and Gallagher,
2006; Kumar and Gallagher, 2007). Most of these studies voice the concern that UR
disciplines prevent developing countries from following the most effective development
policies. This may be interpreted as suggesting that developing countries could increase their
current policy space only by opting out of at least some of their international commitments.

This paper takes a different perspective. It examines how developing countries can effectively
use existing national policy space, and indeed enlarge it, without opting out of international
commitments.1 Its five main arguments are: (i) to be meaningful and pro-development, the
context for policy space must extend beyond trade policy and include the many non-trade
(particularly macroeconomic and exchange-rate) policies that will achieve developmental
goals more effectively; (ii) policy space depends not only on international rules; rather, in a
globalized world it also depends on the impact of international market conditions and policy
decisions taken in other countries on the effectiveness of national policy instruments;
(iii) international integration affects policy space through several factors that pull in opposite
directions; whether it increases or reduces policy space differs by country and type of
integration; (iv) policy makers who choose to pursue more proactive policies and broad
development objectives which privilege real economic variables (e.g. real output and income
growth) require instruments that allow to: (a) correct for market and government failures;
(b) manage boom-bust cycles; (c) deal effectively with external shocks; and (v) while the UR
agreements have introduced restrictions, most of the policy space required to pursue proactive
development policies is available, and it could be further enlarged by tightening disciplines in
international monetary and financial relationships.

The theory of economic policy, dating back to Tinbergen (1952), forms the methodological
framework of the following examination. While this approach may not be applicable as a
blueprint for contemporary policy-making (van Velthoven, 1990), its basic concepts remain
useful. Thinking of policy-making in terms of instruments, targets and a model that describes
the relationship between targets, instruments and other variables is widespread in public
debate and allows consideration of the operational content of the concept of policy space.

The next section aims at clarifying what is meant by the concept of policy space. Section 3
examines for what purposes a broad range of policy instruments may be required if policy
makers choose to pursue more proactive development strategies. It maps the linkages between
instruments and targets so as to determine broad instrument-target assignments in such a
strategy. Section 4 uses this mapping to identify areas where actions at the national and
international levels might allow developing countries to use their existing policy space more
effectively and to increase it without opting out of international commitments. Section 5

Although not within the scope of this paper, it should be noted that the mere fact of having
policy space does not imply that it is always put to good use. Some developing countries have
used their policy space effectively, and they have been rewarded with accelerated
development, while others have been less able to capitalize on existing policy autonomy.
Effective use of policy space requires policymakers to have a vision of where they want to

1 Thus, this paper complements discussions on improving WTO rules on special and differential
treatment for developing countries (see, for example, UNCTAD, 2006: 223–225).


take an economy. This, in turn, necessitates the formulation of a national development
strategy that has a clear understanding of local capabilities, constraints and opportunities, and
that identifies clear objectives, spells out how policy instruments will be deployed to attain
them, and establishes effective monitoring mechanisms to determine whether policy targets
are being met. Widespread scepticism about the institutional capacity of some countries to
manage a proactive development strategy cannot be ignored. Part of this scepticism is clearly
justified, given the poorly performing institutional set-ups in a number of countries.

It may be useful to emphasize also what the paper is not intended to do. First, it provides no
new theoretical insights on consistent policy making. Rather, the paper draws on the literature
on policy making in developing countries (particularly Rodrik, 2004; and Stiglitz et al., 2006)
and examines how the type of integration proposed there relates to the policy-space debate.
The paper focuses on Rodrik (2004) and Stiglitz et al. (2006) because the integration strategy
proposed by these authors implies a much more proactive role of economic policies than those
suggested by others. Hence, the findings of this paper may be considered the outcome of an
extreme case scenario. Second, the paper does not present a country case study which would
be the only way to identify with reasonable precision how the effectiveness of a feasible set of
policies is influenced by the structure of the domestic economy, a given global economic
situation, and by a given domestic and global institutional environment. While this would be
an interesting area for further research, such an assessment is necessarily determined by
country- and time-specific factors.2


The theory of economic policy – initiated by Tinbergen (1952), elaborated from a
macroeconomic interdependence perspective by Cooper (1968) and Bryant (1980), and
recently also used in the policy-space debate by UNCTAD (2006) and Akyüz (2007) – has
been an important basis for addressing the effectiveness of policies in the evolution of a
national economy.3 In spite of the many arguments4 against applying that theory as a
blueprint, both policymakers and economists who provide policy advice generally adopt,
explicitly or implicitly, its basic ingredients. Those ingredients are: (i) a set of instruments
that are subject to direct control by policymakers; (ii) a set of targets that describe the
evolution of the national economy; and (iii) a model, which describes the economic
relationships between instruments and targets, as well as the choices available to
policymakers to attain desired values of the targets by applying specific instruments. Given
that a multitude of instruments have an impact on the chosen targets and that often there are
significant time lags before such impacts become measurable, it is useful also to include a
number of intermediate targets in the model in addition to a small number of ultimate target

2 A possible methodology for such an assessment could be “growth diagnostics” as explained by
Hausmann, Klinger and Wagner (2008).
3 The theory of economic policy only addresses what Tinbergen (1952) called “quantitative” economic
policy, which is distinct from the “qualitative” framework in which policymakers operate. The latter
describes a country’s economic and political institutional arrangements that have a strong impact on
incentives and on the behaviour of both policymakers and individuals, and thus on the structural
characteristics of instrument-target relationships.
4 Van Velthoven (1990) discusses four major criticisms: (i) rational expectations, suggesting policy
ineffectiveness; (ii) the Lucas critique, suggesting that the coefficients of the model describing
instrument-target relationships will in part reflect the specific combination of instruments applied
during the period over which they are estimated, and thus need not be stable; (iii) information
constraints and decision costs, which further reduce the certainty with which a given set of instruments
can attain the targets that define a specific level of social welfare; and (iv) public choice issues, which
question whether public sector decision-making is an adequate reflection of citizens’ preferences.


variables.5 There are two important rules of the theory of economic policy: (i) the number of
policy instruments must be at least as great as the number of targets if all targets are to be
attained; and (ii) in case of trade-offs between target variables, policymakers must use a social
welfare function to decide which combination of instruments maximizes the degree to which
a consistent set of targets can be attained.

Policymakers in closed economies have full sovereign command over policy instruments, but
they may not be able to control specific policy targets effectively. First, potential trade-offs in
the effectiveness of different instruments, as well as in the objectives sought, make it difficult
to combine the available instruments in a way that would enable all targets to be attained
simultaneously (van Velthoven, 1990). Such trade-offs exist in many policy areas, for
example between full employment and price stability, growth and income distribution or,
more generally, between efficiency and equity. Second, instruments can be used only within
specific boundaries (Bryant, 1980: 173). For example, there is a limit to how far nominal
interest rates can be lowered. Third, the relationships between policy instruments and targets
are often unstable, and knowledge and information about these relationships are usually
incomplete. This problem is particularly acute in developing countries where policy aims at
achieving structural change and thus involves a continuous adaptation of targets, instruments
and behavioural relations rather than a routine use of a given instrument-target relationship.
This need for constant adaptation makes it desirable to have available as many effective
policy instruments as possible (Cooper, 1968: 153–154).

To analyse instrument-target relationships in an internationally integrated economy, it is
useful to distinguish de jure sovereignty, which involves the formal authority of national
policymakers over policy instruments, and de facto control, which involves the ability of
national policymakers to effectively influence specific targets through the skilful use of policy
instruments (Cooper, 1968: 4; Bryant, 1980: 149–150). On this basis, national policy space
may be defined as the combination of de jure policy sovereignty and de facto national policy

This distinction suggests that international economic integration affects national policy space
through several forces that pull in opposite directions. The process of integration into the
global economy restricts national policy space in terms of both a reduction in the number of
available instruments as a result of legal commitments to international rules and practices (i.e.
constraints on de jure policy sovereignty), and in terms of the reduced effectiveness of
macroeconomic instruments (i.e. constraints on de facto policy autonomy). At the same time,
integration enlarges national policy space in terms of de facto control because (i) multilateral
rules and disciplines enable a coordinated response to cross-border disturbances and prevent
policymakers in countries that can have a disproportionately large impact on the evolution of
other economies from adopting discriminatory or beggar-thy-neighbour policies, thus
restoring part of the effectiveness of domestic instrument-target relationships in
internationally less influential countries; and because (ii) integration into a larger market
increases the effectiveness of many structural policies, particularly those whose effectiveness
strongly depends on scale economies or the disciplines of international competition.6

5 For example, controlling investment-to-GDP ratios or technology and education levels can be
intermediate targets for achieving income growth.
6 The conceptual framework presented by Hamwey (2005) and adopted by Abugattas and Paus (2006)
distinguishes external and internal policy space. The former is delineated by international agreements
and market expectations, while the latter is constricted by domestic institutional capabilities and
resources that define the capacity of a country to implement development policies. A country’s
available policy space is thus confined to the overlapping of the two sets of policy space. The main
drawbacks of Hamwey’s framework are that it considers international rules exclusively as constraining,
thus ignoring the protection that those rules provide against other countries’ beggar-thy-neighbour
policies, and that it ignores the fact that de facto integration can reduce national policy space with much
the same effect as a loss of sovereignty through adherence to international rules.


The workings of these different forces, which make policy space an issue of finding the right
balance, can be considered more precisely as follows:

(1) Integration into international economic relationships weakens de facto control over
national economic development by allowing foreign actions and conditions to influence
national macroeconomic policy targets.7 This reduced effectiveness in the ability to control
national policy targets is most prominent in monetary policy. As national money and capital
markets are joined by international flows of funds, interest rates tend to converge across
countries. This can create trade-offs between attaining internal or external targets. For
example, in response to changes in international financial markets domestic policymakers
may be compelled to change the level of the domestic interest rate because the relative
difference in interest rates affects cross-border capital movements. However, such a change
may result in an absolute level of the interest rate that is inappropriate for attaining domestic
policy targets. Moreover, with an open capital account both the exchange rate and the interest
rate are potential policy instruments, but only one of them can actually be employed

(2) Multilateral rules and disciplines, as well as commitments resulting from bilateral
agreements, reduce de jure sovereign control over policy instruments. For example, the
conditionality attached to assistance from the international financial institutions (IFIs) reduces
the autonomy of governments to determine the size of public expenditures, and WTO
agreements reduce the scope for Member States to impose trade-related performance
requirements on the granting of subsidies to domestic manufacturers.

These two sources of external constraints on national policy space overlap and reinforce each
other. On the one hand, integration into international markets reduces the number of
instruments controlled by policymakers much in the way sovereignty is circumscribed by
enhanced international rules and disciplines. On the other hand, international rules and
disciplines weaken the influence of national policy instruments over national policy targets by
promoting economic integration.

This weakening of sovereignty and of the effectiveness of national instruments over national
targets must be weighed against the gains from integration into international markets and
participation in the system of multilateral rules and disciplines.

(3) While de facto integration into international markets reduces the effectiveness of national
macroeconomic policies, it can improve the effectiveness of many structural policies that are
of crucial importance for developing countries. Increasing returns to scale on an industry-
wide basis and enhanced technological upgrading are the two main channels that, compared to
policies in closed economies, make outward-oriented policies more effective in establishing
competitive industries, thus improving the effectiveness of national sectoral and technology
policies. For example, technological upgrading in developing countries often depends on the
availability of foreign technologies embodied in imported capital goods, particularly during
the initial stages of industrialization. Economic integration facilitates access to foreign
technologies, and the foreign exchange earned from exporting alleviates the balance-of-
payments constraint. Both these mechanisms combine to reinforce the effectiveness of a
country’s sectoral and technology policies to build productive capacity and spur productivity
growth. Regarding financial integration, access to international financial markets enable
domestic firms to finance investment at internationally competitive conditions, which
increases the effectiveness of national investment policies.

7 Akyüz (2007), following Cooper (1968) and Bryant (1980), discusses the impact of openness on
macroeconomic policy autonomy in a similar way.
8 For the distinction between potential and actual policy instruments, see Bryant (1980: 13).


(4) Multilateral rules and disciplines can also improve national policy effectiveness.9
According to Akyüz (2007: 8), “multilateral rules and disciplines are a form of global
collective action whereby governments voluntarily agree to reduce sovereignty on a
reciprocal basis by subjecting their policies in specified areas to certain rules in the
expectation that such an action would lead to a net benefit”. Ideally, such a system would
form a coherent set of multilateral arrangements. Its guiding principle would be to manage the
interface between different national systems, rather than reducing national differences and
establishing one omnipotent economic and legal structure.

Globalization provides an opportunity for policymakers in influential economies to use
beggar-thy-neighbour policies. They may be tempted to employ commercial, macroeconomic
or exchange-rate policies in pursuit of specific national objectives – such as attaining
mercantilist goals or postponing the adjustment of internal or external imbalances – which
reduce the effectiveness of national policy instruments in other countries. In the absence of
multilateral disciplines and cooperation, retaliatory action by adversely affected countries
could lead to disruptions in international economic relations that might leave all countries
worse off.

Multilateral cooperation and disciplines can also help maximize global public goods.
Countries might refrain from undertaking unilateral trade liberalization – for fear of adverse
effects on their balance of payments and employment – even when they believe that doing so
would bring efficiency gains. However, they might be willing to undertake multilateral trade
liberalization because the principles of reciprocity and non-discrimination underlying
multilateral rules give relatively weak countries better protection than they would be able to
obtain on their own by negotiating bilateral agreements or staying out of any multilateral
commitments altogether. As far as systemic stability in international money and finance is
concerned, it is likely that emerging economies will remain vulnerable to currency and
financial crises as long as the currencies of the major industrial countries remain subject to
large gyrations. By contrast, macroeconomic policy coordination and multilateral monetary
and financial disciplines that would ensure stable and well-aligned exchange rates among the
key currencies would shield weaker and smaller economies from adverse impulses originating
from monetary and fiscal policies in the major countries.

For global collective action to be acceptable to all parties, it must result from a bargaining
process based on the full, equal and voluntary participation of all the parties concerned.
However, there is a natural inclination, particularly by internationally powerful countries, to
shape multilateral arrangements in a way that gives them maximum flexibility to pursue their
own goals while restricting the degrees of freedom for others in areas of conflicting national
interests. Countries that feel disadvantaged by the way multilateral rules and commitments are
formulated and implemented can, in principle, choose not to participate in or leave the
multilateral arrangements in question and conduct international relations on a bilateral basis.
But countries with little power internationally (i.e. the vast majority of developing, as well as
many developed countries) will not be well-advised to follow this route, because coercive
action is likely to be even stronger in bilateral relationships with major economic and political

To summarize, the tension between international economic integration on the one hand and
the degree of autonomy available to a country to implement policies that effectively influence
its economic performance on the other is governed by both its de facto integration into
international markets and its de jure integration into supranational governance structures.
How to determine the right balance between maintaining flexibility in national economic
policy-making and reducing it through multilateral disciplines and collective governance
remains a contentious issue. On the one hand, the absence of multilateral disciplines can

9 This and the following three paragraphs partly follow Akyüz (2007).


disrupt international economic relations and/or bias them in favour of those countries that
wield substantial economic or political power. On the other hand, an increasing extension of
legally binding external constraints on national economic policies, including multilateral rules
and obligations established without the full participation of all countries concerned and biased
against the interests of some groups of countries, would unduly impinge on the availability or
effectiveness of national policy instruments.

However, there is no quantifiable single balance between multilateral disciplines and national
policy autonomy that suits all countries or applies across all spheres of economic activity. The
maturity of a country’s institutional development, the sustainability of its external accounts,
its economic size and pattern of domestic production will influence the impact of its
international economic integration on the effectiveness of national policies. Similarly, at any
level of economic development, a country’s optimal degree of international integration is
likely to differ across different spheres such as trade, investment, finance, labour and
technology. For example, the existence of a functioning domestic financial market and
previous integration into international goods markets are likely to be significant factors in
determining the impact of a country’s capital market integration on the effectiveness of its
monetary and financial policies. Hence, whether international integration increases or reduces
national policy space is an empirical question for each country and for each type of


One difficulty in applying the instruments-targets approach to real-life policy-making is the
limited knowledge about the incentive and behavioural structures of individuals, as well as the
ways in which policymakers react to changes in the structure of the economy or to external
shocks. Both these aspects, which may be considered as forming part of what Tinbergen
(1952) called the “qualitative” framework of an economy, are highly location- and time-
specific. Getting better knowledge of this qualitative framework is likely to be one element of
“development as a discovery process” (Hausmann and Rodrik, 2003).

Another difficulty is the absence of a consensus on how the process of growth and
development is generated and sustained, and how policy instruments and targets relate to each
other in this process. Most development concepts consider stable and sustained real income
growth to remain the most important target of economic policy in developing countries.10 But
rival concepts embody significantly different analytical views with attendant controversies as
to what targets policymakers should pursue, how best to describe instrument-target
relationships, and how de facto and de jure international integration impact on the (effective)
use of national policy instruments.

Given these differences, it is useful as a first step to map, if only in an illustrative manner,
what instrument-target relationships try to attain in different policy areas. This section
develops such a map. The subsequent section uses this map to determine where and in what
direction national policy strategies and the scope of multilateral rules and disciplines could be
altered to increase the effectiveness of national policies for attaining growth and development
targets in an integrating economy. As already mentioned in the introduction, this mapping is
based on what Stiglitz et al. (2006) call the “heterodox perspective” because the integration
strategy proposed from this perspective implies a much more proactive role of economic
policies than, for example, World Bank (2005), the Sachs Report or the Spence Report.
Hence, the findings of this paper may be considered the outcome of an extreme case scenario.

10 While recognizing that there are broader concepts of development, this paper is limited to a focus on
longer-term economic growth.


Some of these instrument-target relationships are controversial – as are those of alternative
perspectives – and their developmental effects clearly depend on country- and time-specific
factors. Thus, they should not be seen as a blueprint for development strategies but rather as a
framework that identifies objectives and spells out how policy instruments can be deployed to
attain them; this, in turn, allows determining which and in what way specific instrument-
target relationships are affected by de facto and de jure integration.

The heterodox perspective criticizes the instrument-target relationships of the reform agenda
that many developing countries pursued during the 1980s and 1990s as being too narrowly
focused on monetary stabilization, emphasizing intermediate targets (monetary stabilisation)
instead of final ones, and using too few instruments (mainly monetary and fiscal policies) due
to an excessive focus on price stability and allocative efficiency as the key conditions for
economic growth. It argues that relying on monetary stabilization and efficient use of
resources ignores the interrelationship between stabilization and growth, as well as the
potential adverse impacts of international market forces – unleashed through broad-based
trade and financial integration – on stabilization and growth. Furthermore, it criticizes this
approach for considering its policy agenda as a blueprint, with insufficient attention given to
country-specific conditions. In this sense, the heterodox perspective does not prescribe a
different, yet still globally applicable blueprint. Rather, it represents an alternative perspective
on policy targets and instrument-target relationships whose operational details and requisite
reform prescriptions will vary across countries depending on local economic and institutional

The heterodox perspective sees the dynamics of production structures as the engine of growth
and development. Hence, governments are to pursue macroeconomic policies that combine
stabilization with growth promotion, and adopt trade and other structural policies that
encourage investment (both domestic and foreign) which generates new products and new
production processes and facilitates the creation of linkages among domestic firms and
sectors. It argues that financial liberalization can rapidly give rise to speculative short-term
financial flows through which events on international markets and policies adopted by other
countries can have a disruptive effect on domestic policies. Hence, there is a strong emphasis
on proactive macroeconomic and structural policies to stimulate productive investment, move
an economy towards high-productivity sectors and activities, and reduce its vulnerability to
potential adverse effects from financial liberalization. While policies should aim to achieve
efficiency gains, they are considered unlikely to spur growth unless they also strengthen
incentives for innovative investment and address market and government failures that
undercut efforts to accumulate capital and boost productivity.

Figure 1 suggests a map of instrument-target relationships that aim at maximizing the
effectiveness of domestic policy instruments in attaining sustained real income growth,
structural change and technological upgrading; section (iii) of the following narrative
discusses how multilateral rules and disciplines can support this maximization effort.

It is clear that the map cannot fully reflect the complexity of development policies. For
example, trade-offs between instruments and/or targets can have important effects on
outcomes, but this is not reflected here. While the map helps to clarify the specific purpose
and potential contribution of each instrument, it needs to remain at a rather general level.
Individual countries will need to calibrate these broad instrument-target assignments to their
specific economic and social conditions, national preferences and institutional set-ups.
Combined with the subsequent narrative, the map is, nonetheless, useful in providing broad
indications on a set of policy instruments and targets available to conduct a consistent and
coordinated development strategy that aims at sustained real income growth, structural change
and technological upgrading. The figure reflects the primary link between instruments (in
squares) and intermediate targets, as well as quantitative measures of these targets, (encircled)
through double-line arrows, while single-line arrows indicate indirect links. Thick arrows


mark links between intermediate targets and the ultimate targets of sustained real income
growth, structural change and technological upgrading (encircled bold).

A. Macroeconomic and exchange-rate policies

The heterodox perspective considers macroeconomic stabilization and growth policies to be
closely interrelated. On the one hand, the monetary and fiscal policy mix influences the
behaviour of real interest rates, exchange rates, output, wages and asset prices, which in turn
strongly influences investment and savings decisions, as well as the international
competitiveness of a country’s enterprises. On the other hand, aggregate income growth
fosters household savings and, through the automatic stabilizers, fiscal accounts, as well as
productivity growth that enables non-inflationary wage growth. Hence, in order to be
conducive to productive investment and income growth, macroeconomic stabilization should
be targeted at real, rather than monetary, variables (such as real output, real interest and real
exchange rates) and should aim at encouraging and supporting the creation and expansion of
internationally competitive productive capacity.

Stabilization polices that pay insufficient attention to this broad view of macroeconomic
stability and the respective trade-offs (e.g. between maximizing anti-inflationary measures
and minimizing output losses) may fail to generate rapid economic growth. Indeed,
macroeconomic stabilization with a narrow focus on monetary variables, combined with
broad-based liberalization, may lead to a peculiar combination of macroeconomic prices


(i.e. high real interest and strong real exchange rates) that fail to increase investment,
introduce new technologies and expand exports.

The heterodox perspective sees fiscal stabilization is a key instrument for achieving overall
macroeconomic stability, which in turn provides the foundation for price and exchange-rate
stabilization. It defines the fiscal anchor (i.e. the fiscal policy target that ensures a sustainable
and solvency-preserving fiscal policy) in terms of structural balances, and recommends basing
fiscal programming on a multi-year framework that uses the ratio of fiscal expenditure to
potential aggregate income.11 From this perspective, using potential output as a target measure
keeps inflation and exchange-rate expectations under control, and provides macroeconomic
stability by eliminating the unwanted effects of cyclical fluctuations on the programming and
execution of fiscal spending. Overall, using potential output as a target measure is seen as
helping policymakers develop a mix of macroeconomic disciplines and flexibility to react to
imbalances in the real economy arising from a significant gap between potential and actual
aggregate income or from unexpected changes in the business cycle.12

Tax design and expenditure composition are important transmission channels of the growth
impact of fiscal policy. Ensuring that the tax system does not distort incentives and shifting
the composition of expenditures towards more productive uses enhances the growth stimulus
of fiscal policy at any deficit level. Growth-enhancing fiscal expenditure is usually seen as
comprising capital expenditure, as well as spending on education, health, and transport and
communication infrastructure (e.g. Adam and Bevan, 2005). Prioritizing among these
spending targets to maximize the economic return on government spending will depend on
country-specific growth constraints.

The heterodox perspective does not view low inflation itself as a policy target because, owing
to uncertainty about the often only weak link between inflation and real variables, it is
preferable to focus directly on observable real variables. International integration further
enhances this uncertainty because the prices of many items produced or consumed
domestically are increasingly determined by foreign demand and supply factors. Hence,
inflation becomes less responsive to output gap fluctuations, and monetary policy needs to be
less restrictive to meet a certain inflation target (Mody and Ohnsorge, 2007). Moreover,
moderate inflation rates are considered unlikely to impede economic growth. According to a
wide range of studies, inflation is detrimental to growth only if it is in excess of a certain
threshold. While there is no agreement on the level of that threshold, it is often considered to
be around 10 per cent per annum.13

In addition to the stabilization effects stemming from the monetary and fiscal policy mix, the
heterodox perspective recommends to achieve price stability through an incomes policy (i.e.
controlling wage growth as a source of cost inflation by coercing or persuading employers

11 Potential GDP is the level of output that an economy can produce at a constant inflation rate.
Potential output is country- and time-specific as it depends on the capital stock, the potential labour
force (which depends on demographic factors and participation rates), the non-accelerating wage rate
of unemployment (NAWRU) and the level of labour productivity.
12 Moreover, public revenue stabilization funds pertaining to temporary income from both taxes and
raw material exports are an important component of a countercyclical policy framework. They help
generate fiscal surpluses in boom periods and mitigate fiscal restraint during downswings.
13 Khan and Senhadji (2001) indicate a threshold of 11–12 per cent per annum for developing
countries; they also discuss the findings of earlier studies which mostly found higher threshold levels.
The rationale for allowing moderate inflation rates is also based on the strongly adverse economic
impact of deflation and the fact that monetary policy is ineffective when an economy is in deflation.
Moreover, there are important trade-offs between rapid disinflation and growth, because with rapidly
falling inflation high nominal interest rates quickly translate into high real interest rates that discourage
productive investment and limit growth.


and employees to restrict their price and wage increases within a given level of overall
productivity growth). The easiest way to apply incomes policy is through wage and price
controls or, in a less interventionist way, by setting wages through centralized collective
bargaining, where wage agreements are monitored through tripartite agreements between the
government and employees’ and employers’ associations. Productivity growth in domestic
production of consumer goods and, more generally, low real prices for wage goods also
contribute to curbing excessive wage cost increases and spurring growth, as they allow real
wages to rise without impeding investment and international competitiveness.

With incomes and fiscal policies being the main instruments to control inflation, monetary
policy can be targeted at economic growth. The following are the immediate targets of
monetary policy from a heterodox perspective: maintaining interest rates at levels that provide
domestic credit on terms and conditions that offer appropriate incentives for productive
investment; maintaining a competitive and stable real exchange rate; and ensuring the
development and stability of the domestic financial system.14 At the same time, balance-sheet
vulnerabilities (e.g. caused by liability dollarization and maturity mismatches) must be
minimized to foster financial sector stability. Financial development, supported by banking
and non-bank financial regulations, safeguards most domestic control over policy variables if
it creates and consolidates domestic-currency-denominated intermediation instruments (e.g.
bank loans, corporate bonds, securitized assets) that facilitate productive investment.

The heterodox perspective argues that the volatility and pro-cyclical character of short-term
capital flows requires the prudential management of such capital flows in order to preserve
macroeconomic stability and allow policymakers to use restrictive monetary policy during
economic upswings and avoid excessively contractionary policies during slowdowns. The key
objective of managing short-term capital flows is preventing the cumulative build-up of
foreign liabilities that can be easily reversed; that is, preventing cyclical upturns in external
financing from triggering excessive increases in external credit to the domestic private sector,
preventing capital inflows from causing real exchange rate overvaluation, and controlling
mismatches in the currency denomination of assets and liabilities in the domestic financial
sector. Related instruments can be indirect (e.g. prudential regulations) or direct (e.g. reserve
requirements or taxes on external financing, direct regulation of portfolio flows). Measures
adopted in the 1990s by Chile and Colombia are often cited as examples of direct instruments
(Epstein, Grabel and Jomo, 2004).15 However, in order to make the use of these instruments
effective, sustainable monetary and fiscal policies must underpin the prudential management
of short-term capital inflows.

In terms of choosing the exchange-rate regime, the heterodox perspective advises against
adopting so-called “corner solutions” (i.e. fixed pegs or full floating). In particular, it opposes
use of the exchange rate as an instrument for disinflation. It sees maintaining a sustainable
current-account position and stability of the real exchange rate at a level that preserves
domestic firms’ international competitiveness as the main targets of exchange-rate policy. An

14 Interest rate policy involves a number of trade-offs. It will affect investment only to the extent that
investment is debt-financed and only when investors see profitable investment opportunities.
Moreover, controlling exchange-rate fluctuations through interest-rate policy is difficult in financially
integrated economies because domestic interest rates become heavily exposed to pro-cyclical and
volatile short-term international financial flows. This in turn risks creating boom and bust cycles in
domestic asset prices.
15 The IMF Articles of Agreement allow such controls. Article VI section 3 (Controls of Capital
Transfers) states “Members may exercise such controls as are necessary to regulate international capital
movements …”. IMF policy advice may become more favourable towards controlling capital flows.
According to the Independent Evaluation Office (2005: 6) of the IMF “the IMF has learned over time
on capital account issues” and “the new paradigm … acknowledges the usefulness of capital controls
under certain conditions, particularly controls on inflows”. So far, this has not yet been consistently
reflected in policy advice because of “the lack of a clear position by the institution”.


overvaluation and excessive volatility of the real exchange rate are to be avoided in order to
support export growth with a view to expanding investment and output. While the real
exchange rate is a relative price, and hence not under the direct control of policymakers, it can
be influenced by fiscal, monetary, income and capital-account policies, as well as by foreign-
exchange interventions (Eichengreen, 2007; Rodrik, 2008).16 Choosing soft pegs or managed
floating as an exchange-rate regime facilitates achievement of these policy targets.17

B. Integration and structural policies

Regarding the objective of de facto integration, the heterodox perspective emphasizes support
for the development and continuous upgrading of productive capacity while meeting
intertemporal budget constraints, rather than narrowly aiming at efficiency gains from
aligning domestic to international prices. This is to be achieved through strategic integration,
which compared to rapid and broad-based liberalization is a more measured, selective and
policy-driven strategy. Strategic trade integration emphasizes the mutually reinforcing links
between trade, investment and growth. The pace and pattern of trade integration should
ensure that import liberalization does not cause balance-of-payments problems, and that
export earnings translate into increased investment. These effects combined are seen to
improve a country’s manufacturing capacity and productivity, while avoiding growing
dependence on external capital.

The heterodox perspective considers the creation of the technological capability to
competitively produce goods previously purchased abroad to be a natural feature of economic
development. However, due to the multitude of information and coordination failures
associated with investment and productivity growth, relying on the incentives generated from
allocative efficiency may not suffice (Rodrik, 2004). Rather, the heterodox perspective
emphasizes the need for proactive trade and industrial policies to foster nascent industrial
activity and promote technology transfer and adaptation. Such national policies are not meant
to be inward-looking, protectionist mechanisms to support industries in which production and
employment are threatened by foreign competitors that have successfully upgraded their
production. Rather, they aim to strengthen productive investment. The way in which
production might be considered for policy support and for how long depends on many factors
that change in the course of economic development.18

The range of instruments designed to attain such targets include performance requirements for
foreign investors, subsidies conditional on export performance to encourage international
competitiveness of nascent domestic manufacturing, flexible use of compulsory licensing for
the domestic use of protected foreign intellectual property, a flexible import tariff policy that
modulates applied tariffs on particular manufacturing sectors around a stable average level,
and many more.

Rodrik (2004) argues that the aim of proactive trade and industrial policies is not to pick
winners, but to identify and discipline underperforming firms. Thus, the establishment of
clear operational goals, time horizons and sunset clauses, as well as the adoption and effective

16 Regarding the question of the real exchange rate as a development policy tool, Eichengreen (2007:
23; 10) notes that it “is best thought of as a facilitating condition: keeping it at competitive levels and
avoiding excessive volatility facilitate efforts to capitalize on these fundamentals” and, more generally
asserts, “it is a useful summary indicator of the growth-friendly or unfriendly stance of economic
17 As outlined by Bradford (2005: 5–6), choosing managed exchange-rate regimes, combined with
selective capital controls, also allows for some monetary policy autonomy. Thus, it avoids the
impossible trinity, i.e. the impossibility to have a fixed exchange rate, a completely open capital
account and full monetary policy autonomy at the same time.
18 For detailed discussion see, for example, Rodrik (2004) and UNCTAD (2006: 152–166).


monitoring of observable performance criteria is critical to the success of this strategy. In a
sense, the enforcement of performance requirements, particularly those related to productivity
gains as imposed by the disciplines of the international market, represents the “stick” that
complements the “carrot” provided by the creation of rents from productivity-enhancing
investment supported by temporary subsidies and protection. It is by constraining the use of
such trade-related performance requirements that, from a heterodox perspective, the UR
agreements most seriously reduce developing countries’ policy space.

C. Institutions

Regarding institutional arrangements, the heterodox perspective emphasizes that government
action is a strategic complement to markets. Juxtaposing government and markets, or
government failures and market failures, would be misleading. Rather, institutions must
introduce corrective measures against both market failure and government failure.
Governments need to be made accountable, not bypassed. Institutional change should aim at
improving checks and balances on government discretion, addressing information and
coordination externalities, monitoring instrument-target relationships, and managing
reciprocal control mechanisms designed to minimize abuse of economic rents that are
inherent to the dynamics of structural change in production and trade. Strategic collaboration
between the government, business organizations and institutions of learning and innovation is
an important instrument to this end.

The heterodox perspective sees the main target of de jure integration as reducing exposure to
adverse external effects, including protection from beggar-thy-neighbour policies adopted by
other countries. This target is closely related to the overall rationale for multilateral rules and
commitments, discussed in section 2 above.

The heterodox perspective values the core principles of the multilateral trading regime,
namely reciprocity and non-discrimination, as reflected in the most-favoured nation rule. It
supports the WTO in its primary function to provide negotiated, binding and enforceable
rules, the key benefits of which are the resulting certainty and predictability of international
trade. Upholding such a system based on multilaterally agreed rules outlaws beggar-thy-
neighbour type trade policies. The heterodox perspective raises concern from a policy-space-
related point of view about the net benefit of bilateral or regional North-South agreements
because such agreements require developing countries to exchange expected short-term
benefits from greater export market access and FDI inflows for constraints on the use of
certain policy instruments including in areas that are no longer (government spending,
competition policy, investment) or never have been (environmental and labour standards,
capital account issues) at issue in WTO negotiations (Shadlen, 2005).


Based on the mapping of instrument-target relationships in figure 1, table 1 links broad policy
areas to levels of policy-making. The table aims at indicating where policymakers could take
measures to use existing policy space more effectively and further enlarge their current policy
space without opting out of international commitments. The basic point of the table is to show
that such measures would imply a reassessment of instrument-target assignments at the
national level and a rationalization of multilateral rules and disciplines at the international
level. This rationalization would entail tighter, rather than looser, multilateral disciplines in
money and finance. It would aim in particular to control wide deviations from underlying
conditions of the nominal exchange rates among those countries that have the greatest impact
on international monetary and financial stability.


Table 1


Measures for preserving or enlarging existing policy space
without opting out of existing commitments

Sources of current
restrictions on national

policy space National measures International measures

De facto (particularly
financial) integration

Loan conditionality of
international financial


Aid conditionality of

Reassessment of policy
targets and instrument-
target relationships, from
emphasizing monetary
stabilization towards
emphasizing real economic
variables and the
interrelationship between
stabilization and growth-
enhancing policies.

Tighter multilateral
disciplines over
macroeconomic and
exchange-rate policies of
countries that have the
greatest impact on global
monetary and financial
stability. Better
macroeconomic and
exchange-rate policy
coordination between key
currency countries. Regional
monetary and financial
cooperation among
developing countries.

Reassessment of policy
targets and instrument-target
relationships, from
emphasizing maximization of
export market access and
FDI inflows towards
maximizing creation of
domestic value added and

Avoiding further tightening of
WTO disciplines on
developing countries'
industrialization strategies
and of multilateralisation of
WTO-plus rules on
intellectual property rights,
investment, government
procurement, etc.

policies: mainly
trade and

De jure trade
integration through
both multilateral
agreements, and in
particular bilateral and
regional North-South

Avoidance of additional
constraints from bilateral
trade and investment

Tighter WTO disciplines on
developed-country use of
trade contingency measures
(e.g. zeroing in antidumping)
and agricultural support and

Institutions Developed countries'
dominance of
multilateral norm
setting and their use of
their own institutional
settings as a blueprint
for national institutions
in developing

Reorientation from
efficiency-enhancing to

Reassessment of global
economic governance
structure to allow developing
countries to become
proactive norm setters.

De jure constraints on developing countries’ policy space are the most pronounced for
structural policies.19 The UR agreements account for some of this restriction. Nevertheless,
these agreements have left some policy space.20 While the Agreement on Trade-related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) risks pre-empting or stifling countries’ ability
to develop domestic technological capabilities, it does allow flexible use of compulsory
licensing. The Agreement on Trade-related Investment Measures (TRIMS) makes it difficult
to link investment support to export-related disciplines aimed at withdrawing support from
producers that do not achieve international competitiveness within a pre-defined period of

19 See Gallagher (2005) for a detailed discussion of the issues addressed in this paragraph. It should
also be recognized that there are many informal constraints; for example, aid-dependent countries often
lack the confidence to carry out policies that might conflict with the interests of donors.
20 This is true particularly for least developed countries, for which transition periods have been
extended, for example for TRIPS until at least 2016 and for TRIMS until at least 2020.


time. But FDI regulating measures that do not violate national treatment or impose
quantitative restrictions continue to be consistent with WTO rules. The Agreement on
Subsidies and Countervailing Measures implies a significant tightening of disciplines, but
some subsidies have been tacitly allowed, with neither developed nor developing countries
challenging them. There is disagreement as to whether the remaining permitted subsidies are
sufficient to allow support for industrial development support, but it is clear that fiscal cost is
a major constraint on many developing countries’ use of such subsidies. Pursuing a flexible
tariff policy remains possible for many developing countries, although this potential has
remained largely unexploited. In this respect, possible constraints on flexible tariff policies
resulting from the Doha Round negotiations might reduce potential, but not current, policy
space. Developing countries appear to accord greater importance to securing constraints on
developed countries’ agricultural policy space than to maintaining their own policy space for
industrial tariffs. Meanwhile, North-South economic integration agreements have resulted in
further de jure constraints, as discussed in the preceding section.

It is through supposedly sovereign decision that developing-country policymakers sign on to
the commitments of international trade agreements that reduce de jure policy space. This may
partly reflect some preference by policymakers for short-term benefits over autonomy in
deciding on their long-term policy options.21 But different degrees of influence between
developed and developing countries on globalization trends and global economic governance
often confront policymakers with difficult trade-offs. Regarding the commitments stemming
from the UR agreements, Finger and Nogues (2002) note that at the end of the UR,
developing countries were faced with the choice of accepting what was proposed or risk being
marginalized in the international trade regime.22 As for engagement in North-South
integration agreements, Baldwin (1997) notes a domino effect: existing North-South
preferential agreements tempt non-members to join so as not to lose out on access to sizeable
export markets and sources of FDI. Hence, while engaging in international commitments may
be a “sovereign” decision, there is often little alternative.

Preserving the remaining multilateral de jure policy space for developing countries to
undertake structural policies implies that, at the international level, moves to multilateralize
bilateral and regional trade agreements should not extend to their WTO-plus commitments. It
also implies that a potential further tightening of WTO rules should emphasize greater
disciplines on developed countries’ use of trade contingency measures (e.g. the practice of
zeroing in anti-dumping) and of agricultural support and protection. At the national level, it
would imply a reassessment of the relative benefits stemming from greater export market
access and FDI inflows on the one hand, and flexibilities in policies designed to maximize the
creation of domestic linkages and value added on the other.

In spite of exposing the domestic economy to a number of adverse influences originating in
international markets, de facto international economic integration preserves significant
national policy space. As outlined in the previous section, fully exploiting this policy space
requires a reassessment of policy targets and instrument-target relationships at the national
level. Such a reassessment, including the use of a greater number of policy instruments,
would aim at pursuing more pro-active macroeconomic and structural policies while reducing

21 Depending on the relative size of the costs and benefits involved, this may not imply an overall
negative net benefit, particularly to the extent that policymakers can denounce such agreements after
benefits have started to accrue while costs have not yet set in, or because they were not intending to use
the foregone policy space.
22 According to Finger and Nogues (2002: 334), influential developed countries had announced that
they would withdraw from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) as soon as the WTO
came into existence. This implied that a country that did not accept the “grand bargain” of the UR
agreements would not have enjoyed protection from discriminatory treatment, either from the new
WTO or the old GATT rules and regulations.


the vulnerability of the domestic economy to adverse spillover effects of international
monetary and financial disturbances.

The developmental effectiveness of macroeconomic and structural policies would be
strengthened by a reorientation of developing countries’ institutional arrangements from
efficiency-enhancing towards growth-enhancing institutions (Khan, 2007), in particular by
deploying reciprocal control mechanisms for the effective management of economic rents
associated with proactive trade and industrial policies.

The effectiveness of reassessing policy targets and instrument-target relationships at the
national level will be strengthened in particular by adopting appropriate measures at the
international level aimed at tackling the root causes of international monetary and financial
disturbances. Unlike the multilateral trading regime, current monetary and financial
arrangements are not organized around a multilaterally negotiated set of rules that would be
binding and enforceable for all participants. Existing rules do not seem to offer appropriate
instruments for tackling major global financial problems such as exchange rate volatility,
sizeable and prolonged current-account imbalances, and the dominance of short-term
financial flows over long-term ones.

The Bretton Woods system contained multilateral disciplines to control two main channels of
exchange-rate instability (Akyüz, 2007). First, restrictions over short-term arbitrage flows
sought to limit interest-rate arbitrage, and hence the scope of markets to generate unexpected
and erratic exchange-rate movements. Second, the exchange-rate arrangement implied
obligations for countries to maintain their exchange rates within a narrow range of agreed par
values, thus preventing beggar-thy-neighbour policies based on competitive devaluations; but
it also allowed them to change their par values under fundamental disequilibrium. These
institutional arrangements allowed the Bretton Woods system to maintain a balance between
national policy autonomy on the one hand and multilateral disciplines on the other.
Sacrificing formal monetary autonomy was rewarded by stability in the financial markets and
better foresight in international trade and in related decisions concerning investment in fixed

Following the demise of the Bretton Woods system, strengthened surveillance over national
policies in IMF Article IV consultations has sought to compensate for the lack of multilateral
disciplines on exchange-rate policies. However, such disciplines generally have not extended
to those countries whose policies have the greatest impact on global monetary and financial
stability. Given that the IMF can exert meaningful disciplines only through conditionality
built into loan agreements, its policy oversight is confined primarily to its poorest members,
who need to draw on its resources because of their lack of access to private sources of finance
and, occasionally, to emerging market economies experiencing currency and financial crises.
However, IMF surveillance has been unable to prevent exchange-rate gyrations and wide
divergences from underlying conditions, unsustainable balance-of-payments positions,
volatile and often speculative short-term capital flows and recurrent financial crises.

While desirable, there is currently little prospect for tightening multilateral rules similar to
Bretton-Woods-type multilateral disciplines in monetary and financial matters.
Macroeconomic policy coordination among those countries that have the greatest impact on
international monetary and financial stability could attain the same objective on a more
voluntary basis. By aiming at maintaining real exchange rate stability among the key
currencies, it would help guide expectations that underlie international capital flows and
hence, reduce the likelihood of unsustainable interest rate differentials and divergences of
exchange rate from underlying conditions (e.g. Bergsten, Davanne and Jacquet, 1999).
However, given current disagreement about the root causes, sustainability, need for and type
of appropriate measures for the unwinding of global imbalances, the prospect for such a
solution appears to be weak.


Strengthened South-South regional cooperation in monetary and financial matters may prove
to be a more feasible alternative for developing countries to reduce their exposure to adverse
spillover effects, negative externalities from other countries’ beggar-thy-neighbour policies,
and short-term interest-rate arbitrage by financial speculators (UNCTAD, 2007). Greater
regional financial integration, for example through bond and loan issuance in regional
currencies, could make intraregional financial intermediation more effective and efficient,
facilitate access to long-term financing, stabilize financial prices, and reduce balance sheet
currency mismatches, thus promoting regional financial stability. Swap agreements, reserve
pooling and regional exchange-rate mechanisms, combined with greater macroeconomic and
financial policy coordination, could secure stability and orderly adjustments of intra-regional
exchange rates. And regional surveillance over macroeconomic and financial market
conditions could provide early warning signals. The European experience holds useful lessons
in this respect, but given its geographic and time-bound specificities, it cannot be considered a
blueprint for application by developing countries.

Since developing countries have gradually acquired greater weight in the global economic
arena, they have a stronger need for a commensurate voice and representation in multilateral
financial institutions. To strengthen the legitimacy of these institutions, key decisions need to
be based on voluntary, full and equal participation, with an appropriate level of consensus.
Achieving this will require a reassessment of the global economic governance structure with a
view to allowing developing countries to become proactive norm setters.


This paper has sought to examine how developing countries can effectively use their existing
national policy space, and even enlarge it, without opting out of their international
commitments. This examination leads to five main conclusions: (i) the tension between
international integration and national policy flexibility is affected by several forces that pull in
opposite directions; (ii) globalization and the resulting rise in economic interdependence, both
across countries and policy areas, as well as de jure restrictions to which developing countries
have signed onto through supposedly sovereign decisions, have altered the degree of freedom
for national policymakers to design and implement effective national economic policies;
(iii) whether international integration and regulation on balance increase or reduce the degrees
of freedom in national policy-making depends on what type of policy instrument is affected,
by how much and in what direction – the balance is likely to differ across countries and types
of integration; (iv) there remains considerable policy autonomy in macroeconomic and
exchange-rate policies. This is particularly true for the increasing number of developing
countries that have a strong external position – either because of substantial revenues from
commodity exports or a deliberate accumulation of foreign-exchange reserves – and that are
no longer (or never have been) subject to IFI or donor conditionality; and (v) effectively using
existing policy space and enlarging it without opting out of international commitments
requires action at both the national and international levels.

At the national level, effectively using and enlarging existing national policy space requires a
reassessment of policy targets and instrument-target relationships with the overall objective of
employing instruments that allow the combining of stabilization with growth-enhancing
policies. This entails an emphasis on real economic variables, rather than monetary
stabilization, choosing an intermediate exchange-rate regime, rather than fixed pegs or full
floating, and managing short-term financial inflows, rather than aiming at full capital-account
convertibility. Within a broader outward-oriented development strategy, structural policies
would use a wide range of fiscal and regulatory policies aimed at achieving high investment
rates, technological upgrading and structural change. Coherence between macroeconomic and
structural policies is crucial. A macroeconomic policy stance that leads to high domestic
interest rates and an overvalued exchange rate is not conducive to investment that can boost


productivity growth and improve the international competitiveness of domestic enterprises,
even when structural policies provide incentives for such investment. Macroeconomic and
structural policies would need to be supported by institutional arrangements which address
information and coordination failures that risk undermining entrepreneurial decision-making.
Such arrangements would also need to improve checks and balances on the use of government

Appropriate action at the international level to reduce the exposure of developing countries to
adverse spillover effects, negative externalities from other countries’ beggar-thy-neighbour
policies, and short-term interest-rate arbitrage of financial speculators would significantly
facilitate national efforts to pursue such macroeconomic and structural policies effectively.
The best way for achieving this would be to extend the scope of multilateral rules and
disciplines in the monetary and financial area with a view to curbing speculative short-term
financial flows and exchange-rate gyrations and controlling wide divergence from underlying
conditions of the exchange rates of those countries that have the greatest impact on global
monetary and financial stability. Given the limited prospects for such a multilateral solution in
the near future, strengthened regional cooperation in monetary and financial matters may be a
feasible alternative. Both these solutions would bring about greater coherence between the
international trading and financial systems so that they reinforce, rather than undermine and
destabilize, one another.

The outlined national and international measures result from an examination of constraints on
developing countries’ policy space and measures for its enlargement from a heterodox
perspective of development policy making. Accordingly, perspectives that give less
importance to proactive macroeconomic and sectoral policies, such as World Bank (2005) or
the Sachs and the Spence Reports, would argue that there is less of a need for moving away
from macroeconomic and exchange-rate policy assignments of the 1980s and 1990s, and that
there is less need for strengthening multilateral rules and disciplines in the area of money and



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No. Date Author(s) Title

190 October 2008 Martin Knoll Budget support: a reformed approach or old wine in
new skins?

189 September 2008 Martina Metzger Regional cooperation and integration in sub-
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188 March 2008 Ugo Panizza Domestic and external public debt in developing

187 February 2008 Michael Geiger Instruments of monetary policy in China and their
effectiveness: 1994–2006

186 January 2008 Marwan Elkhoury Credit rating agencies and their potential impact
on developing countries

185 July 2007 Robert Howse The concept of odious debt in public international

184 May 2007 André Nassif National innovation system and macroeconomic
policies: Brazil and India in comparative

183 April 2007 Irfan ul Haque Rethinking industrial policy

182 October 2006 Robert Rowthorn The renaissance of China and India: implications
for the advanced economies

181 October 2005 Dr. Michael Sakbani A re-examination of the architecture of the
international economic system in a global setting:
issues and proposals

180 October 2005 Jörg Mayer and
Pilar Fajarnes

Tripling Africa’s Primary Exports: What? How?

179 April 2005 S.M. Shafaeddin Trade liberalization and economic reform in
developing countries: structural change or de-

178 April 2005 Andrew Cornford Basel II: The revised framework of June 2004

177 April 2005 Benu Schneider Do global standards and codes prevent financial
crises? Some proposals on modifying the
standards-based approach

176 December 2004 Jörg Mayer Not totally naked: textiles and clothing trade in a
quota free environment

175 August 2004 S.M. Shafaeddin Who is the master? Who is the servant? Market or

174 August 2004 Jörg Mayer Industrialization in developing countries: some
evidence from a new economic geography

173 June 2004 Irfan ul Haque Globalization, neoliberalism and labour


No. Date Author(s) Title

172 June 2004 Andrew J. Cornford The WTO negotiations on financial services:
current issues and future directions

171 May 2004 Andrew J. Cornford Variable geometry for the WTO: concepts and

170 May 2004 Robert Rowthorn and
Ken Coutts

De-industrialization and the balance of payments
in advanced economies

169 April 2004 Shigehisa Kasahara The flying geese paradigm: a critical study of its
application to East Asian regional development

168 February 2004 Alberto Gabriele Policy alternatives in reforming power utilities in
developing countries: a critical survey

167 January 2004 Richard Kozul-Wright
and Paul Rayment

Globalization reloaded: an UNCTAD Perspective

166 February 2003 Jörg Mayer The fallacy of composition: a review of the

165 November 2002 Yuefen Li China’s accession to WTO: exaggerated fears?

164 November 2002 Lucas Assuncao and
ZhongXiang Zhang

Domestic climate change policies and the WTO

163 November 2002 A.S. Bhalla and S. Qiu China’s WTO accession. Its impact on Chinese

162 July 2002 Peter Nolan and
Jin Zhang

The challenge of globalization for large Chinese

161 June 2002 Zheng Zhihai and
Zhao Yumin

China’s terms of trade in manufactures,

160 June 2002 S.M. Shafaeddin The impact of China’s accession to WTO on
exports of developing countries

159 May 2002 Jörg Mayer, Arunas
Butkevicius and
Ali Kadri

Dynamic products in world exports

158 April 2002 Yılmaz Akyüz and
Korkut Boratav

The making of the Turkish financial crisis

157 September 2001 Heiner Flassbeck The exchange rate: Economic policy tool or
market price?

156 August 2001 Andrew J. Cornford The Basel Committee’s proposals for revised
capital standards: Mark 2 and the state of play

155 August 2001 Alberto Gabriele Science and technology policies, industrial reform
and technical progress in China: Can socialist
property rights be compatible with technological
catching up?


No. Date Author(s) Title

154 June 2001 Jörg Mayer Technology diffusion, human capital and
economic growth in developing countries

153 December 2000 Mehdi Shafaeddin Free trade or fair trade? Fallacies surrounding the
theories of trade liberalization and protection and
contradictions in international trade rules

152 December 2000 Dilip K. Das Asian crisis: distilling critical lessons

151 October 2000 Bernard Shull Financial modernization legislation in the United
States – Background and implications

150 August 2000 Jörg Mayer Globalization, technology transfer and skill
accumulation in low-income countries

149 July 2000 Mehdi Shafaeddin What did Frederick List actually say? Some
clarifications on the infant industry argument

148 April 2000 Yılmaz Akyüz The debate on the international financial
architecture: Reforming the reformers

146 February 2000 Manuel R. Agosin and
Ricardo Mayer

Foreign investment in developing countries:
Does it crowd in domestic investment?

145 January 2000 B. Andersen,
Z. Kozul-Wright and
R. Kozul-Wright

Copyrights, competition and development:
The case of the music industry

144 Dec. 1999 Wei Ge The dynamics of export-processing zones

143 Nov. 1999 Yılmaz Akyüz and
Andrew Cornford

Capital flows to developing countries and the
reform of the international financial system

142 Nov. 1999 Jean-François

Financial development, human capital and
political stability

141 May 1999 Lorenza Jachia and
Ethél Teljeur

Free trade between South Africa and the European
Union – a quantitative analysis

140 February 1999 M. Branchi,
A. Gabriele and
V. Spiezia

Traditional agricultural exports, external
dependency and domestic prices policies: African
coffee exports in a comparative perspective

Copies of UNCTAD Discussion Papers may be obtained from the Publications Assistant, Macroeconomic
and Development Policies Branch (MDPB), Division on Globalization and Development Strategies
(DGDS), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Palais des Nations, CH-
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland (Fax no: +41(0)22 917 0274/Tel. no: +41(0)22 917 5896).

New Discussion Papers are accessible on the website at http://www.unctad.org.