Foreign Capital and Economic Growth

Eswar S. Prasad, Raghuram G. Rajan, Arvind Subramanian

NBER Working Paper No. 13619
Issued in November 2007
NBER Program(s):   EFG   IFM

We document the recent phenomenon of "uphill" flows of capital from nonindustrial to industrial countries and analyze whether this pattern of capital flows has hurt growth in nonindustrial economies that export capital. Surprisingly, we find that there is a positive correlation between current account balances and growth among nonindustrial countries, implying that a reduced reliance on foreign capital is associated with higher growth. This result is weaker when we use panel data rather than cross-sectional averages over long periods of time, but in no case do we find any evidence that an increase in foreign capital inflows directly boosts growth. What explains these results, which are contrary to the predictions of conventional theoretical models? We provide some evidence that even successful developing countries have limited absorptive capacity for foreign resources, either because their financial markets are underdeveloped, or because their economies are prone to overvaluation caused by rapid capital inflows.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13619

Published: Eswar S. Prasad & Raghuram G. Rajan & Arvind Subramanian, 2007. "Foreign Capital and Economic Growth," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(2007-1), pages 153-230. citation courtesy of

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