Lessons from the East Asian NICs: A Contrarian View
The unusually rapid and prolonged growth of both output and exports in the Newly Industralizing Countries of East Asia has led many economists to believe that productivity growth in these economies, particularly in their manufacturing sectors, has been extraordinarily high. This view has, in turn, led to a growing belief in the 'dynamic' (i.e. total factor productivity) gains from an outward orientation. This view fails to take into account the equally unusual rapid growth of both capital and labour input in these economies. Using the Summers & Heston and OECD data sets, this paper uses simple back of the envelope calculations to show that, as regards productivity growth in the aggregate economy and in manufacturing in particular, the East Asian NICs are not, in general, substantial outliers. The principal lessons to be drawn from the NICs are likely to be those concerning the potential gains from factor accumulation and the sectoral reallocation of resources, i.e. 'static' neoclassical gains which have fueled the dynamic growth of these economies for more than 20 years.