I am Distinguished Professor and Research Fellow in the School of Economics, De La Salle University (Manila, Philippines), where I teach Development Economics. I am also Director of the Angelo King Institute for Economic and Business Studies.
I am also research associate of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College; the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability, University of Missouri –Kansas City; and the Centre for Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), The University of Newcastle, Australia.
I undertook my undergraduate studies in Spain at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. I hold M.A. degrees from the International University of Japan and from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to joining De La Salle University, I was Advisor to the Chief Economist, in the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila, Philippines, where I worked from 1996 to 2022. During this time, I developed the work program on “Asia’s Economic Transformation”. As a Senior official of ADB, I travelled extensively throughout Asia, participated in many policy discussions with Governments, and provided advice on the design of development plans.
I have held academic positions with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Hong Kong, PRC) during 1995-1996, and with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, USA), during 1999-2002 (while I was on leave from ADB).
Between 2015 and 2022, I was Managing Editor and member of the Editorial Board of the Asian Development Review. Also, I have been Editor and member of the Advisory Board Board of Metroeconomica since 2008.
I have published my work in (among others) Applied Economics, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Eastern Economic Journal, Economics of Education Review, International Review of Applied Economics, Japan and the World Economy, Journal of Comparative Economics, Journal of Development Studies, Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Metroeconomica, Oxford Development Studies, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, and World Development.
I have also published the following books: Development and Modern Industrial Policy in Practice: Issues and Country Experiences (Edward Elgar, 2015); The Aggregate Production Function and the Measurement of Technical Change: ‘Not Even Wrong’ (Edward Elgar, 2013); Inclusive Growth, Full Employment and Structural Change. Implications and Policies for Developing Asia (Anthem Press, 2009); Labor Markets in Asia: Issues and Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).
A nation’s development entails economic transformation. During the last three decades, I have dedicated a great deal of time to study how this process takes place in Asia. Development is a process characterized by the shift of resources (mainly labor) from the less productive sectors of the economy, typically agriculture, towards the more productive sectors, industry and services.
The shift from agriculture into industry (in particular into manufacturing) was how today’s developed countries progressed; and it was how the successful East Asian economies achieved very high growth rates during the second half of the 20th century. This is also what China has done more recently. It is the high productivity of manufacturing what allowed increases in wages in these economies.
Today’s developing nations are finding this route difficult to follow and workers tend to move out of agriculture into (low productivity) services, with important consequences.
Economic transformation requires understanding what firms produce and export, and the system of incentives they have to diversify and upgrade their production/export baskets, that is, to make them more complex. More complex means more knowledge. Competing in the world economy by exporting a diverse and sophisticated export basket is key to develop. Today’s developing countries need to be creative to find niches, and to acquire comparative advantage, in complex products and services.
Understanding why economic transformation is not an easy endeavor today is fundamental to advance development. It has to do with the following causes: (i) most firms in developing countries are small while the large ones are into non-tradables (many of them hardly export) and benefit from regulatory rents; (ii) there are market failures (coordination uncertainty) that make the discovery of new products a risky process; (iii) manufacturing employment has shifted to China massively; and (iv) developing-country firms lack organizational capabilities.
Two other important aspects of development are technology assimilation (e.g., through global value chains or FDI); and the role of the government as coordinator with the private sector, as supplier of specific public inputs, and, at times, as direct agent of economic transformation (i.e., industrial policy).
My other important research program is on the foundations of the aggregate production (see my book under publications). It is well-known (but forgotten) that the conditions under which an aggregate production function (with neoclassical properties) can be generated by aggregating micro production functions, are unrealistic, not satisfied by actual economies. Then the question is: what do economists obtain when they estimate econometrically an aggregate production function, or when they undertake a growth accounting exercise? The answer is most worrying: all they do is to approximate an accounting identity. Based on this fact, my work provides an extensive assessment of the neoclassical growth/productivity research program.