A new look at the benefits of diversification: lessons from Central America
Recent trends of export diversification in Central America may lower foreign exchange earnings instability there. Four countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—are analysed across a twenty-year period. The paper uses United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics to explain why Costa Rica and Honduras have enjoyed greater earnings stability in recent years, despite the fact that Honduras has not greatly diversified its export products and markets. Despite the growth of new agricultural and manufacturing goods, traditional primary products still dominate the countries' export portfolios. Specific products within each of the four broad product category groups contribute to the varied country outcomes. Summary statistics from the United Nations (panel) data suggest newer agricultural exports have not stabilized Guatemalan and Salvadoran export earnings, while Honduras has enjoyed relatively stable banana export revenues and Costa Rica has benefited from the smooth flow of microelectronic products. Further panel data regression analysis shows country size and intangible country effects also explain parts of the detrended earnings deviation in addition to product base and level of diversification.