I´m currently working as a consultant on economic policies. See more here.
From 2020 to 2022 I was the Undersecretary of Investment and Competition in Guatemala. My main projects were aimed to promote Guatemalan competitiveness via: a) the legislative and regulatory economic agenda; b) the implementation of anti-red tape legislation in the directions under my control. In the policy-making section I describe in more detail the achievements I helped deliver during that time.
I earned my PhD in Public Policy at the Schar School of Policy and Government - George Mason University (GMU). I defended my dissertation on June 5th, 2019. My dissertation considers the role of export destinations (trade partners) in economic development. Firm-level studies find that destinations matter because they allow for higher prices, however we cannot extrapolate their results to the national level for several reasons, such as: iceberg transportation costs; resource reallocation costs; concentration costs; and economies of scale and scope. In the context of the convergence growth model, and using a modified version of the revealed comparative advantage formula, I found that export destinations matter for economic growth. I found that the level of competition in export destinations, measure by the income of the competitors in that market, has a negative impact on low- and middle-income countries mid-term economic growth. The results were robust to different specifications. You may see a short version of the presentation here. I was awarded the GMU Dissertation Completion Grant for the Spring 2019.
I had been working most of my PhD studies as a Research Assistant for the Center for Transportation Public-Private Partnership Policy at GMU, where my research asks what lessons can we learn from “black sheep” public-private partnership (P3) projects, those involved with bankruptcy, renegotiations, and political risk.
I also teach. During Fall 2018 I taught at GMU's Honors College. I teach a remote class on Economic Development at Escuela de Gobierno, a Guatemalan Graduate School devoted to train a new generation of public officials. At GMU, I have been Prof. Jonathan Gifford´s T.A. I have also been invited lecturer to prof. Kenneth Button's class on macroeconomics, teaching structural change.
I have worked as a consultant for various Guatemalan institutions, among them: the Guatemalan Exporters Association (AGEXPORT), and the Guatemalan Apparel and Textile Industry (VESTEX). I stay a Research Associate at the Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Nacionales (CIEN), where I work since 2002. There I have worked in pro-growth policy proposals.
I have written op-eds on economic development. The opinion pieces are usually written in Spanish.
Besides my Ph.D., I hold a B.A. in Economics from Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) in Guatemala thanks to a ITA Scholarship. I hold a Master in Public Policy (MPP) from University of Maryland (UMD) thanks to a Fulbright scholarship.
About the owl
I like Guatemalan handcrafted ceramic owls. I got the one I´m using on my website many years ago at the Guatemalan city airport. It shows four aspects relevant for economic development: innovation, market access, economies of scale, and economies of scope.
Why innovation? The blue owl was "baked" at higher temperatures than the traditional ceramic owls. That explains why: 1) it doesn´t break easily; 2) it is more colorful. Unfortunately, the innovation that takes place in countries like Guatemala is usually only marginal and relatively cheap to conduct and consequently its impact is limited. Can we improve other ceramic products? Can we start introducing new components like colored glass so we can compete with 3D printers using only one material? Can we produce 100 times more owls with the same amount of people? Can we modified the process easily so we can constantly produce new ceramic designs without complicated machine changes? Small firms in countries like Guatemala cannot explore this by themselves. Cooperation is usually not easy. And, governments find it easier to avoid this complicated questions.
Why market access? If I want to buy more owls I have no way to contact the manufacturer: there is no brand, no logo, no website. There is no information on the materials used. This obviously is one obstacle to increase the sales of the firm. There is also the problem of the market: should the firm devote its attention to tourists or should it start exploring producing goods for the mass market? Should it consider European tastes and regulations or should it explore high growth East Asian countries?
Why economies of scale? If one solves market access then the next challenge is how to solve the production of larger amounts of goods, that is to solve the challenge of economies of scale. While the blue owl (below) was 10 times more expensive than the traditional one (the pink one in the image below), you would still need around 50 owls to make a monthly minimum wage, after considering some of the manufacturing costs, and maybe around 100 if we consider the local and other costs. And this, assuming you run all the show, without any additional worker attending the workshop or the store. If your business is only producing the traditional owls, you would have to sell at least 1,000 a month to make minimum wage. If you can´t manage the requirements of producing so many owls, maintaining a minimum quality, then the business will unlikely provide sufficient revenue stream for an adequate compensations for all those involved. Additional costs will eventually enter the equation once one considers the need to attract new customers.
Why economies of scope? If the entrepreneur starts to introduce innovative products or services it has to complement the new production process with the existing one, unless it has enough savings to devote itself to the new good. The maker of traditional owls is well aware that it is hard to sell 12,000 owls a year, so he has to produce other goods. The first effort is usually to introduce new colors and sizes. Thereafter, this entrepreneur benefits if, at the same time he bakes the owls, he also uses the oven to produce other ceramics or if, during bake time, it devotes itself to weave bracelets.
Traditional ceramic owl from Guatemala
Ceramic owl from Guatemala "baked" at higher temperatures. I bough this many years ago. If you know the artisans I´ll gladly recognize their work here.