Bárbara Soriano presented her dissertation, for which she received an “outstanding” grade. Below is a summary of her work.
“Analysis of the impact of globalization and economic growth on food security in developing countries”
Despite the significant reductions of hunger, food security still remains a global challenge. Food security is a wide concept that embraces multiple dimensions, and has spatial-temporal scales. Because of its complexity, the identification of the drivers underpinning food insecurity and the prioritization of measures to address them are a subject of intensive debate.
This thesis attempts to assess the impact of globalization and economic growth on food security in developing countries with a macro level scale (country) and using a long-term approach. The influence of globalization is addressed in a sequential way. First, the impact of public-private investment in infrastructure on agricultural exports in developing countries is analyzed. Secondly, an assessment is conducted to determine the impact of agricultural exports on food security indicators. The impact of economic growth focuses on the parallel changes in income inequality and how the income distribution influences countries’ food security performance. Furthermore, the thesis analyzes to what extent economic growth helps accelerating food security improvements.
To address the above mentioned goals, various econometric models are formulated. Models use panel data procedures combining cross-sectional data of 52 countries and time series data from 1991 to 2012. Yearly data are expressed both in levels and in changes. The estimation models applied are random effects estimation and fixed effects estimations, both in levels and in first differences. The thesis includes four families of econometric models, each with its own set of robustness checks and specifications.
The results qualify the relevance of globalization and economic growth as enabling mechanisms for improving food security in developing countries. Concerning globalization, two main conclusions can be drawn. First, results showed that enhancing foreign private investment in infrastructures contributes to increase agricultural exports. Second, agricultural exports appear to have a negative impact on national food security indicators. These two conclusions suggest that trade and financial openness per se do not contribute directly to improve food security in development countries. Both measures should be accompanied by investments and policies to support the development of national high value productive sectors, to strengthen the domestic economy and reduce its external dependency.
Referring to economic growth, despite the unquestionable fact that income growth is a pre-requisite for reducing undernourishment, results suggest that it is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. Three additional strategies should accompany economic growth to intensifying its impact on food security. Firstly, it is necessary that income growth should be accompanied by a better distribution of income. Secondly, income growth needs to be followed by investments and policies in health, sanitation and education to improve food security. Even if economic growth falters, sustained improvements in the access to drinking water may still give rise to reductions in the percentage of undernourished people. And thirdly, long-term economic growth appears to have a greater impact on reducing hunger than growth regimes that combine periods of growth peaks followed by troughs. Macroeconomic stability is a necessary condition for accelerating food security.
Finally, the thesis finds that the developing countries analyzed have experienced different non-linear paths toward improving food security. Results also show that a higher initial level of undernourishment and economic growth result in a faster response for improving food security.