Paving the Road to Export: Assessing the Trade Impacts of Road Quality

Jun 2012
Assessing the trade impacts of domestic transport costs is data demanding and analyses that examine the effects of road quality, a critical aspect in regional and public policy, practically do not exist in the international trade literature. The few studies available rely mostly on distance-based measures as proxies of transport costs which impede analyzing the trade effects of transport-infrastructure improvements. In this paper, we combine highly disaggregated records of export flows with detailed geo-referenced information of the Colombian transport network, including its road quality, as well as real measures of transport costs of shipping goods within the country to measure the trade impacts of improving road quality. We find that the trade effects of improvements in road quality are relatively small on average; however, there is considerable heterogeneity in the magnitude of the effects. We show that longer routes have larger shares of their roads in poor conditions; accordingly, the trade impacts of shipments originated in remote regions are found to be quite substantial.