Botox and Bridges: South African Exports of Health and Construction Services

by STERN, M., 2005
Development Southern Africa, 22:5, 673-693

Until relatively recently, policy makers and academics directed little attention to trade in services. This has changed in recognition of the increasing role of services in economic growth, trade and investment. In World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other trade negotiations, discussions on services have become as important as, if not more important than, those on trade in goods. Despite the growing contribution of services to exports and economic development, trade in services remains highly regulated, especially in developing countries. This article outlines the main methodological and policy challenges facing developing countries, such as South Africa, in trying to understand the economic implications of service liberalisation. This is achieved largely by means of two case studies of the construction and health services sectors. While the findings are preliminary and the policy conclusions speculative, the article provides some examples of the key analytical difficulties that arise in services analysis. More importantly, it highlights the need for the government to develop integrated service sector strategies that recognise the contribution of trade to development policy and the impact of domestic regulations on trade.