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The false debate: choosing between promoting FDI and domestic investment

Cecile Fruman's picture

Should we focus our efforts on foreign investment or domestic investment?” Policymakers in developing economies often ask this question when the World Bank Group advises them on how to improve their countries’ investment climate or investment promotion efforts. Our answer is: They do not need to choose one over the other. In order to grow and diversify, an economy needs both domestic investment and foreign direct investment (FDI).  The two forms of private investments can be strong complements.
Recognizing the Potential Benefits of FDI
The economic benefits of FDI were identified a long time ago. A Harvard Business School paper published 30 years ago summarized the benefits of FDI based on an extensive review of economic literature (Wint, 1986). In short: Benefits traditionally attributed to FDI include job creation, transfer of technology and know-how (including modern managerial and business practices), access to international markets, and access to international financing.

Granted, some of these benefits also occur thanks to domestic investment. For instance, domestic investments create jobs in a host economy – usually many more than FDI. However: What FDI does well is enhance or maximize some of the benefits already generated by domestic investments in a developing economy.
To stay with the example of job creation: Foreign firms might not create as many jobs as the domestic private sector, but they often create better-paid jobs that require higher skills. That helps elevate the skills level in host economies. The same can be said for other FDI benefits. For instance, more advanced technologies and managerial or marketing practices can be introduced in a developing economy through foreign investment, and at a much faster rate than would be the case if only domestic investment were allowed. Moreover, through partnerships with foreign investors who have existing distribution channels and commercial arrangements around the world, developing countries’ firms can benefit from increased market access.

In China, millions of rural residents each year migrate to cities to seek work. As they find jobs in modernizing industries, they gain the skills they need to earn higher incomes. In this photo, an employe in Chongqing is learning higher-level computer skills. Photo: Li Wenyong / The World Bank

Three myths about China in Kenya

Apurva Sanghi's picture

In recent years, China’s presence in sub-Saharan Africa has risen rapidly. Many fear that China spells doom for the Kenyan economy. Producers of manufactured goods, for example, face more competition from China in both foreign and domestic markets. Others argue that China will exploit Kenya’s resources and leave it unable to industrialize. If the manufacturing sector fails to take off, it will be harder to move people out of poverty.

Pathways to Prosperity: An e-Symposium

Onno Ruhl's picture


Blog #1: Five key drivers of reducing poverty in India

India is uniquely placed to drive global poverty reduction. The country is home to the largest number of poor people in the world, as well as the largest number of people who have recently escaped poverty. Despite an emerging middle class, many of India’s people are still vulnerable to falling back into poverty.

Over the next few weeks, this series will look back and analyze publicly available data to better understand what has driven poverty reduction from the mid-1990s until 2012, and the potential pathways that can lead to a more prosperous India. Since it is clearly not feasible to elaborate on all the myriad pathways out of poverty available to India, we focus on a few key themes that the diagnostics show to be of particular relevance to the country. We hope this series will contribute to the ongoing discussions on how poverty can be eliminated from India.

We are thankful to the Indian Express for partnering with us in disseminating this series to its readers.

Can transit-oriented development change travel behavior in cities?

Wanli Fang's picture
Photo: Marius Godoi/Shutterstock
It is pretty easy to understand how and why land use patterns around public transit stations can influence the way we move around the city.

As more and more people live and work in a neighborhood with a limited land area, it becomes increasingly challenging to drive around without encountering congestion or to find a parking space easily. In this situation, public transit and non-motorized transport (NMT) become attractive alternatives for people who otherwise are reluctant to give up the comfort and flexibility of driving.

Conversely, as street blocks get bigger, people may find it takes too long to access public transit stations, which discourages the use of public transport facilities.

As straightforward as the logic may sound, the nature and magnitude of such influence are yet to be evaluated with solid empirical evidence. To take a closer look at the linkages between land use and travel behavior, I decided to study the case of Boston in the United States. I chose Boston because it boasts an effective public transit system, and was one of the first American cities to embrace transit-oriented development (TOD), an urban planning approach that promotes compact and mixed use development around public transit facilities.

The essentials of a manufacturing ecosystem

Aref Adamali's picture

Value addition through manufacturing has been a major focus of economic policymakers across the world, and at times with remarkable success, most famously in East Asia. Initial ‘Asian miracles’ in places like South Korea have since been eclipsed by the meteoric rise of manufacturing in China, which has grown its exports in manufactures by 18 percent a year over the past 10 years, compared to a global average of 7 percent (ITC Trade Map data).

'Flying geese'
Most countries generally seemed to follow a basic pattern, initially establishing manufacturing credentials in light manufacturing, such as in textile and apparel, but then in time moving on from such products to higher-value-added and more complex products. As they moved on and up, they opened space for other countries to move into the initial entry products, following the so-called ‘flying geese’ model of division of labor.

There have been noticeable absences though, with not all regions having moved into manufacturing. This is partially the case with Central and South America, but most strikingly with Sub-Saharan Africa.  
What can be done to support countries in their quest to deepen their manufacturing sectors, and extract the jobs and technological development that this can offer? How can they develop the kinds of deep and comprehensive manufacturing ecosystems that have enabled China to maintain investment despite fast-rising labor costs?

Liaoning Urban Construction School’s Eco-Laboratory: innovations in architectural education as a result of school reforms

Liping Xiao's picture

Eco-architecture is a booming field in China, and there is a growing demand for education and training in this relatively new field. In response, the Liaoning Urban Construction School (LUCS) used funding from the World Bank-supported Liaoning and Shandong Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project to reform curriculum, teaching methods and school management in architectural education, with a focus on school-industry cooperation.  All these reforms were reflected in the construction of an “eco-laboratory”. 

Predicting success for infrastructure in emerging markets: Moving from art to science

Jyoti Bisbey's picture

with research contributions from Zichao Wei

At conferences, in meetings, and even during casual work conversations, I am asked the same two questions:  “Which countries are ideal for investments in infrastructure?  Where should the investors invest and what new opportunities should they look toward?” 

While sitting in the World Bank gives us a bird’s-eye view of emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs), it doesn’t offer the up-close-and-personal perspective that investors demand in order to answer these questions in a succinct way.  Not that there’s any shortage of synoptic responses. Any number of “market gurus” can assess projects in a second, gathering all the low hanging fruits which are out there in EMDEs.  If there is a private deal to be made, then the deal is already done.

Lessons from China: Selecting the right contractors for large projects

Jianjun Guo's picture

Selecting contractors with the right capacity and experience for large value works contracts is critical for implementation and timely completion of the works.

How do you achieve that?  

The China’s Fujian Meizhou Bay Navigation Improvement Project offers some lessons of how the Bank team successfully worked with the client in selecting the right contractors through appropriate procurement strategy and due diligence.

The total project cost is US$138 million and the Bank loan is US$50 million. The project seeks to improve the capacity of the main navigation channel in Meizhou Bay and enhance the management capacity of the Meizhou Bay Harbour Administration Bureau.

It’s all about inclusion, but how?

Alina Rocha Menocal's picture

is the new buzzword in international development. From promoting citizen empowerment to fostering pathways out of fragility, it is all about political processes that are more inclusive and representative‎.

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals are perhaps the most ambitious articulation of this consensus, with Goal 16 in particular calling for building more “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

And there are good reasons for this call-out. Two findings from research that I undertook for a paper I wrote recently on Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion are particularly striking in highlighting the centrality of inclusion:

How capacity building and market analysis achieved speedy implementation in China

Jianjun Guo's picture
Photo credit: Jianjun Guo

Is it possible to complete advanced contracting for the construction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines within two or three months and have the lines in operation within six months?

The simple answer is, yes.

The China Urumqi Urban Transport Project II, a US$537 million project, achieved just this as it looked to improve mobility in selected transport corridors in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province in West China.