The proceeds of the bond will be used to fund the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam. This dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed (5,250 Mega Watts). The first one was called the Millennium Corporate bond, and was for raising funds for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) . The first diaspora bond issuance did not meet the expectations. Sales were slow during the first months of offering despite the efforts of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and the embassies and consulates to sell them. Some risks that the diaspora faced were: i) risk perceptions on the payment ability of EEPCO on its future earnings from the operations of the hydroelectric power; ii) lack of trust in the government as a guarantor; and iii) political risks.
|Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank|
You might recall that the finance minister of Nepal announced in the annual budget in July 2009 that the government would issue a diaspora bond to raise funds for infrastructure development. Indeed Nepal Rastra Bank followed through in June 2010 by floating a “Foreign Employment Bond”. Although the initial goal was to issue Rs. 7 billion (about $100 million), Rs. 1 billion was floated in the first round. Nepali workers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Malaysia could buy the bond from one of seven licensed money transfer operators in denominations of Rs. 5,000 (about $65).
Data are hard to come by, but the funds raised have been minuscule, nowhere near target. Apparently, the name of the bond had nothing to do with its unsuccessful launch!
On September 16 Greece announced that it plans to issue a diaspora bond. In the past the governments of India and Israel have raised over $35 billion dollars, often in times of liquidity crisis. Preliminary estimates suggest that Sub-Saharan African countries can potentially raise $5-10 billion per year by issuing diaspora bonds. Countries that can potentially consider diaspora bonds are Bangladesh, Colombia, El Salvador, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (and also Greece, Ireland, Italy, South Korea and Spain).
In addition to the temporary protected status and facilitation of remittances - see my earlier post, when government offices and banks resume functioning, Haiti could usefully tap its large diaspora's wealth for the reconstruction of community infrastructure and social projects. This could be done via the issuance of "diaspora bonds". By diaspora bond, I mean not only bonding between the diaspora and the homeland, but more specifically a financial instrument for attracting investment from the diaspora.
In the past diaspora bonds have been used by Israel and India to raise over $35 billion of development financing (see my article with Suhas Ketkar). Several countries - for example, Ethiopia, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka - are considering (or have issued) diaspora bonds recently to bridge financing gaps. Besides patriotism, diaspora members are usually more interested than foreign investors in investing in the home country. Not only Haitians abroad, but also foreign individuals interested in helping Haiti, even charitable institutions, are likely to be interested in these bonds. Offering a reasonable interest rate - a 5% tax-free dollar interest rate, for example - could attract a large number of Haitian investors who are getting close to zero interest rate on their deposits.
If 200,000 Haitians in the US, Canada and France were to invest $1,000 each in diaspora bonds, that would add up to $200 million. If these bonds were opened to friends of Haiti, including private charitable organizations, much larger sums can be raised. If the bond rating were enhanced to investment grade rating via guarantees from the multilateral and bilateral donors, then such bonds would even attract institutional investors.
Excerpt from the budget speech (July 13, 2009, para 139) by the Nepal finance minister for the new fiscal year beginning this month:
"An arrangement has been made to issue "Infrastructure Development Bond" of an amount of Rs. 7 billion by Nepal Rastra Bank fixing pegged exchange rates targeting the Nepalese working abroad through Nepalese Embassies in South Korea, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as a part of domestic borrowing for the coming fiscal year. Such Bonds can be purchased only from workers working abroad. From this arrangement, the remittance can be used for infrastructure development and the remittance itself remains free of additional charges while transmitting to Nepal. In addition to it, I am confident that such workers employed abroad will receive interest from the day of bond purchase and be benefitted."