A few weeks ago, I attended the launch ceremony of the new Palestine Capital Growth Fund, a subsidiary of the multibillion-dollar, Dubai-based private equity fund Abraaj. I found that many people questioned why Abraaj would operate in the Palestinian Territories. Some would even describe such a move as a pure act of social responsibility. But it is not.
Imagine a conversation. “So, your company is expanding its operations in country x, but I hear there is a lot of frustration among young people about unemployment. Are you worried about the possibility of political upheaval?” And the investor responds, “We’re not very worried about any instability. The current government has been in power for decades and we’re very well connected, so if there are any problems, we’ll be protected.” Without naming names, we can think about how this approach to risk management may have failed investors as of late, but such reversals of fortune predate the days of Twitter and Facebook – take the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia. At MIGA’s recent discussion titled “Best Laid Plans? How Ignoring Political Economy Affects Development Outcomes and Increases Risk", this attitude toward risk was aptly labeled “risk myopia.”
Last week, MIGA hosted a panel discussion on the role of the private sector in sustainable growth as part of the World Bank Group’s Sustainable Development Network Forum 2012. Taking the initiative as an agency of the World Bank Group that encourages investment by the private sector, MIGA brought this angle to the more general sustainable growth discussion.
Keynote speaker Jeffrey Leonard from the Global Environment Fund opened citing the World Bank President’s remarks on sustainable development that were right on the money – outlining an urgent need for attention to the matter, noting that resources must be made available – yes, good, onward! The catch? They were attributed to a president who left office 25 years ago (Tom Clausen).
- The World Region
- Private Sector Development
- Sustainable Development
- public-private partnerships
- Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency
- Mary Boomgard
- Marsh USA
- Mahlette Betre
- Julie Martin
- Jeffrey Leonard
- Global Environment Fund
- Equator Principles
- Deniz Baharoglu
- David Vidal
- Conservation International
- Conference Board
- Carbon Finance
- Benoit Bosquet
Today in Singapore, MIGA and IE Singapore co-hosted a seminar:"Managing Global Political Risks: Old Risks, New Moment."
After the welcome speech by IE's Assistant CEO Terence Seow, Michel Wormser, MIGA's Vice President and COO, delivered the keynote speech, which touched upon the current global economic turbulence, potential investment opportunities for Asian investors, the perception of risks, and what role the World Bank Group can play in facilitating private capital into productive projects. Michel noted that—while he understands that many Asian companies tend to invest in nearby countries—there are also plentiful of opportunities in Africa and Latin America.
The World Economic Forum launched its seventh Global Risks report before this year’s annual meeting in Davos. The top risk this year, among the 50 most pressing risks based on a survey of 400 top business leaders, is income inequality and its associated economic and political risks. The report aptly summarized this risk as the “risk of dystopia.”
It’s been almost a year since Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, sparking a wave of protests in his country and ensuing events that led to what we now refer to as the “Arab Spring”. Today, these events were remembered, and the future of the region debated, during a seminar MIGA co-hosted with the Financial Times in London on Managing Global Political Risk: Old Risks, New Moment.
Tunisia’s Minister of Finance Jalloul Ayed spoke passionately, eloquently, and with tremendous insight about the challenges and opportunities facing his country, noting many look to Tunisia as setting the pace and showing the way. “So far so good”, he noted, adding “democracy is now hopefully part of our political tradition.” But there is a daunting road ahead, dealing with the priorities, creating jobs for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed youth, encouraging much-needed investment. His biggest concern? “We cannot lose focus; we have to reform and get the job done.”
It all started with a visit to the UN Office in Geneva during my vacation in 2006. Like any other tourist, I squeezed a silly smile in front of the camera at the entrance to get a visitor pass, which I am still keeping to this day as a travel souvenir. And then I followed a guided tour. Of course I had always known about UN – in textbooks and on TV. But there’s apparently something magic about actually sitting in the rooms where international conflicts were played out and listening to the stories that had made history. Having not completely emerged from my quarter-life crisis even after I got my MBA in the US and set on a seemingly promising career path at a big American financial institution, I had been searching for a mission.
Like a child on Christmas eve, I could hardly wait to hear my fate after my final interview with the Director of Operations at MIGA. The MIGA Professionals Program (MPP) was exactly what I wanted, a perfect fit of my technical skills and interests, but I was aware that it was a highly competitive process in which hundreds of applicants are whittled down to one offer per department in the end. Thus I cannot exaggerate just how thrilled I was to receive the call offering me the position of Underwriter after a series of interviews. And so began my voyage to the US to start my new job rather enthusiastically.
It was a close and muggy Washington morning as about 100 people gathered early this past Saturday for the yearly MIGA client breakfast, taking place during the 2011 World Bank Group/International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings. It was gratifying to see people from many fields in the audience, ranging from investors and fund managers to bankers and project lawyers as well as a not a few economists and development specialists. The rather overheated feeling in the air was probably only partly due to the warm weather outside, and as much to do with the prevailing sense of deep concern about where the world’s economic fortunes are headed. All in all, it promised to be a lively session.
MIGA recently closed its second transaction supporting a project with an Islamic financing structure—the first was for a port project in Djibouti back in 2007. For this new project, MIGA provided political risk insurance to two financial institutions, Deutsche Bank Luxembourg and Saudi British Bank, for their $450 million financing to the Indonesia telecoms company PT Natrindon Telepon Selular, or NTS.