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The World Region

Are Rates of Return in Places that are Fragile and Affected by Conflict Really Higher?

Paul Barbour's picture

Supporting populations in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS) is a key priority for the World Bank Group.  The Group’s President, Jim Yong Kim, has repeatedly stressed the importance of finding ways to bring sustainable peace and development to these difficult contexts. According to the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development, more than 1.5 billion people in today’s world live in FCS, or in countries with high levels of criminal violence.

Apart from the very human cost of fragility, it colors foreign investors’ perceptions of risk, especially political risk, affecting private sector activity. This begets a vicious cycle, where economies worsen, increasing fragility. The importance of political risk, including political violence, in the perceptions of investors is well documented, including in the annual MIGA-EIU surveys presented in MIGA’s World Investment and Political Risk report. In particular, MIGA’s 2011 report focused specifically on investing into FCS, and the survey results demonstrate that political violence remains a very serious factor inhibiting investment.

Aside from capital, foreign direct investment (FDI) can bring essential knowledge and technology across borders. These benefits are often what make FDI so sought-after by policy makers. But investors have to consider the return on their investment relative to the risks they are taking, especially political risks such as expropriation, currency convertibility and transfer restrictions, breach of contract by the sovereign, and war and civil disturbance.
 

Agricultural FDI: Risky Business?

Khalid Alsuhaibani's picture

Al-Arabiya reported a few weeks ago that the political crisis in Ukraine and Russia is threatening the availability of food in Egypt and Jordan. Food prices becoming hostage to political crises is certainly not a new phenomenon: food plays an important role in the stability of societies through its availability, affordability, and quality. We learned this lesson from the 1789 French Revolution and more recently, many commentators link soaring food prices in 2010 with the events leading up to the ‘Arab Spring.’ The latter is not surprising when Arab countries import 56% of their cereal consumption, and some Arab countries import 100% of their wheat consumption. These recent market dynamics have led many countries to revisit their food security strategies with an eye to securing food supply.

There is a vigorous debate over the reasons pertaining to the food price increases in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Many highlight the effects of seasonal, short and medium term factors such as weather changes and biofuel-related crop conversions as well as long term factors such as population growth, income growth, and climate change. These price increases in food have enormous effects on people, for example, the 2008 food crisis pushed 105 million people into poverty.
 

“When the Tide Goes Out, You See Who’s Naked”

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture

Said Martin Sandbu, the FT economics writer that moderated the FT-MIGA Summit, Managing Global Political Risk, last week in London.   
 
This is the fifth year that MIGA, the political risk insurance and credit enhancement arm of the World Bank, co-hosted the event to launch its World Investment and Political Risk report.  Undoubtedly, these have been heady years and most participants agreed that, while it is still strong, political risk has waned since the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. This sentiment dovetails with the findings of the report, which show that macroeconomic stability won by just a hair over political risk as the factor that international investors fear most.
 
Also in line with these findings, the World Bank’s Andrew Burns cautioned that the world will soon be grappling with the next group of challenges brought about by the tide. What tide? Here, Sandbu meant the significant investment that has flowed to developing countries in search of yield over the past few years, quantitative easing that has kept economies afloat, and high commodity prices. All of these factors are now in flux.
 “When the Tide Goes Out, You See Who’s Naked
And now, the (potential) nudity. That is, as investment to emerging markets tapers, macreconomic tools are used less bluntly, and commodity prices normalize, will countries have laid enough strong economic foundations to weather the inevitable changes that will occur? And as this MIGA-sponsored conference deals with political risk, how will economic changes affect the destiny of leaders and, resultantly, citizens?
 
Tina Fordham of Citi Research emphasized that the structural determinants of political risk are still very present. She noted little improvement in unemployment and an increase in vox populi risk. By this she meant shifting and more volatile public opinion around the world—amplified by social media—has recently resulted in a proliferation of mass protests.  Panelists discussed several other risk factors, including increasing polarization in politics, pressure on central banks to keep the economic show on the road, reduced investment in infrastructure, and a reversal in living standards in some hard-hit countries.
 

Smartly Tapping Global Markets: A Driver for the Rise of the South

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture

We’ve become accustomed to talk about the rise of the “global South” in business and economic circles—as these past several years have seen developing countries (mostly BRICs, but also others) surging economically while the global North has retrenched.  I’ve discussed in this blog space how outbound investment from developing countries is one indicator that we can point to confirm this trend.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) recently released its annual Human Development Report that takes as its theme the rise of the global South. I attended the Washington launch of the
report which was held, for the first time, at the World Bank. World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu noted during the event it’s a welcome move. The World Bank and UNDP have much information, tactics, resources, and energy to share.

Bujagali is Commissioned! Uganda Nearly Doubles Electric Capacity in One Fell Swoop

Marcus Williams's picture

This past Monday I was present as the 250 megawatt Bujagali hydropower plant on Uganda’s River Nile – supported by MIGA, Photo by Marcus Williams, MIGAas well as our sister institutions the World Bank and IFC – was commissioned into active service.

After many years of preparation and planning, this was an auspicious moment indeed for Uganda, with the plant’s opening coinciding with the Jubilee celebrations marking the country’s 50 years of national independence. The new Bujagali power plant comes close to doubling the country’s electricity capacity and in a single step has elevated Uganda to having the second largest kilowatt consumption per capita in East Africa, following  Kenya.

Are MIGA Guarantees Governance Products?

Olivier Lambert's picture

I’ve considered whether MIGA guarantees are, in effect, governance products. Readers might rightly ask how I’ve come to this conclusion. Consider what a governance product is:  something that supports good governance (and by this we mean, first and foremost, eliminating corruption and its incentives). Thus, could not a MIGA guarantee be recognized as a governance product from two perspectives—that of the company that is our guarantee holder and that of the country host to a  MIGA-insured investment? 

Does Richard Gere Have the Right Political Risk Mitigation Strategy?

Michel Wormser's picture

In the new film “Arbitrage” the character played by Richard Gere thought he had made a highly profitable mining investment in an Eastern European country with a “friendly” government. But suddenly things are not working the way they were supposed to. He cannot access the returns from his investment —the government will not let him take them out of the country.

Do Investment Promotional Agencies Leave Investors Out in the Cold?

Paul Barbour's picture

This week, the World Bank Group’s Investment Climate Department hosted a stimulating discussion on the credit: Johanna Ljungblomeffectiveness of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs). The panel discussion coincided with the launch of the Investment Climate Department’s report on IPAs across the globe.  MIGA co-sponsored the report and pioneered its methodology. 

First, the bad news. This report makes for quite depressing reading for this startling finding: overall, the responsiveness of investment promotion intermediaries to investor inquiries is low, with 80% of IPAs not responding to sector-specific investor inquiries. This means that 80% of these organizations did not return a phone call or email from a foreign direct investment (FDI) “mystery shopper.” This translates to missed investment opportunities that are particularly needed now as the competition for FDI is so fierce.

Sustainable Development: the Business-class Train Has Left the Station and the Canary is in the Coal Mine

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture

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).

Davos 2012: Slippery Streets

Kevin Lu's picture

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.”

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