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Growing after the Crisis: Boosting Productivity in Developing Countries

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Spring in DC draws more than just tourists. Last week, government officials, policy makers, civil society representatives and other thought leaders converged to take stock of the global economy during the IMF-World Bank spring meetings. The tone in the hallways was optimistic, but cautious. Growth in advanced economies still remains tepid, weighed down by lingering effects of the global financial crisis, demographic challenges, as well as weakening innovation and productivity growth.  At the same time, there are encouraging signs that developing countries are in good shape, thanks to fiscal buffers that helped them to weather the storm.

Nevertheless, we must be mindful of the work ahead: the IMF warned of a ‘3-speed recovery’, where emerging markets are growing rapidly, the United States is recovering faster than most other advanced industrial countries, but Europe continues to struggle. Where does this leave developing countries? At a meeting with the G24 – a group of developing countries - I had the privilege of discussing the prospects for growth, and policies needed to achieve productivity growth essential for eliminating extreme poverty and for creating shared prosperity.

Study: Liberalizing Foreign Investment in Services Boosts Manufacturing in Indonesia

Gonzalo Varela's picture

Rice sacks on a truck in Indonesia. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ricephotos/6025129068/Sometimes trade policy works through unexpected channels. In the case of Indonesia, opening the services sector to foreign investment appears to be a way to significantly boost the productivity of domestic manufacturing firms, according to recent joint research from the World Bank’s Office in Indonesia and the International Trade Department. This finding has implications for governments around the world that have restricted foreign investment in services – such as transport, electricity and communications – that are vital to other productive sectors in the economy.

How to increase investment in the Middle East and North Africa

The importance of investment promotion: FDI in Middle East and North Africa countries like Morocco could help create jobs for its citizens.

In light of recent political and social unrest in the region, foreign investors are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude to projects in the Middle East and North Africa. For the region’s investment promoters, this demands better, more proactive performance than in the past. Fortunately, although much remains to be done, the investment agencies of the 19 MENA governments are, as a group, off to a good start, according to a World Bank Group report released today.

Global Investment Promotion Best Practices 2012: Seizing the Potential for Better Investment Facilitation in the MENA Region reports on the ability of investment-promoting institutions (IPIs) in 189 countries to handle investor inquiries and provide investors with quality business information through their Web sites. It shows that the MENA region was the only one in the world to achieve significant improvement since the last edition of GIPB in 2009, with the IPIs of Morocco and Yemen among the world's three most improved.

Why Have FDI Flows to Emerging Europe Remained Stable in Recent Years?

Gallina Andronova Vincelette's picture

Eleven of the less prosperous members of the European Union – Bulgaria, Croatia1, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia (EU11)—have remained attractive destinations for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovakia witnessed FDI levels in 2012 similar to pre-crisis levels. Poland and Bulgaria also experienced large gains in FDI in 2012.

Want to sell your country to investors? Answer the phone!

When investors think about entering new locations their biggest need—and biggest challenge—is often how to access the information they need to help them make decisions. Reliable information—especially in emerging markets—helps to reduce investor perceptions of risk in an unknown location and reduces the transaction costs of establishing in a new market. 

Missed calls are missed opportunities for investment. (Credit: Johan Koolwaaij, Flickr Creative Commons)

Moreover, you would think government investment promotion intermediaries (IPIs) should be keener than ever to make as much effort as possible to attract new investors in light of the cut-throat competition for lower levels of FDI since the crisis. Wouldn’t you? Well, it would seem like they aren’t. The World Bank Group's Global Investment Promotion Best practices 2012 survey (GIPB 2012) found that, worldwide, the responsiveness of IPIs to investor inquiries is shockingly low-with 80% of IPIs not even responding to sector-specific investor inquiries.

FDI in Ireland: A Reason for Optimism?

John Anderson's picture

On a recent trip to Ireland, stories about the impact of the continuing economic crisis were abundant. Newspapers ran stories about the substantial loss of wealth and purchasing power, such as the increase in 'negative equity' as the value of homes owned by the middle class fell significantly below their mortgages. Cab drivers explained how jobs had been shed throughout the economy, and bemoaned the resulting rise in the number of drivers and increased competition for fares. The reality of the recession and fiscal collapse following the banking crisis of late 2008 was clear.

However, anecdotal evidence about a different aspect of Irish finance – foreign direct investment – suggested a more positive story. I walked through one neighborhood in Dublin that houses the European headquarters of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The latter two were established after the onset of the economic crisis, and Google is in the process of expanding its presence in Dublin. Lawyers at large corporate law firms were excited to discuss FDI, citing it as a key driver of Ireland’s future growth. One firm even maintains a FDI index that highlights large inflows and the positive perception of Ireland as a destination for US investment.

Might FDI in Ireland be the best indicator to consider the strength of the economic fundamentals that enable long-term growth? Ireland has historically benefitted from large inflows of FDI relative to its size. And despite the recent economic crisis, these inflows have largely continued.

Over the past 10 years, inflows of FDI into Ireland tend to be substantially higher as a percentage of GDP than inflows into other OECD economies (see Figure 1). In 2009 and 2010, the two years immediately following the banking collapse, Ireland attracted three to four times more FDI proportionately than other OECD economies. These inflows were not just large in relative terms – they were equivalent to 11.7% of GDP in 2009 and 12.9% in 2010. The negative inflows in 2005 and 2008 do indicate that more money was disinvested out of Ireland than newly invested in the economy those years. However, such outflows are mostly loans or dividend payments from foreign-owned firms in Ireland to their affiliates abroad, at least some of which were likely caused by a 2004 change in the US tax rate on foreign profits.

Figure 1: Net inflows of FDI as percentage of GDP, Ireland vs OECD
 
Source: UNCTAD and author’s calculations

More Foreign Direct Investment in Retail for India?

Bingjie Hu's picture

Recently, India has seen a heated debate on the entry of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country’s $400 billion retail market. In November 2011, the government proposed a policy change to open up the country’s multi-brand retail segment -- for retailers such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour. Foreign investors were to be allowed to own up to 51 percent of a multi-brand retailer if they invested at least $100 mn, with half spent on infrastructure development in India. Within weeks of the announcement, the government suspended the decision amid protests from opposition parties and small shopkeepers citing concerns over large scale job losses, especially in the small, unorganized retail sector.

What is FDI?

Foreign direct investment (FDI) refers to the net inflows of foreign investment to acquire a lasting management interest (more than 10 percent of voting stock) in a domestic company. In 1997, the government permitted 100 percent FDI in the wholesale cash and carry trade, in which customers arranged the transport of goods from wholesalers and paid for goods in cash (not credit), on a case-by-case basis.

Investment Promotion with Impact: The Case of Invest in Bogota

Over the last two decades the number of investment promotion agencies (IPAs) has mushroomed from only a few dozen in the early 1980s to roughly 250 agencies worldwide today.  Despite this growth, relatively little attention has been paid towards whether or not investment promotion agencies actually have an impact on the growth in FDI to a location. 

Figure 1: Bogota, Colombia # of inbound FDI projects (by quarter) between 2003-2011

 Source: fDi Markets Database, Authors Calculations


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