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.
Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency
It was all about connectivity in the just-concluded World Economic Forum for East Asia that took place in Bangkok last week. Participants pondered many questions related to how we could make this region more connected, in terms of trade, tourism, investments, and even value.
In a session on infrastructure financing, IFC Vice President Karin Finkelston spoke eloquently about the need to mobilize financing for many developing countries in Asia and what IFC has been doing in terms of both investing and advising governments to prepare bankable projects. When Professor Joe Stiglitz on the same panel raised his proposal to establish an ASEAN development bank, it received mixed feedback from the fellow panelists.
This week, the World Bank Group’s Investment Climate Department hosted a stimulating discussion on the effectiveness 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.
Having spent some of my formative years on the African continent, I can attest to the fact that the frequency of power blackouts desensitized citizenry to the point that power outages were neither a cause of despair nor excitement but just another mundane facet of everyday life. Power outages remain common phenomena throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa owing to various reasons such as low capacity output, over-reliance on volatile sources of energy, outdated machinery, mismatched pricing, energy theft, low collection rates, among other reasons. Over 30 countries in the continent have suffered power shortages in recent years, with detrimental economic effects including lost revenues, typically ranging between 1 and 4 percent of GDP.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
In June 2010 I posted a blog on political risks for investors in the Arab world. The blog (and associated Perspectives note) argued that it was probably a mistake to lump all Arab countries together, and that risks were idiosyncratic among nations. Overall, the note reflected the view at the time that most investors were fairly sanguine about the risks in the Arab world.
In retrospect of course, we have all been found out following the events that started in Tunisia in January and spread across the region. This week MIGA hosted a panel discussion on ‘Investment Opportunities in the Wake of the Arab Spring’ to try and take stock of these events and consider their implications for investors.