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.
In December 2010 and again in April 2011, MIGA issued contracts representing many "firsts" for the agency -- our first two non-honoring of sovereign financial obligations contracts, our first coverage for stand-alone debt, and first coverage for sub-sovereign credit risk. I was fortunate enough to have worked on both projects, which support public transport in Istanbul,
Attending MIGA’s seminar today in London on cross-border investment in conflict affected and fragile economies prompted me to think back on my days in the field—not only during my experience with the World Bank in southern Africa, but to two decades as a journalist in the same region.
I traveled in a number of African countries where I reported on fragile economies, on war and political violence, and on post-conflict rebuilding efforts. Some countries, to be sure, were more successful than others. Mozambique has always been singled out as among the miracles and it’s understandable. I went to Mozambique for the first time in 1984 to report on the civil war, which had already taken a heavy toll after seven years of intense conflict, and returned a number of times up until 1990.
Recent events surrounding the Dubai World debt standstill raise broader questions about the political risks of investing in the Arab World. The good news is that growth and FDI have risen markedly in recent years; yet, risks undoubtedly remain. I researched the issue in depth for a new Perspectives from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) that highlights the diversity of risks within the Arab World.
The Arab World, like other developing regions, provides both potential risks and rewards for international investors. The most important message from the Perspectives piece, though, is that risks vary significantly by country, by sector, and by project. As a result, it’s crucial not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to investing in the region.
Case in point: The Arab World is perceived as being prone to war and civil disturbance. Yet available data from the Berne Union shows no claims for war and civil disturbance in Arab countries. Here we see a considerable gap between perceptions and reality.
I recently represented MIGA in a special working group of the OECD focused on Iraqi reconstruction. It was an interesting and useful gathering, attended by Iraqi civil servants from across the administration, export credit agencies, and of course private sector representatives interested in doing business in the country.
On Wednesday, May 5, 2010, MIGA convened a panel discussion on the state of political risk in the world economy, which proposed to answer the pregnant question: “Are we moving into a riskier world?”
MIGA Chief Operating Officer, James Bond, moderated a panel that included:
Recently, my colleague Cara Santos Pianesi flagged an op-ed she thought might interest me. The aptly-titled op-ed, Resource wealth need no longer be a curse was written by Mats Berdal and Nader Mousavizadeh and published in the FT on March 25th.
Lebanon is a country of expatriates. Nine million of its 11 million inhabitants live abroad, in places as diverse as Terra del Fuego, Côte d’Ivoire, and Columbus, Ohio. The Lebanese Diaspora remains profoundly committed to its mother country, remitting money to family back home, investing, and visiting as tourists.
MIGA recently launched its new World Investment and Political Risk report in London to a gathering of investment and political risk experts. Based on a joint MIGA – EIU Political Risk Survey conducted last year, the report underscores that political risk remains one of the main obstacles to FDI in emerging markets.