For the very first time, developing economies in 2013 attracted more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) than developed countries: fully 52 percent of global FDI flows, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Every government of a developing country aspires to have an economy that’s able to provide a better quality of life for its citizens.
In highly competitive market environments, developing countries turn to private investment as a key driver of growth. Private investment can increase government revenue streams, create jobs, improve labor skills and help link domestic firms to global value chains by creating supply-chain opportunities. Encouraging and attracting private investors is thus one of the core priorities for any government that understands how the private sector can play a key role in fueling the country’s economy, reducing unemployment rates and improving living standards. Every government of a developing country aspires to have an economy that’s able to provide a better quality of life for its citizens. Yet the 52 percent of FDI is highly concentrated in a relatively few countries. The question for most governments thus remains: How to join “the FDI Club”?
The role of investment attractiveness often falls to national or subnational investment promotion intermediaries (IPIs). The role of these agencies cannot be overstated, even though their effectiveness in many countries is, at best, mixed. To be effective, an IPI must build on investment-friendly policy and regulatory frameworks, aiming to develop a strong capacity to market the country to investors who are willing to consider investing their capital in the economy’s high-priority sectors. The aim is not about, “If we build it, they will come”: Instead, it’s about, “Let’s invite them to come and see, so they’ll invest.”
Wasting billions of dollars, time and time again, to stage self-indulgent sports spectacles is no way for any society to build shared prosperity for the long term. But just try explaining that common-sense economic logic to the sports-crazed cities that keep lining up to purchase a moment of fleeting fame – and that end up squandering vast sums, by building use-once-throw-away “white elephants” for one-off events like the Olympic Games or the World Cup soccer tournament.
The sports-industrial complex continues to beguile the gullible and the grandiose, even though scholars have long warned of the futility of sports-event-driven spending. Beijing spent about $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Games, and Sochi spent upwards of $50 billion to stage the 2014 Winter Games – while Brazil spent $20 billion to host (and heartbreakingly lose) the final rounds of 2014 World Cup soccer. Not to be outdone for extravagance and excess, Qatar reportedly plans to spend as much as $200 billion for the 2022 festivities.
Like the deluded leaders of declining Rome – who distracted their once-industrious city into passivity by pacifying the populace with what the poet Juvenal derided as panem et circenses: "bread and circuses" – modern-day civic leaders are allowing their obsession with media-moment athletic fame to trample economic logic. The scale of their civic hubris – and the malign self-interest of the construction firms, financiers, flacks and fixers who goad credulous Olympic-wannabe cities into wanton overspending – is insightfully dissected in a valuable new book, “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College.
In recent remarks at the World Bank, Zimbalist deplored the reckless rush that stampedes many cities into bleeding their civic coffers in the quest for Olympic notoriety. The saddest example may be the city of Montreal, whose debt from the 1976 Summer Games burdened the sorry city for 30 years.
Yet the suckers keep taking the bait. Boston, said Zimbalist, recently put forth an extravagant multibillion-dollar bid for the 2024 Summer Games – and only later, after the initial headlines and hoopla had abated, did more complete statistics reveal the likely scale of Boston’s folly. And, of course, the Olympic organizers would again stick the long-suffering taxpayers with the bill for any revenue shortfall.
Zimbalist’s logic is a wake-up call for those who somehow imagine that “this time is different” – that one-shot wonders might somehow produce long-term economic benefits. Some occasional exceptions suggest how very rare it is that optimists are rewarded: London, for example, may have gained a much-needed morale boost after its successful 2012 Summer Games, and two (but only two) Olympic festivals actually turned a profit – both of them in Los Angeles, which shrewdly re-used some of its 1936 Olympic facilities when it again played host to the Summer Games in 1984. But for most cities – Montreal in 1976, Sarajevo in 1984, Athens in 2004 and many more – the money spent on soon-to-crumble stadia, ski jumps and swimming pools was a diversion from urgent human needs and productive investment.
Zimbalist makes a compelling case – yet beyond the diagnosis of the malady, one seeks a prescription to cure it. Can such Olympic megalomania be tamed? Are there other ways to build, and pay for, worthy sports facilities that honor the spirit of the Olympic Games while avoiding the overspending that bleeds their hosts dry?
A potential solution arose amid Zimbalist’s recent World Bank discussion. Rather than build one-shot Olympic facilities that are destined to be discarded as soon as each extravaganza is finished, why not build just one enduring set of permanent Olympic facilities that can be refurbished and re-used, year after year? Build it right, and build it only once: That way, the cost of building and maintaining an Olympic complex could be spread over generations.
Pursuing that solution seems especially timely right now, and here's why. Where is the historically logical place to locate such a permanent Olympic site? Why, in Greece, of course, where the Olympics originated in 776 B.C. and continued until 393 A.D. There could be no more authentic place to have today’s marathoners run than in Marathon itself – no more meaningful place to have skiers schuss than on Mount Olympus, or to have boaters ply the very waters that warmed Odysseus’ odyssey.
The effectiveness of legislating to address investment policy shortcomings is a recurrent debate in development circles. More specifically, do countries need a singular investment law? Should governments expend the political capital required to put in place a law if the likelihood of its implementation is questionable from the outset? Is it not better to work on more implementation-focused activities? And: If countries do undergo the reform process, what should it entail?
Revising or enacting investment laws is one of the first steps that many developing countries take to achieve its objectives for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In some cases, the purpose is to signal political will to reform; in other cases, changes are more substantial and seek to profoundly increase legal certainty and improve the value proposition for investors. Reforms may also arise from obligations that countries adopt under international investment agreements.
Investor certainty can bring substantial payoffs to host countries. Foreign investors want to be clear, among other things, about market access; about the requirements for business operation; about their rights and obligations; and about the accessibility and enforcement of dispute resolution.
Lack of certainty can have dire consequences. According to the 2013 Political Risk Survey by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), almost 10 percent of investment plans were cancelled or existing investments were withdrawn due to various adverse regulatory changes in the preceding year. The value of such lost investment, coupled with the cost of international disputes that may arise from it, could climb to tens of millions of dollars for a single case.
But, this does not mean that enacting an FDI law is a guarantee of more investment. Effective reform requires, first, policy based on good practice and, second, implementation (legal, regulatory and administrative) through institutions that are up to the task. An investment framework should be implementable locally while remaining consistent with good practice.
Ideally, an investment law should be a part of a broader set of reforms dedicated to achieving specific objectives, such as more exports, jobs, productivity and other forms of value addition. All stages of investment should be addressed, including attraction, retention and linkage to the local economy.
Reducing risk is the only way for community joint-ventures to get serious with commercial banks. Without commercial finance, this niche tourism sector might never deliver on its potential. Photo: World Wildlife Fund
Over the last 20 years, joint-ventures between local communities and the private sector have grown up as a feature of the sustainable tourism development agenda. Typically, the community provides the land, the heritage or the wildlife asset base while the private sector brings the capital, management know-how and business networks. When they work well, these partnerships contribute substantially to local economic and social development, as well as providing professional, unique and authentic tourism experiences for visitors.
Lena Florry is an Area Manager for Wilderness Safaris, the private-sector partner in a community joint venture (CJV) lodge in Namibia. ”What we have here at Damaraland really changes our lives,” she says. “Previously, in our village, I was herding goats. Now we have good jobs and a much better life.” Crucially, Lena is also a member of the local community and takes personal pleasure in sharing the model’s success story with the camp’s US$500-a-night paying guests.
Typical benefits include income for communities through lease or contract agreements, employment and supply-chain opportunities, skills and knowledge transfer from the private sector, and usually a kind of joint “tourism asset protection” like wildlife preservation or heritage protection. In Namibia, for example, community conservation generated about US$7 million in returns for local communities in 2013, and the elephant population doubled in 20 years.
While much emphasis has been placed on the development impacts of this model, the actual health of the businesses has often been overlooked. As long as the ventures continue to deliver a development dividend – such as contributions to a community fund, or increased biodiversity – all is believed well. For the venture’s supporters, it may then come as a surprise when applications for commercial finance are rejected.
“We would like to finance the sector,” says Christo Viljoen at First National Bank (FNB) Namibia. “But our biggest challenge is to determine the financial viability of the community joint-ventures. We find the risks involved are not properly addressed in the business plans.”
Banks report that risks typically have to do with corporate governance, low-quality financial data, collateral, the level of experience of the sponsor, and a host of structural problems in the CJV business – not least, the balance between the development dividend versus the profitability of the business. All these factors help to undermine a firm’s viability. A business that cannot demonstrate financial viability – and, thus, show how it will pay back a loan – cannot be financed.
This presents a very real problem. Without the means to make necessary investments in the business (such as refurbishment or expansion), the quality of the tourism product deteriorates, occupancies and rates decline, and funds for the community and for wildlife protection drop.
In an effort to help the various stakeholders increase the financial viability of CJVs, reduce risk and increase loans, the World Bank Group and the World Wildlife Fund released “nine tips” at the recent tourism trade show ITB Berlin 2015. Dr. Hannah Messerli of the World Bank’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice said, “We believe that destinations that address these issues are more likely to provide comfort to the banks in lending.”
How can financial inclusion and financial integrity policies complement each other? That question was addressed in a report recently released looking at the state of Ethiopia’s anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.
The assessment was conducted by a World Bank Group team of experts and published by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). This is the first assessment of a developing country to be published that uses the revised 2012 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards.
Ethiopia’s compliance with the international standards on AML/CFT had never been assessed before, and this report sheds light on the functioning of a unique and vibrant economy in Africa. In addition, this is the first AML/CFT assessment to highlight the connection between financial inclusion and financial integrity policies.
As noted in an earlier blog post, entitled "The Royal Stamp of Inclusion," the FATF has confirmed that financial inclusion and financial integrity are mutually reinforcing public-policy objectives. The revised FATF standards have a more explicit focus on the risk-based approach in implementing an AML/CFT framework. This approach allows for the identification of lower risk scenarios and the application of simplified AML/CFT measures in certain areas (primarily customer due diligence, or CDD).
The Ethiopia assessment notes that only about 28 percent of the population is served by the formal financial system – leaving 72 percent of the population dependent on cash or informal financial service providers. The Ethiopian government has identified the expansion of formal financial services as a national priority, through its “Growth and Transformation Plan” and the “Ethiopian Financial Inclusion Project.”
The assessment makes suggestions as to how the Ethiopian authorities can “link up” the policies of inclusion and integrity – for example, by allowing for simplified customer due diligence processes, and by providing guidance to financial institutions on the issue.
Africa has spent the past 18 years growing at 5 percent a year, after a similar period of decline during which per capita incomes fell by 1.3 percent annually. Much of Africa’s growth has undoubtedly been fueled by a natural-resource boom, but other factors mattered too: The end of the Cold War helped reduce the incidence of armed conflict to a third of previous levels; structural adjustment reform started to pay dividends; and global debt forgiveness cleared the burden of past debts.
This opened up new investment dynamics – for global investors and, arguably more important, for a crop of burgeoning local entrepreneurs who could respond to these opportunities, from micro-entrepreneurs to larger domestic and regional investors. It is primarily on the needs and aspirations of these business people that the World Bank Group (WBG) has been focusing our investment climate (IC) advisory reform efforts in Africa since 2006.
Over the years, we have looked at how IC reforms have translated into the kind of impact that policymakers and their constituents in the private sector and beyond try to achieve – such goals as cost savings, investment and jobs. We recently undertook such an effort, pursuing a substantial review of five Sub-Saharan African countries on both sides of the continent: Burkina Faso, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.
A key measure of our success for much WBG investment climate advisory work is private-sector cost savings (PSCS), which monetizes the fees and time that businesses save as a result of the IC reforms that we support.
For example, reforms that changed the procedures for registering a business – through such steps as streamlining processes and putting a number of tasks online, as well as reducing fees related to registration – puts money back into the budding entrepreneur’s pocket.
Trends in Business Registration in Rwanda
When terms like “criminal conspiracy” and “felony” appear in confessions and plea bargains, the criminal-justice system sits up and takes notice. And when the confessed felons are some of the world’s largest corporations, the private sector ought to be jolted into action, too.
The continuing shame of confessed corporate misconduct – in this case, lawbreaking conducted with such a degree of guile that the U.S. Attorney General called it “breathtaking flagrancy” and that the FBI labeled it criminality “on a massive scale” – reached a new intensity this month: Four of the world’s largest banks confessed to taking part in a five-year-long conspiracy to manipulate the world’s foreign-exchange markets.
This latest in a series of stern legal judgments has damaged the corporate reputations of some of the world’s most pivotal financial institutions – with guilty pleas, to felony charges no less, entered by Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC and The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC. A separate guilty plea by UBS – along with earlier fines against Bank of America and HSBC in separate settlements in related cases – has brought the total of fines against those once-trusted, now-tarnished firms to about $6 billion.
The corporate confessions of deliberate lawbreaking, pursued with systematic and sinister stealth – at the very center of the international financial system – vividly validate the recent exhortation of Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund: that corporate governance must be strengthened and that a higher standard of individual ethics must prevail, especially in the financial sector.
Lagarde wisely linked skewed incentives and a short-term profit-maximization mindset to the risk of financial instability, in an eloquent recent address to the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s conference on “Finance and Society”: “There is still work to be done to address distorted incentives in the financial system. Indeed, actions that precipitated the [global financial] crisis were – mostly – not so much fraudulent as driven by short-term profit motivation. This suggests to me that we need to build a financial system that is both more ethical and oriented more to the needs of the real economy – a financial system that serves society, and not the other way round.”
Those who champion the creative potential of the private sector (including, I imagine, the regular readers of this blog) have a particular reason – one might even say, a special responsibility – to voice their anger about the foreign-exchange-rigging scandal and other acts of lawlessness.
Idealists who esteem the private sector’s ingenuity in delivering growth and jobs sans frontières know that business' creativity will be indispensable in achieving the vital development goals of eliminating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. Society thus rightly expects that the full measure of corporate energies should be focused on companies’ central mission of generating wealth that benefits all of society. Whenever any of those energies are diverted – especially toward criminal schemes that put short-term personal plunder ahead of long-term economic growth – the lawbreakers undermine public confidence (or what little remains of it, in the wake of the global financial crisis) in the fairness of the economic system.
Moreover, lawbreakers provide ammunition to critics who allege that today’s economic system is irredeemably corrupt, through-and-through – thus making it even more difficult for law-abiding companies, holding true to the values of honest business behavior, to make the case for policies that liberate private-sector dynamism.
In the spirit of working together to help developing countries reap the benefits of investment, the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness (T&C) Global Practice and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) joined forces to make investment climate reforms happen on the ground. In a high-level roundtable event, which took place in the context of the recent WBG Spring Meetings, the two organizations announced their partnership by acknowledging the clear synergies that exist between their respective work programs - namely the OECD’s updated Policy Framework for Investment (PFI), and the diagnostic tools, technical assistance, implementation support and financing instruments provided by the WBG’s Investment Policy and Promotion (IPP) team
The Growing Importance of Investment for Developing Countries
For the past three decades, the private sector has served as the main driver of sustainable economic growth, employment and poverty reduction around the world (World Bank Group 2015). In particular, private sector investments have been powering international trade and the world economy as a whole. According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2014:
- Between 1990 and 2013, foreign direct investment (FDI) flows increased at an exponential rate - growing eight-fold from $208 to $1,452 billion.
- Today, more goods and services reach consumers through the sales of foreign affiliates than through exports. While in 2013 the dollar value of global merchandise exports was $18.8 trillion and commercial services $4.7 trillion, sales of foreign affiliates reached $34.5 trillion.
- Meanwhile, international production is continuing to expand; between 2012 and 2013, it rose by 9 percent in sales, 8 percent in assets, 6 percent in value added and 5 percent in employment.
These figures shed light on the vital role that foreign direct investment can play in linking a country’s domestic economy to global value chains. Not only does FDI bring investment and jobs to a country, but also increased exports, supply chain spillovers, new technologies and enhanced business practices. In sum, investment is a key vehicle for developing countries to leverage the world economy for domestic growth.
Building the Foundation for Future Collaboration
Realizing all the potential benefits of FDI requires the clear and effective implementation of investment strategies and policies that respond to the realities and aspirations of a country. To attract, retain and maximize the benefits of different types of FDI, developing countries need to establish a favorable investment climate, and for that they need our assistance. International organizations must strive to cooperate with one another and provide more effective, coherent and relevant support in leveraging investments to help countries better connect to the world economy, which is so critical for development, especially given the complex changes in global trade and investment patterns.
Recently, financial volatility returned because of various concerns in the marketplace – including (just to name a few) shifting expectations of the shape of the Federal Reserve’s exit path from ultra-low interest rates and the rapid strengthening of the US dollar; the launch of quantitative easing by the European Central Bank and its impact on inflation expectations and bond markets; low and volatile oil prices; China’s growth slowdown, additional stimulus and financial-sector challenges; the standoff between the new Greek government and its creditors; and continuing geopolitical turmoil.
In this context, EMDEs face six interrelated financial challenges, although it is important to note significant differences between countries exist.
First: Prolonged extraordinary monetary policies (EMPs) in developed countries and the prospect of asynchronous exits create a wide range of global financial market challenges. EMPs in developed economies created an environment of ultra-low interest rates, as policymakers have aimed to rekindle economic growth and battle disinflationary pressures. Three key risks have emerged:
- Low rates and excessive risk-taking have contributed to very high asset valuations, compressed risk spreads and term premiums, and stimulated non-bank-sector growth, boosting leverage, illiquidity and collateral shortages. That exposes the financial system to shocks. This has weakened risk pricing and contributed to the “illusion of liquidity,” raising the risk of pro-cyclical “fire sales” with global spillovers.
- Sudden shifts in market expectations or a bumpy trajectory of the U.S. Federal Reserve exit path to normalized interest rates could trigger volatility in currency, equity and capital-flow markets – similar to the “Taper Tantrum” of 2013, when the Federal Reserve openly contemplated scaling back its asset purchases.
- Increasing divergence between central bank policies in developed economies has already had significant implications for currency markets, particularly for the euro-dollar pair. Divergence creates an interference risk and the possibility of miscommunication, which could trigger new bouts of global financial market volatility.
A marketplace in Kampala, Uganda. Photo: Arne Hoel, The World Bank
Standing at the checkout line at Whole Foods Market while finishing up my weekly family grocery shopping, I take inventory of everything in my cart. I have honey, rice, couscous, extra virgin olive oil, juice, coffee, tea, dried beans and organic pretzels (for me). Not only did I find all of these products in one supermarket, but they were all sourced by the same Whole Foods Market buyer and delivered here by the same distribution company.
How do I know this? Because I have sold goods to companies like Whole Foods Market, a prime retail chain in the United States, having been in the specialty foods industry for the past two decades.
A single buyer makes the decision to buy each and every one of these shelf-stable grocery products, and then a single distribution company sources them from multiple suppliers and consolidates them for Whole Foods Market. This is how the supply chain works in the United States, and anywhere else in the world, including Tanzania, which is the home of infoDev’s newest addition to entrepreneur development — the Agribusiness Innovation Center (AIC).
From my conversations with buyers from Nakumatt, Uchumi, Shoppers, Shrijee, Value Markets, and every other supermarket chain in Tanzania, I have gathered that they all have streamlined supply chains and have a strong desire to source shelf-stable food products locally. Simple as this sounds, it is made complicated by the fact that local companies need to meet their requirements for certification, packaging, branding, price competitiveness, reliability, promotion and so forth. This is where the AIC has a crucial role.
Around the world, infoDev supports innovative, growth-oriented entrepreneurs, and agribusiness is an important focus area. The AIC is a sustainable platform for entrepreneur development that focuses on value-added food processing. It is set up to run as a business, not a donor program. Charging a percentage of the entrepreneur’s growth, the AIC is well-positioned to support entrepreneurs across multiple value chains, for all the reasons described above. The route to market is basically the same, and so are the requirements. For example, the Tanzania Bureau of Standards certifies honey companies the same way it certifies every other shelf-stable food company.