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Political Risk Insurance

Reflections on Investment Prospects for Countries Facing Fragility and Conflict

Kyoo-Won Oh's picture

Facilitating investments into Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS) is one of the most important strategic pillars in MIGA’s Strategy. In an effort to further expand MIGA’s support in FCS countries, I recently visited Burundi, South Sudan, and Afghanistan and met with investors, government agencies, and donors. Although the investment climate varies in these FCS countries, I observed the following four common threads during my visit.

First, despite the deteriorating security situations, there are still investors seeking business opportunities in FCS countries, as long as the expected return on investment is sufficiently high to cover a required level of return plus risk premium.[1] When it comes to the investors actively operating in FCS countries, their concerns appeared to be more focused on unexpected and arbitrary changes in government policies against their investments, rather than the security issue itself. Most aspects of the government-related procedures are risks beyond the control of investors, for example, renewal of licenses and permits, taxation, and various contracts signed with the government. Investors usually go through several political cycles during their investment horizon. An approval from the current government does not guarantee the same approval would be obtained from the succeeding government. A foreign investor I met in Afghanistan cemented this notion by telling me that “when we made a decision to invest in Afghanistan, we were already well-aware of the security issue in the country. For us, the security was a foreseeable risk that could be mitigated to some extent, if not entirely avoidable. We can take care of security risks as well as commercial risks; but what concerned us the most was the risks related to uncertainties in the government’s regulation and policy.”

Juba, South Sudan
Juba, South Sudan

Winning the Game of Mining Taxation

Paul Barbour's picture

The last few years have brought an uptick in the number of mining investments that have been the subject of disputes between investors and governments. This trend is of considerable concern to the players in the sector across the globe.
Yet, there is a wealth of wisdom to be—pardon the pun—mined from the literature over the past few decades in an attempt to distill what the main risk factors are in agreements that govern investments in the sector, with specific focus on taxation regimes. 

Number of Expropriatory Acts by Sector – three-year rolling averages
Source: Chris Hajzler (2010), “Expropriation of Foreign Direct Investments: Sectoral Patterns from 1993 to 2006,” University of Otago in MIGA,World Investment and Political Risk 2011

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.

Let the lights shine, hopefully for 24 hours a day (as needed)

Antoine Jaoude's picture

Growing up in war-torn Beirut, I experienced the Lebanese Civil War from a childlike perspective. I was in middle school at the time when a power outage lingered for months on end. Reviewing textbooks and doing homework at night was no easy task. The flickers of candlelight reflecting on the glossy pages of my textbook made reading very laborious—not to mention how it compromised my safety and shrank my attention span. I was 12 years old at the time. Today, I am 34. It has been 23 years since the war ended and power shortage in Lebanon remains.  
In the aftermath of the civil war, there was a national consensus to privatize and decentralize the power sector in Lebanon. Decentralization would shift control from the ministerial level to distinct municipalities across the country. Privatization in particular would help the power grid expand to meet the growing demands of population increase. Both moves would involve inflows of foreign direct investment, and open up competition, and create more jobs. However, political disagreements erupted around the intricacies of privatization policies and decrees and any further attempt to privatize or decentralize has floundered.
Today, Electricite du Liban (EDL), a state-owned enterprise run by the Ministry of Energy and Water controls 90 percent of power generators, transmission, and distribution services in the country. A surge of demand after the civil war has pushed EDL to further expand the power grid.

Iberoamérica: Contribuyendo a la prosperidad a largo plazo de un continente

Jose Carlos Villena Perez's picture

Durante mi reciente viaje a España para representar MIGA en un foro sobre el futuro de las infraestructuras portuarias en Iberoamerica organizado por Tecniberia, tuve la oportunidad de comprobar y apreciar los grandes logros alcanzados por muchas naciones iberoamericanas en los últimos lustros.

La “década de prosperidad sostenida” de Iberoamérica es uno de los hechos más notables en la corta historia económica del SXXI por la novedad que esta circunstancia representa. La región goza en estos momentos del periodo más prolongado de crecimiento de su historia contemporánea, y tan sólo el empuje de China y las nuevas potencias asiáticas, pueden comprometer esa primera posición en este podio imaginario de hitos económicos del S XXI.

Tras algunos intentos fallidos en el pasado, parece que Iberoamérica ha conseguido romper definitivamente su particular trampa maltusiana (a periodos cortos de crecimiento boyante le seguían ineludiblemente profundas crisis) en la que se ha visto envuelta una y otra vez durante todo el SXX y se ha afianzado, de una vez por todas, en la senda del progreso.

No obstante, no existe espacio para la complacencia y la contemplación pasiva de lo conseguido en esta década prodigiosa. Los líderes y gobiernos iberoamericanos tienen que continuar luchando por la consolidación definitiva de sus economías, por erradicar las malas praxis pasadas y adquirir nuevos recursos humanos y la infraestructura técnica para introducir a sus naciones entre las más avanzadas del mundo, superando los riesgos de una posible ralentización del crecimiento mundial.

La región sigue afrontando claros desafíos como son: el fortalecimiento de las clases medias, la reducción de las gran desigualdad de ingreso, la explotación de los vastos recursos naturales y la participación de los grupos minoritarios, o incluso en algunos casos mayoritarios, de indígenas en la vida política y social. Enrique Iglesias, titular de la Secretaría General Iberoamericana (Segib) y expresidente del BID señaló recientemente que "a Iberoamérica no le va a seguir siendo tan fácil como hasta hace poco, el viento a favor se terminó y ahora hay que navegar con motor propio y, a veces, con vientos en contra…Hay que ponerse a pensar en esos nuevos términos."

Iberoamerica: Contributing to the long-term prosperity of a continent

Jose Carlos Villena Perez's picture

During my recent business development trip to Spain to represent MIGA at a forum on Latin American port infrastructure organized by Tecniberia, I had an opportunity to see with my own eyes and appreciate the great achievements made by many Iberoamerican nations.

One remarkable point in the still-young economic history of the 21st century is the “decade of sustainable prosperity” in Latin America. The region benefits from one of the longest growth periods in its modern history, with only Chinese and other emerging Asian powers jeopardizing its first position at the imaginary podium of the 21st-century economic empires.

It seems that Iberoamerica has finally managed to break its peculiar Malthusian trap (short periods of booming growth followed by deep recession) in which it fell again and again throughout the 20th century, and has seriously taken a sustained path of progress.

However, there are no grounds for complacency and passive contemplation of what has been achieved in this prodigious decade. Iberoamerican leaders and governments have to continue consolidating their economies, eradicate any poor past practices, and acquire new human resources and technical infrastructure. This will help them position their countries among the most advanced nations of the world and diminish the immediate risks of a slowdown in global growth.

The region is still facing evident challenges: the strengthening of the middle class, reduction of income inequality, exploitation of vast natural resources, and the engagement of minority groups or aboriginal majority in political and social life. Enrique Iglesias, head of the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB) and former president of the Inter-American Development Bank, recently pointed out that "Iberoamerica is not going to have it easy going forward.  We are no longer sailing with a favorable wind and we will have to use our own engines—sometimes the wind will even be against us...We have to start thinking in these new terms."

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.

Nuevos desafíos, nuevas alianzas

Jose Carlos Villena Perez's picture

Los Organismos Multilaterales y los países del Sur de Europa deben cooperar más intensamente para restablecer la competitividad global de sus economías.

Una de las lecciones aprendidas en los últimos años es que los procesos de desarrollo económico son reversibles. Las otrora economías estrellas del Sur de Europa languidecen hoy en día envueltas en un lento y doloroso proceso de reajuste encaminado a la restructuración de sus sectores productivos y a su defintiva entrada en el SXXI, en lo que a términos económicos se refiere.

Cada vez es más evidente que la recuperación de estos países no se logrará simplemente con la reforma de sus estructuras administrativas y normativas debido a la complejidad de los problemas que afrontan. Tal vez, uno de los más complejos sea la interrupción del flujo del crédito a la economía real, el cuál está afectando gravemente los países del sur de Europa. Esta escasez está dañando seriamente la competitividad de los mismos a nivel internacional y comprometiendo cualquier posible atisbo de mejoría, poniendo, en definitiva, en riesgo la recuperación de la economía mundial.

New challenges, new alliances

Jose Carlos Villena Perez's picture

Multilateral organizations and Southern Europe can do more to cooperate to restore these countries’ global competitiveness

One of the lessons learned from the past few years is that economic development processes are reversible. The once-bright southern Europe economies are languishing today, wrapped in a slow and painful process of adjustment aimed at restructuring their productive sectors and enter once and for all into the 21st century economy.

It’s clear that these countries’ recovery will not be achieved simply with reforming their administrative and regulatory frameworks. Perhaps one of the most complex issues that Italy, Portugal, and Spain are currently dealing with is the interruption of credit flows to the real economy. This interruption is doing considerable harm to the countries of southern Europe; the credit shortage is affecting their competitiveness and jeopardizing any possible hint of improvement, putting the overall global economic recovery at risk.

Partnership in Political Risk: Singapore Goes Global!

Paul Barbour's picture

On February 22, MIGA partnered with the Singapore Management University (SMU) and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore), to launch the most recent World Investment and Political Risk Report in Asia. The event, at SMU’s downtown campus, focused on the key issues of sovereign and political risk and how foreign investors can mitigate them.

The latest World Investment and Political Risk report is the fourth in a series that we’ve recently launched in London and Washington, DC as well. There are some important nuggets on FDI trends and perceptions this year. The report notes that foreign investors, attracted by stronger economic growth in developing countries while mindful of risks, still remain optimistic about these destinations.