CGD is pleased to introduce USDFC Monitor, a platform for information, reasoned analysis, practical recommendations, and evidence-based discussion of important issues that will face the United States’ new full-service development finance institution. Drawing inspiration from a similar endeavor launched by CGD to track and inform the early days of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, you can expect USDFC Monitor to provide a mix of timely commentary and in-depth analysis.
To kick off, we posed three big questions to David Bohigian, Acting President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, about his expectations for the new agency:
What factors do you think will be most critical to the success of the United States’ new full-service development finance institution?
Our people and our partners. OPIC’s staff is second to none; using innovation, creativity and determination to assemble projects that benefit people in the developing world. At the DFC, they’ll join the staff of USAID’s Development Credit Authority, an equally innovative and energetic group.
And like OPIC, the DFC’s model of development is built on strong partnerships with the private sector. Our partners build the power plants and ports, finance the farmers and women-owned businesses and execute all the projects we support. Their ability to do so has long been key to the agency’s ability to achieve such a positive impact in the developing world. These partners will be key to the success of the DFC and the success of our projects. This is why OPIC has always taken great care to conduct close due diligence before we commit to projects, and to closely monitor active projects.
Today we’re seeing many Chinese state-supported projects leaving poor countries with poorly executed projects and deeper in debt. In sharp contrast, our model of partnering with the private sector supports projects that are financially sustainable. We’re confident that our strong partnerships, coupled with our expanded mandate, will enable us to achieve an even greater impact going forward.
What do you see as the biggest challenges likely to face the new agency?
We work in very challenging places. This is true of OPIC and it will be true of the DFC. This has never been easy work but again I’d point to the agency’s long track record of advancing development in poor countries and fragile states, often in the face of great challenge.
In the current environment, one of the biggest challenges is coming from China. China is investing vast amounts around the world in projects which, as I just noted, are often not financially sound. And often these projects are not structurally sound either. It’s inevitable we will be pursing development projects in many of the same markets as the Chinese and our challenge will be to show host countries that we support projects that are financially sound, have high standards, and are built to last. These qualities – and the private sector capital we catalyze in support of the projects - distinguish the U.S. development finance model.
Passage of the BUILD Act was a remarkable bipartisan achievement, moving forward what kind of support will be needed from Congress and other stakeholders to help ensure the new agency delivers on its promise?
The BUILD Act was landmark legislation. The bipartisan support in the Congress and from key stakeholders that came together around this proposal enabled us to add all of the things – from equity authority to a higher investment cap – that had long been identified as essential to building a modern development finance institution.
Going forward we of course will need ongoing bipartisan support to enable us to continue to carry out our mission and to invest with the full scope of the new legislation, which includes investing equity and conducting feasibility studies.
And given the support in Congress and the Administration for the BUILD Act, I’m very confident in that ongoing backing.