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Reality is not yet matching rhetoric in moving from “billions to trillions” to finance the SDGs—how can we accelerate sustainable development finance?
To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, the world must ramp up development financing from billions to trillions. We must think beyond aid, to private finance and unlocking developing countries’ own resources. How development financing is mobilized and allocated must also change. Shared problems like climate change and the threat of pandemics can only be addressed through international cooperation. In addition, the rise of China as a major bilateral development partner and the emergence of new development agencies raise the question of whether the existing multilateral financing system is fit for purpose.
Our research focuses on four questions: How can international finance produce sufficient funding for development? How should it be allocated to meet both ongoing needs and future challenges, such as climate change and pandemics? How can financing most effectively mobilize private capital, safeguard public monies, and keep debt levels sustainable? And how should existing institutions be changed to best assist?
Center for Global Development
WASHINGTON – Foreign private investment now supplies about as much finance as foreign aid in many low-income countries in Africa and Asia, according to a study published today by the Center for Global Development.
The study examined foreign private capital flows—meaning foreign direct investment (FDI), portfolio equity and debt, and bank and other lending—to low-income countries, a group of 27 countries primarily in Asia and Africa.* It found that for the median low-income country, the ratio of foreign private investment to GDP is about the same as the ratio of foreign aid to GDP.
“This was a surprise,” said Nancy Lee, a senior policy fellow at CGD, a former senior official at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the lead author of the study. “We thought that foreign private capital flows would not contribute much to investment in low-income countries, especially after the global financial crisis. Instead, we found that these private capital flows are a major source of finance—and they’ve mostly increased since the financial crisis. That’s in contrast to aid, which has declined sharply as a share of GDP.”
“Most of these inflows are in the form of FDI, which is a more stable, less volatile source of finance,” she continued. “That’s good news for these economies.”
Some of the study’s other findings include:
It’s not all about natural resources
These investments are not all captured by resource-rich countries. In 2017, more than half of capital inflows went to countries that are not rich in oil or other natural resources. “It’s increasingly clear that policies, not just resource endowments, shape FDI destinations for low-income countries,” Lee said.
China is a growing investor, not just a lender
Much of the new investment in Africa, where most low-income countries are located, is coming from China. China more than doubled its total foreign direct investment in the continent between 2011 and 2016—and the amount is now closing in on that of the largest traditional western investors like the US, UK, and France, which have mostly stayed flat over that same time period.
“There’s been a lot of focus on China’s role as a lender to African countries, but China has also emerged as one of the most important investors in Africa,” Lee said. “It’s clearly making a long-term commitment to the region.”
But foreign and domestic investment don’t necessarily reinforce each other
Low-income countries with higher rates of private foreign investment don’t tend to have higher rates of private domestic investment. That raises concerns, said the authors of the study.
“We would expect foreign and domestic private investment to be complementary, as is the case in lower-middle-income countries,” Lee said. “But we’re not seeing that pattern in low-income countries. They need to think about how to spread the benefits of foreign investment more widely in the economy.”
Policies make a difference
Foreign investors care about the policy environment for investment. The study finds a significant positive relationship between foreign investment/GDP and the perceived quality of the regulatory environment in low-income countries without resource riches.
“Foreign aid is still important for poor countries, but private investment is already as big and growing. That’s especially true for FDI to non-resource-rich countries. These countries are showing that their resource endowments no longer determine their destiny. Their policy choices matter,” Lee said.
You can read the full study at https://www.cgdev.org/publication/trends-private-capital-flows-low-income-countries-good-and-not-so-good-news.
* The study covered 27 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Kiva is the path-breaking, fast-growing person-to-person microlending site. It works this way: Kiva posts pictures and stories of people needing loans. You give your money to Kiva. Kiva sends it to a microlender. The lender makes the loan to a person you choose. He or she ordinarily repays. You get your money back with no interest. It's like eBay for microcredit. You knew that, right? Well guess what: you're wrong, and so is Kiva's diagram. Less that 5% of Kiva loans are disbursed after they are listed and funded on Kiva's site.
The United Nations Statistical Commission’s Interagency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) agreed on 230 individual indicators to monitor the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs. We now have a complete picture of the SDG agenda for the next 15 years, right? Not quite.
In this paper, Saugato Datta and non-resident fellow Sendhil Mullainathan explore the implications of behavioral economics in policy areas as diverse as health, education, agricultural policy, and the design of cash-transfer programs.