The past decade was marked by the increasing role of foreign direct investment (FDI) in total capital flows. In the late 90s, FDI accounted for more than 50% of all private capital flows to developing countries. This growing change in the composition of capital flows has been synchronous with a shift in emphasis among policymakers in developing countries to attract more FDI, especially following the 1980s debt crisis and the recent turmoil in emerging economies. The rationale for increased efforts to attract more FDI arises from the belief that FDI has several positive effects which include productivity gains, technology transfers, the introduction of new processes, managerial skills, and know-how in the domestic market, employee training, international production networks, and access to markets.
If foreign firms introduce new products or processes to the domestic market, domestic firms may benefit from accelerated diffusion of new technology. In other situations, technology diffusion might occur from labor turnover as domestic employees move from foreign to domestic firms. These benefits, in addition to the direct capital financing it generates, suggest that FDI can play an important role in modernizing the national economy and promoting growth. Based on these arguments, governments often have provided special incentives to foreign firms to set up companies in their country.
While it may seem natural to argue that FDI can convey greater knowledge spillovers, a country’s capacity to take advantage of these externalities might be limited by local conditions. In an effort to further examine the effects of FDI on economic growth, research indicates the same from the recent emphasis on the role of institutions in the growth. In particular, there is great emphasis on the role of financial institutions and many economists argue that the lack of development of local financial markets can limit the economy’s ability to take advantage of potential FDI spillovers.
This article had been written by Rajeev Malhotra and edited by Arpan Kar. Rajeev has done his Masters in Financial Engineering from an Ivy League B-School from the United States. Besides his MBA, he also holds a CA and a CFA degree. He is currently working with DSP Meryll Lynch, USA.