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Rethinking foreign infrastructure investment in developing countries

  • Ramamurti, Ravi
  • Doh, Jonathan P.
Registered author(s):

    The 1990s witnessed a boom in foreign direct investment (FDI) in infrastructure sectors in developing countries, which was surprising for at least two reasons. First, infrastructure sectors, unlike manufacturing, suffer from the "market failure" problem, and the solution to that problem--government regulation--brings with it the "obsolescing bargain" risk. Second, such investments are even riskier when made in developing countries, which are characterized by weak institutions and political instability. Why, then, did the boom occur, and will it continue? Three industry-specific drivers and two country-specific drivers are considered for the boom. Foreign investors may have believed: (1) that infrastructure sectors were losing their "natural monopoly" characteristics; (2) that first-movers would profit handsomely from the emerging globalization of these sectors; (3) that novel techniques like project financing would reduce their risks sharply; (4) that the climate for FDI in developing countries had changed fundamentally in the 1990s; and (5) that host developing countries would not expropriate foreign-owned infrastructure assets as they had in the past. Based on actual experience in the 1990s, we evaluate the strengths and limitations of each of these drivers. Our overall assessment is that infrastructure FDI in developing countries will stabilize in the future at a lower, more sustainable level. We conclude with policy implications for multinational corporations (MNCs) and governments.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of World Business.

    Volume (Year): 39 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 2 (May)
    Pages: 151-167

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:worbus:v:39:y:2004:i:2:p:151-167
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    1. Ramamurti, Ravi, 1997. "Testing the limits of privatization: Argentine railroads," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(12), pages 1973-1993, December.
    2. Richard A. Brealey & Ian A. Cooper & Michel A. Habib, 1996. "Using Project Finance To Fund Infrastructure Investments," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 9(3), pages 25-39.
    3. Ravi Ramamurti, 2001. "The Obsolescing ‘Bargaining Model’? MNC-Host Developing Country Relations Revisited," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 32(1), pages 23-39, March.
    4. Ramamurti, Ravi, 2000. "Risks and rewards in the globalization of telecommunications in emerging economies," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 149-170, July.
    5. Michael S Minor, 1994. "The Demise of Expropriation as an Instrument of LDC Policy 1980-1992," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 25(1), pages 177-188, March.
    6. Megginson, William L & Nash, Robert C & van Randenborgh, Matthias, 1994. " The Financial and Operating Performance of Newly Privatized Firms: An International Empirical Analysis," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(2), pages 403-52, June.
    7. World Bank, 2000. "India : Country Framework Report for Private Participation in Infrastructure," World Bank Other Operational Studies 15275, The World Bank.
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