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Foreign Direct Investment: Good Cholesterol?

  • Ricardo Hausmann
  • Eduardo Fernández-Arias

This paper studies the proposition that capital inflows tend to take the form of FDI -i.e., the share of FDI in total liabilities tends to be higher- in countries that are safer, more promising and with better institutions and policies. It finds that this view is patently wrong since it stands the historical record on its head. It then uses alternative theories to make sense of the facts. It begins by studying the determinants of the size and composition of the flows of private capital across countries. It finds that while capital flows tend to go to countries that are safer and have better institutions and financial markets, the share of FDI in total flows is not an indication of good health. On the contrary, countries that are riskier, less financially developed and have weaker institutions tend to attract less capital but more of it in the form of FDI. Hence, interpreting the rising share of FDI as a sign of good health is unwarranted. This is even more so, given that FDI's recent rise has taken place while total private capital inflows have fallen.

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Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank in its series IDB Publications (Working Papers) with number 6466.

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Date of creation: Mar 2000
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Handle: RePEc:idb:brikps:6466
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  1. Aitken, B. & Hanson, G.H. & Harrison, A.E., 1994. "Spillovers, Foreign Investment and Export Behavior," Papers 95-06, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  2. Chuhan, Punam & Perez-Quiros, Gabriel & Popper, Helen, 1996. "International capital flows : do short-term investment and direct investment differ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1669, The World Bank.
  3. Claessens, Stijn & Dooley, Michael P & Warner, Andrew, 1995. "Portfolio Capital Flows: Hot or Cold?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 9(1), pages 153-74, January.
  4. Graciela Kaminsky & Saul Lizondo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 1998. "Leading Indicators of Currency Crises," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 45(1), pages 1-48, March.
  5. Chuhan, Punam & Claessens, Stijn & Mamingi, Nlandu, 1998. "Equity and bond flows to Latin America and Asia: the role of global and country factors," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 439-463, April.
  6. Hausmann, Ricardo & Panizza, Ugo & Stein, Ernesto, 2001. "Why do countries float the way they float?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 387-414, December.
  7. Sarno, Lucio & Taylor, Mark P., 1999. "Hot money, accounting labels and the permanence of capital flows to developing countries: an empirical investigation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 337-364, August.
  8. Eduardo Borensztein & Jose De Gregorio & Jong-Wha Lee, 1995. "How Does Foreign Direct Investment Affect Economic Growth?," NBER Working Papers 5057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Frankel, Jeffrey A. & Rose, Andrew K., 1996. "Currency crashes in emerging markets: An empirical treatment," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3-4), pages 351-366, November.
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