Wednesday, March 1, 2017

An Important Discussion on the Inflows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in The Bahamas

By Professor Gilbert Morris:

Gilbert Morris
AN IMPORTANT DISCUSSION HAS EMERGED SURROUNDING INFLOWS OF FDI IN THE BAHAMAS, lead by our own young prince Professor Peter Blair, moderated by our own Lester R Cox - including bright Bahamian thinkers like Lynden R. Nairn & Hubert Edwards and others. I make this small contribution for which some friends have asked a repost.

"I think there has been some misunderstanding of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and some people have misread what Professor Peter Blair has said in his recent presentation.

First, look specifically at the top four nations receiving FDI INFLOWS (EU, China Hong Kong & USA), now look at their growth rates: The EU with the highest FDI inflows has the lowest growth rate. China, with the highest growth rate has the lowest FDI of the top four nations.

Of course these are relative & constitutive issues and limiting factors in any comparison; but Papua New Guinea, the Congo, Ethiopia and Turkmenistan enjoy the highest growth rates in the world; but with the exception of Ethiopia, investors are not flocking there.

Yet, neither growth rates nor FDI inflows indicate, NECESSARILY, the actual prosperity which Bahamians have been promised and for which they are waiting.

Let's try a thought experiment: Imagine, say INFOSYS - the Indian tech giant - decided to invest $100 billion in building 50 industrial grade Data Centres in the Bahamas. Suppose they required specialists to build and once built the centres required only 50 people (all foreigners with exotic high tech post graduate qualifications to manage them), with a maintenance crew of 20, including 10 Bahamians. The government would register that as $100 billion in FDI inflows, but its "dead value" and would do nothing to generate the sort of growth that produces PROSPERITY.

There would be no transactional nexus, from which local consumption would be generated no matter how much money it made.

Let's try another thought experiment for the opposite case: Imagine a former Green Beret, expert in coding and information systems & network security, gets with 10 friends, retires to the Bahamas. Imagine that he and his friends teach 300 young Bahamians coding, encryption and mathematical logic on weekends and evenings for 3 years. Imagine that this leads to the development of 50 high tech web security firms and they gain $300 million in electronic security contracts for Banking.

This would not be classified as FDI, but would impact our economic growth rate and power local consumption, generating that prosperity, which Bahamians desire rightly.

What Professor Blair showed was not whether FDI was good or bad or even necessary. HERE IS WHAT HE DEMONSTRATED BRILLIANTLY: a.That our having leaned on FDI inflows in disproportion to development for instance, has resulted in nebulous quantifiable advantages; b. That we have no means of measuring the efficiency of FDI as a driver of growth; and c. Therefore we have been lurching to & fro, using FDI inflows to cover a multitude of sins, operating without a strategy.