This year, Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak joins the likes of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Mexican President Vicente Fox in nabbing the title fDi Personality of the Year. During the difficult years following the Asian crisis of 1997, the city of Seoul has worked to streamline foreign investment procedures, improve its business environment and promote inward investment. The mayor himself has bolstered these efforts with his ambitious drive to improve the quality of life for the city’s residents, both local and foreign, with an impressive array of public works projects.
It is just this sort of extra push that distinguishes a political leader, and the jurisdiction he or she represents, from the masses and makes them worthy of special recognition through these highly sought-after awards.
This “X factor” can take the form of putting one’s city, state or region firmly in the international spotlight, as Leipzig mayor Wolfgang Tiefensee has done by courting the Olympic Games and bringing next year’s football World Cup to the city. Or going straight to international investors in their home markets, like Virginia governor Mark Warner who travels abroad regularly to personally promote his state.
Maybe it is focusing efforts on one outstanding sector and letting investment build up around it, as evidenced by Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool and his business process outsourcing (BPO) and contact centre initiatives.
It is not only politicians who have the power and foresight to make such a difference. Sometimes someone from the business community steps forward and harnesses private capital to develop the local economy, as Kaya Tuncer has done with his Aegean Free Zone in Turkey.
It could even be something much more fundamental, such as making an economy one worth investing in. For this, look to Eduardo Lizano, whose successful economic policies while he was governor of Costa Rica’s central bank turned the country into one of the most attractive locations for foreign investment in Latin America.
Throughout the past year fDi has kept an eye out for such stars, and we found them around the world. Each of our six winners demonstrates a different tack in investment promotion and each has a different success story to tell. We celebrate them all.