The world seems to have tilted again. After years of excitement, emerging markets as a general group are experiencing a downturn and investor enthusiasm is dampening. Growth is slowing in major economies such as China, or screeching to a halt as in Brazil, and FDI numbers are responding in kind. Meanwhile, growth is expected to pick up in advanced economies and FDI forecasts are bright for the biggest of the developed market bunch, the US.
But all emerging markets are not created equally. Some are noticeably bucking the downward trend. As a region, Asia is holding up much better than its other developing counterparts. India is proving a sizeable outlier, with heady GDP growth and a huge spike in FDI. Malaysia and Vietnam also saw large increases in project numbers, as reported by our annual recap of greenfield investment trends – The fDi Report – while Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand posted respectable rises. Chinese growth has started to slow and labour costs are on the rise – two factors pointing to a potential plataeuing of investment, at least in some segments of the economy. But foreign companies have not gone cold on China: it remains by a long shot the biggest and most popular FDI destination in Asia and is, measured by capital expenditure, the world’s number one recipient of greenfield foreign investment, according to our figures.
Latin America has more reason to worry. Economic forecasts are glum across the region and FDI is on the skids, with a nearly 40% decrease in capital investment in 2014 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and most of the top destination countries posting negative FDI figures. It is encouraging to see that some key countries in the region – Colombia, for example, and also Chile and Peru – are continuing to proactively market themselves and make the case for investment even in the face of a more difficult regional economic climate.
Brazil, the big fish of the region, should do more of this. Certainly the government promotes investment, but at a time when confidence in the country and its economy is severely rattled, it is imperative that the message gets out. Brazilian cities and states vary vastly in their promotion efforts, with many of them rarely heard from on the international stage. It is harder to push through a budget for investment promotion when government coffers are getting smaller, but contrarily that is precisely the time when FDI efforts need to be ramped up the most. How emerging economies react now that many of them have been brought back down to earth could affect their FDI fortunes for years to come.
Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: email@example.com