Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Financial reform need not increase capital flows to emerging markets

Firms in emerging markets have a hard time getting foreign capital to expand and improve, and this includes the best ones. The issue is that debt enforcement in those countries is generally weak, and few investors are willing to take such risks. But once legal and financial institutions are reformed toward better enforcement, the general understanding is that we should see foreign direct investment shooting up.

Wrong, say Alberto Martin and Jaume Ventura. Indeed, you need to think in terms of general equilibrium. Once you have put through your reform, the least efficient firms should disappear and all the funding they were attracting should become available to the most efficient ones. With this "new" internal funding source, foreign direct investment becomes less necessary, and FDI may actually decrease. And one should not be disappointed if a reform does not translate into a surge of FDI, quite to the contrary.

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