FDI inflows to SIDS grow for second consecutive year: UNCTAD Report

Alicia Nicholls

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) rose to $4.1 billion in 2017, representing the second consecutive year of growth and buoyed by an 9% increase in inflows to the ten Caribbean SIDS which grew to $2.7 billion. This is according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the recently released 2018 edition of its World Investment Report.

Although the majority of countries in the region saw declines in FDI inflows, robust increases in Barbados (+25 per cent to $286 million), Saint Kitts and Nevis (+50 per cent to $127 million), and Trinidad and Tobago (from -$17 million in 2016 to $179 million in 2017) were responsible for the growth of 9%.

In total $5 billion in FDI flowed to the Caribbean subregion in 2017. The Dominican Republic was the main recipient of these flows ($3.6 billion) thanks to trade-related investments and its telecommunications and energy sectors, and to a lesser extent, a modest increase in free trade zone activity, UNCTAD Reports. Inflows to Haiti tripled to $375 million, which though still modest may be a sign of positive things to come as several infrastructure and other projects are in the pipeline.

UNCTAD cautioned, however, that FDI inflows to SIDS remain fragile and noted that several projects previously announced had not yet come to fruition. The intergovernmental body further noted that while policy developments to facilitate renewable energy projects were positive, the concentration of these might mean not all SIDS would reap the benefits.

Outflows

Four Caribbean countries also led SIDS globally with regard to FDI outflows, despite those countries each seeing declines in outflows. The Bahamas topped with outflows of $132.3 million, despite a 63.1% decline. In second place was Trinidad & Tobago which saw outflows of $84.2 (-143.6%). The Indian Ocean SIDS of Mauritius was third place ($61.5m, an increase of 1020%). In fourth and fifth place were Jamaica ($42.7m representing a 80% decline) and St. Lucia ($22.1m and a 208.1% decline).

Regional and global contexts

In the wider Latin America and Caribbean region, economic recovery buoyed an 8% increase in FDI inflows to $151 billion, reflecting the first increase in six years but still well below levels in 2011 during the commodities boom. Moreover, UNCTAD further tempered its prospects for FDI in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2018 due to macroeconomic and policy uncertainties.

The global scene is also much more subdued. Global FDI flows dropped 23% in 2017, a three-year low owing to a drop in cross-border mergers and acquisitions and despite growth in global trade and GDP. UNCTAD noted this negative outlook was of concern to policy makers, especially given the importance of FDI to many emerging economies’ sustainable industrial development.

FDI flows to developed economies were $712 billion, representing a fall of one third. FDI flows to developing economies, which accounted for 47% of global FDI inflows, up from 36% in 2016, remained steady rising to $671 billion in 2017.

The full report may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

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