Muscat: With foreign direct investment (FDI) into Middle East and North Africa (Mena) declining 44 per cent (from $77 billion to less than $43 billion) between 2010 and 2012, the number of projects dropping by one fifth, there is need to review the strategies to combat the new challenges in order to attract more FDI, said an expert from World Bank Group.
Making a presentation at a conference on 'Opportunities and challenges for FDI attraction in Mena' Robert Whyte from the Investment Climate Department of the World Bank Group spoke extensively about seizing the potential for better investment facilitation in Mena. Sayyid Saud bin Hilal bin Hamad al Busaidi, Minister of State and Governor of Muscat and Hamood Sangour Al Zadjali, executive president of the Central Bank of Oman graced (CBO) the inauguration ceremony.
Robert Whyte said, "Better facilitation by Investment Promotion Intermediaries (IPIs) can help increase FDI inflows into Mena.
Among different IPI functions, the provision of information to support and influence investor decision making — investment facilitation — is crucial to catalyse potential investor interest and lower perceived country risk.
Global Investment Promotion Best Practices (GIPB) replicates the decision-making process commonly followed by foreign companies during the early stages of their location-screening process. GIPB evaluates the two most important sources of IPI information provision.
Earlier, making opening remarks, His Highness Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, director-general of marketing and media, the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Paiped) Oman said, "From GCC perspective, and between 2002 and 2010, FDI — both through regular channels as well as foreign stock investments — increased dramatically, at a pace that rivalled other developing, transition and emerging economies.
While FDI into the GCC constitutes a relatively small portion of global FDI flows, FDI inflows and FDI as a percentage of GDP indicate that the GCC has strong locational determinants, making its markets an attractive option for foreign investors."
"Given the current global economic crisis, recent Unctad data reveals FDI inflows into the GCC decreased in 2011 by 35 per cent from approximately $39 billion in 2010 to $25 billion in 2011.
However, unofficial sources indicate that countries in the
region have seen increases and projections for future FDI levels are positive," he said.'
"One of the primary factors behind the upsurge in FDI inflows has been the removal of legal and regulatory barriers. State-led reforms — initiated in some GCC states as far back as the 1980s, but systematically adopted by all GCC states around 2000 — have opened the door to FDI in the region," Sayyid Faisal said. He added, "Overall, GCC governments have instituted changes to the legal and economic structures governing FDI. Today, we are a much more open market than we were 10 years ago. We are less regulated and more business friendly.
It goes without saying that many challenges remain, however, the rapid increase in FDI inflows into the GCC can be attributed in part to the legal and institutional changes adopted by GCC governments over the past 15 years.
In the face of that change, the Mena region will need to work even harder to attract FDI.
And we must be committed to doing everything we can to make the region the destination of choice for innovative businesses to set-up and grow."
At a panel discussion, Tarik Yousef, CEO of Silatech; Roel Spee from IBM Plant Location International; Amer Awadh Al Rowas, CEO of Omantel and Zia Bahaa Eldin, director, The Egyptian Initiative for the Prevention of Corruption, dwelt on seizing the potential for better investment facilitation in Mena. Sergio Vela, head of economic and trade office of the Spanish Embassy also spoke.