Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yeti in the mountains!

A Japanese expedition team has again come forward with claims that they found footprints of Yeti (abominable snowman), which is said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet. The story of Yeti makes news now and then and grabs a lot of media attention!

(A composite image from Yeti Project Japan shows what team members claim is a yeti footprint (l) photographed on the Dhaulagiri mountain in Nepal, and a human footprint. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

"The footprints were about 20 centimetres (eight inches) long and looked like a human's," Yoshiteru Takahashi, the leader of the Yeti Project Japan, told AFP in Kathmandu on Monday.

Takahashi was speaking after he returned with his seven-member team from their third attempt to track down the half-man-half-ape, tales of which have gripped the imaginations of Western adventurers and mountaineers for decades.

Despite spending 42 days on Dhaulagiri IV -- a 7,661-metre (25,135-foot) peak where they say they have seen traces of yetis in the past -- the team failed in their prime objective of capturing one on film.

But Takahashi said the footprints were proof enough.

"Myself and other team members have been coming to the Himalayas for years and we can recognise bear, deer, wolf and snow leopard prints and it was none of those," he said.

Here is the story.

Former Botswana President Mogae wins the Mo Ibrahim prize

Former Botswana President Festus Mogae was awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African leadership, which is also the world’s largest individual award with a price tag of $5 million (the Nobel prize is $1.4 million). This prize is awarded annually to a former African executive Head of State or Government who has demonstrated excellence in African leadership. All this to promote good governance, one of the main factors lacking in Africa!

Key facts about Mogae’s leadership:

- Mogae served two terms in office, nearly 10 years, before handing over to Seretse Khama Ian Khama in a peaceful transition in April 2008. Before that he was vice president for six years.

- He studied economics in Britain, before becoming a civil servant in Botswana. He has held roles at the International Monetary Fund and Bank of Botswana.

- Botswana's GDP per capita is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, and the country is ranked the continent's least corrupt by Transparency International.

Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese-born telecommunication tycoon who is the founder of Celtel International, one of Africa’s most successful private companies. He believes that good governance requires an environment conducive to peace, security, and development, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The (limited) impact of foreign investment in the Americas

It is expected that the level of foreign investment has a direct positive relationship with stimulation of investment and hence the economy in a given investment-deficient country. Actually, in reality this depends on whether FDI acts as a complement (crowd in) or substitute (crowd out) to the level of domestic investment in an economy. (more below)

A study (Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development: Lessons from the Americas) by the Working Group on Development and the Environment in the Americas finds that foreign investment has fallen short of stimulating “broad-based” economic growth and sustainable development in Latin America. The working group studies the impact of foreign investment on economic growth, environment policy, and the political economy of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

They studied various regional and bilateral agreements like NAFTA, US-Chile FTA, CAFTA, US-Peru FTA, etc and looked at the impact of investment liberalization (a part of the Washington Consensus) on the Americas. What did they find? This wave of liberalization that started in the 1990s did not produce significant results as was expected. Economic growth in per capita terms in the region was slower than in the final decades of the import substitution period, according to the report.

Major findings of the report:

  • 80% of all the FDI was concentrated in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela.
  • Foreign firms in Mexico were export platforms to the US and those in the South America tended to sell in their own domestic market.
  • Foreign firms tended to have higher level of productivity and higher wages.
  • FDI fell short of generating spillovers and backward linkages that could help stimulation of domestic economy through emergence of local small and medium sized businesses. In fact, FDI tended to displace and kill local businesses. R&D expenditures in the host economies were not upped.
  • Environmental performance of foreign firms was mixed, sometime better and sometimes worse performance than domestic counterparts.

Note that the report does not label that the FDI’s impact on economic growth and environmental sustainability was a complete flop- it had a limited success in Latin American countries. There are cases where FDI has been a crucial factor behind rising economic growth like in China, South Korea, Bhutan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Mauritius, among others. The report slides in a space where there is always a trade off between growth objectives and impact on environment arising from increasing investment (both domestic and FDI). Cost is always high when considering the impact of an investment plan in an environmentally conscious manner.

Important lessons from the Latin American experience:

  • FDI is not an end but a means to sustainable development. Simply attracting FDI is not enough to generate economic growth in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  • FDI policy needs to be paired with significant and targeted domestic policies that upgrade the capabilities of national firms and provide a benchmark of environmental protection.
  • There needs to be policy space to accommodate domestic concerns in international agreements.

One of the lessons from the report is that FDI does not necessarily crowd in domestic investment. Actually, the impact of FDI on domestic investment is mixed. In Latin America, FDI has in crowed out domestic investment, as shown by this report, but in Asia (East Asia especially) and Africa, FDI has led to crowding in of domestic investment. FDI tend to be a substitute for domestic investment when there are lot of domestic firms. Meanwhile, FDI tend to be complementary when there are few domestic firms (whole sorts ancillary firms will emerge because of R&D and knowledge spillovers from MNCs). The existence of backward and forward linkages from the establishment of foreign investors is a key consideration for determining the total impact of FDI on capital formation.

Background working papers leading to the report are available here.