MIGA Review Sets Standards for Improved Investment Promotion Agency Services
WASHINGTON, DC, October 23, 2006—The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, MIGA, a member of the World Bank Group, said today that investment promotion agencies (IPAs) in developing countries are not yet providing the level of service that investors require when researching locations. As a result, these developing countries are falling behind in the competition for foreign direct investments. These are the findings of a new study—“Investment Promotion Agency Performance Review 2006 ”—conducted by MIGA and the London-based consulting firm DTZ Consulting and Research.
The study examines how effectively IPAs make online information available to potential investors and how they handle investor inquiries. One hundred and fourteen IPAs from developing and transition economies around the world participated in the survey. Eleven IPAs—considered to be among the world’s best in the field—were identified to provide a benchmark for the study.
Investment promotion agencies promote foreign investment through a combination of activities, with the goal of generating economic growth and creating jobs. They attract investors to specific locations using a host of promotion tools; serve existing investors, for example, helping them solve potential problems encountered while operating within a country; conduct policy advocacy, encouraging governments to make changes to increase a country’s attractiveness as an investment destination; and help to anchor investments to the domestic economy through supply and sourcing relationships.
“The level of service that IPAs provide early in the investor’s search for information on new project locations is essential to attracting inward investment,” says Robert Whyte, Senior Investment Promotion Officer at MIGA. “In order to gain a greater edge in a fast-growing and increasingly competitive field, agencies must focus on making a good first impression on their potential clients.”
MIGA’s 2006 review is the first in a new program of IPA performance reviews that will enable each participating IPA to benchmark its performance against others in its region and globally. Building on a pilot study carried out in 2004-2005, it is designed to help IPAs improve their standards of service and to provide a framework and baseline for MIGA’s program of technical assistance in developing countries. This year’s study measures the performance of IPAs at the stage when investors whittle down a long list of theoretically suitable locations to a much shorter list of real possibilities.
“We believe that objective feedback on performance, benchmarked against that of the world’s leading agencies, can help IPAs in developing countries identify weaknesses in their work and gives them a chance to learn the best practices in the field,” says Yukiko Omura, MIGA’s Executive Vice President.
The study is based in part on a survey conducted using a “mystery investor” approach, to reflect as realistically as possible the level of service an investor might expect to receive from an IPA. The assessment covered the following aspects: how easy it was to contact the IPA, how well the inquiry was handled, the quality and content of the IPA’s response, timeliness, and so on.
The study also measured performance in providing investors with relevant information by assessing the layout, navigation, and content of IPA websites from an investor’s perspective.
One area of significant concern revealed by the study was the failure of many IPAs to respond to questions submitted by investors. The study noted: “Failure to respond will, in practice, almost certainly mean that a location would be dropped from the investor’s list of possibilities and the investment would be lost.”
A striking result from the website assessments is that while many IPAs seem to have made initial investments in communication technologies, scoring reasonably well on architecture and design, most have not yet developed the organizational systems and skills needed to successfully interact with and support inward investors. The IPAs typically scored poorly on the quality and accuracy of investor information contained on their websites.
“That said, some surveyed developing-economy IPAs are operating at levels comparable to or approaching the world’s best, including 16 IPAs from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia that achieved overall scores of 75 percent or better of the world’s best-performing IPAs,” said Whyte.
To help understand how IPA characteristics impact agency performance in serving the information needs of investors, MIGA is collaborating with the World Bank’s Development and Economics Research Group (DEC) in a study that is gathering data on the characteristics of IPAs.
(See the Investment Promotion Agency Performance Review Report at www.ipanet.net/IPA_Review06.)
Release no. 2007/103