To What Extent Can Foreign Direct Investment Help Achieve International Development Goals?

22 Pages Posted: 1 May 2004


For FDI to help alleviate absolute poverty and stimulate economic growth in developing countries, two conditions have to be met. First, developing countries need to be attractive to foreign investors. Second, the host-country environment in which foreign investors operate must be conducive to favourable FDI effects with regard to overall investment, economic spillovers and income growth. This paper argues that it is more difficult to benefit from FDI than to attract FDI. The widely perceived concentration of FDI in few developing countries tends to obscure that, in relative terms, various small and poor countries are fairly attractive to FDI. Yet, the mobilisation of domestic resources remains by far, more important than attracting FDI for financing investment and stimulating economic growth. Furthermore, high inward FDI is no guarantee for poverty alleviation and positive growth effects. In particular, the empirical evidence suggests that host-country conditions typically prevailing in poor countries, including weak institutions and an insufficient endowment of complementary factors of production, constrain the growth-enhancing and poverty-alleviating effects of FDI. The crux is that creating an environment in which FDI may deliver social returns will take considerable time exactly where development needs are most pressing.

Suggested Citation

Nunnenkamp, Peter, To What Extent Can Foreign Direct Investment Help Achieve International Development Goals?. The World Economy, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 657-677, May 2004. Available at SSRN:

Peter Nunnenkamp (Contact Author)

University of Kiel ( email )

D-24100 Kiel

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