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Top FDI Countries With High Corruption Risks

Nearly half the world’s investment hotspots score poorly in corruption perception' fDi Intelligence

More than 40% of the world’s biggest recipients of greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) score poorly in Transparency International’s latest corruption perception index (CPI), laying bare the complex relationship between a clean business environment and investment attraction.

Of the top 50 countries for foreign investment, based on fDi Markets data since 2003, 21 score in the lower half of the CPI risk spectrum including Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam.

According to Andreas Dressler, head of advisory firm FDI Center, local corruption is assessed when reviewing potential investment locations and companies highlight early on if they want to avoid countries where corruption is prevalent. But it is “not that high” of a priority, he said. “It’s typically a nice-to-have.”

While investors prefer transparent and open business environments where it is easier to assess profitability and opportunities, they still invest in countries that promise a level of return that mitigates the risk of corruption.

“Companies will factor it into their planning and put into place appropriate risk mitigation strategies to hopefully deal with that corruption if it arises,” said Mr Dressler. “First and foremost, companies want returns.” This is why big emerging markets with chequered track records on bribery and other types of corruption still lure significant FDI volumes.

Over the past decade, a growing number of countries have adopted, expanded and toughened penalties under laws that prohibit local companies from bribing foreign public officials. Mr Dressler said US firms are “very sensitive” to the Foreign corrupt Practices Act under which they can be fined up to $2m per violation. Penalties are even steeper under the UK’s Bribery Act, with companies facing unlimited fines and individuals up to 10 years in prison.

However, a 2020 assessment of 47 countries by Transparency International found that only four countries — the UK, US, Switzerland and Israel — actively enforce these laws. This is down from the seven countries identified in its assessment two years prior.

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