This brief is based on research studying jurisdictional competition between countries and its influence on the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI). The study compares jurisdictional competition among the developing Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries with competition among developed EU countries. As instruments of jurisdictional competition for FDI, we consider governments’ efforts to improve the rule of law, corporate governance, and tax policies. The results suggest the presence of proactive jurisdictional competition via the quality of corporate governance regulation both in the CEE and the EU countries. The CEE states also attract FDI by competing in tax policies.
The determinants of FDI inflows have been examined in numerous studies. A substantial number of them consider the influence of institutions, which are defined as particular organizational entities, procedural devices, and regulatory frameworks (IMF, 2003).
The quality of institutions is a particularly important FDI determinant for less-developed countries because the poor institutional quality and weak law enforcement increase the costs of running a business, create barriers for financial market efficiency, and increase the probability of foreign assets expropriation (Blonigen, 2005).
However, governments interested in attracting FDI to boost job creation, new technologies, and tax revenues to their countries are not only concerned about the internal institutional environment. They are also competing with other countries in attracting foreign investments, engaging in what is often referred to as “jurisdictional competition”. In a broad sense, this can be thought of as governments’ efforts to outcompete one another in offering foreign companies more favorable institutional and fiscal conditions for capital placements.
This brief summarizes the results of a study on the jurisdictional competition for FDI among the developing CEE and among developed EU countries (Mazol and Mazol, 2021). The research explores the precondition for proactive jurisdictional competition between economies for FDI – namely, how the economic and institutional environment within a country impacts the inflow of FDI both domestically and to its neighboring states, – by using a spatial econometric approach. The brief emphasizes the difference in the FDI policy responses implemented by developing CEE and developed EU countries.
Data and Methodology
In our econometric analysis, we use the FDI inward stock (i.e., the value of capital and reserves in the economy attributable to a parent enterprise resident in a different economy) as the dependent variable. The explanatory variables indicating jurisdictional competition include quality of corporate governance, rule of law, political stability, and tax policy. We employ balanced panel datasets for 26 developing CEE countries and 15 developed EU countries for the period 2006-2018. The dataset is derived from the World Bank and UNCTAD databases.
The analysis is based on a panel spatial Durbin error model (SDEM) with fixed effects (LeSage, 2014). Parameter estimates in the SDEM contain a range of information on the relationships between spatial units (in our case, countries). A change in a single observation associated with any given explanatory variable will affect the spatial unit itself (a direct effect) and potentially affect all other spatial units indirectly (a spillover effect) (Elhorst, 2014). The spatial spillover effect is viewed here as the impact of the change in the institutional or economic factor in one country on the performance of other economies (LeSage & Pace, 2009).
In our case, the direct effect is the effect on the FDI in country i of the changes in the studied instrument of jurisdictional competition in country i. The spillover effect is the change in FDI in country j following a change in the studied instrument of jurisdictional competition in country i.
The results of our estimation are suggestive of a proactive jurisdictional competition in taxes among the CEE countries and in corporate governance quality both among the CEE and EU countries. Analyses of other factors (i.e., political stability and rule of law) show no significant interrelation between policy measures implemented by neighboring countries in order to attract FDI.
The precondition for the presence of proactive jurisdictional competition in a particular factor is to have statistical significance in both its direct and spillover effects (Elhorst and Freret, 2009). Such findings may indicate that policy measures in one economy trigger a policy response in a neighboring economy, which, in turn, influences the level of FDI in both countries.
Table 1. Estimation results of SDEM models – direct effects
Our results for the direct and indirect response to a tax policy in CEE countries illustrate this logic. Decreasing tax_rateincreases FDI to the CEE economy enacting this change (see Table 1), as well as to its neighboring countries (see Table 2). This finding is consistent with jurisdictional competition in taxes. That is, a reduction in domestic tax_rate may entail a decrease in the tax rate of a neighboring economy, resulting in a subsequent increase in FDI. (To explicitly confirm the suggested channel, further tax policy analysis would be needed). Interestingly, our results suggest that jurisdictional competition in taxes is only present among CEE economies, but not among EU countries.
In turn, an increase in corp_governance, a measure of corporate governance quality, increases FDI in neighboring countries both in the EU and in the CEE region (see Table 2). A possible interpretation is that an increase in corp_governance in one country may entail an increase in corp_governance in its neighboring economies, resulting in a subsequent increase in FDI. This result suggests proactive competition via corporate governance policy both among the EU countries and the CEE countries.
However, the direct effect differs between the regions. In the EU, an increase in corp_governance increases FDI to the EU economy in question, in line with common wisdom (see Table 1). At the same time, in the CEE region, an increase in corp_governance is followed by a decrease in FDI to that country.
Table 2. Estimation results of SDEM models – spillover effects
One potential explanation for the negative direct effect of corporate governance quality on FDI in the CEE economies is that improved corporate governance practices can block certain types of FDI, leaving behind foreign investors with a lower “threshold for corruption”. This may decrease FDI to the CEE country in question. However, once the jurisdictional competition results in an improvement of corporate governance across the region, it ultimately has a positive spillover effect.
The above explanation is in line with the theory of regulatory capture (Stigler, 1971), which suggests that the decisions made by public officials might be shaped and sometimes distorted by the efforts of rent-seeking interest groups to increase their influence.
Finally, the estimates do not indicate that the other studied institutional factors, rule of law and political stability, are applied as instruments of jurisdictional competition as neither groups of countries show significant spillover effects. The results, however, show that these factors influence the FDI inflow via the direct effect. More specifically, an increase in political_stability positively influences the FDI inflow to the economies in question, both in CEE and the EU, while rule_of_law is positive and significant only for the CEE countries. If investors are not as responsive to changes in rule_of_law when the initial level is high, the fact that EU countries typically have a higher rule_of_law value compared to CEE countries might explain why this estimate is insignificant for the EU countries.
This brief, first, presents new evidence on the relationship between different economic and institutional factors and FDI using a spatial econometric approach; second, it analyzes the possible existence of jurisdictional competition among developing CEE countries and developed EU countries as well as its effect on FDI.
The results suggest proactive jurisdictional competition in FDI determinants such as corporate governance quality and tax rates. CEE countries competing with one another use both these instruments of jurisdictional competition, while EU countries compete only via corporate governance quality. Furthermore, foreign investors are not sensitive to the quality of rule of law in the EU countries, while this instrument is more important for the FDI inflow to CEE economies.
Our results stress that officials responsible for the FDI policy implementation should pay more attention to the policies undertaken by neighboring governments as such external policies can make their own strategies to attract FDI to their economy less effective.
- Blanton, S., and R. Blanton. (2007). What Attracts Foreign Investors? An Examination of Human Rights and Foreign Direct Investment. The Journal of Politics, 69(1), 143-155.
- Blonigen, B. (2005). A Review of the Empirical Literature on FDI Determinants. Atlantic Economic Journal, 33(4), 383-403.
- Elhorst, J. (2014). Spatial Econometrics from Cross-Sectional Data to Spatial Panels. Berlin: Springer.
- Elhorst, J., and S. Freret. (2009). Evidence of Political Yardstick Competition in France Using a Two-Regime Spatial Durbin Model with Fixed Effects December. Journal of Regional Science, 49(5), 931-951.
- IMF (2003). World Economic Outlook 2003. International Monetary Fund: Washington DC.
- LeSage, J. (2014). What Regional Scientists Need to Know About Spatial Econometrics? Working Paper, Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos.
- LeSage, J., and R. Pace. (2009). Introduction to Spatial Econometrics. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group.
- Mazol, A., and S. Mazol. (2021). Competition of Jurisdictions for FDI: Does Developing and Developed Countries Response Different to Economic Challenges? BEROC Working Paper Series, WP no. 73.
- Stigler, G. (1971). The Theory of Economic Regulation. Bell Journal of Economic and Management Science, 2, 3-21.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
This brief discusses the role of external anchors or goals such as WTO accession, NATO and EU accession in Latvia’s development strategy since 1991. On the one hand the external goals ‘depoliticised’ many potentially contentious areas of Latvian life. On the other hand, some developments would not have happened or would not have happened as fast without the constraints imposed by the external goals. For example liberalisation of the citizenship laws was prompted by NATO accession and the balance was tipped when the rejection of Latvia from fast-track EU accession talks in December 1997 led Latvia to abandon its quota or ‘windows’ naturalisation system. Most recently, Eurozone accession was an externally defined exit strategy from the austerity episode induced by the economic and financial crisis. Today there are no big external goals left to guide policy making. Home grown problems such as inequality require home grown solutions. But even now an external dependency persists. For example a long needed reform of the financing model of higher education has had to wait for a World Bank report published in September 2014 for action to be taken.
On January 1st, 2015 Latvia assumed the Presidency of the European Union. This milestone represents a certain level of maturity of the Latvian state and offers an opportunity for reflection on some aspects of how politics and political economy have evolved in Latvia between 1991 and today.
After Latvia regained independence in 1991, it faced (at least) two political economy challenges: one was to disentangle the economy from the Soviet system in which it had been deeply integrated, and the second, perhaps more difficult challenge, was to create an independent nation state. At a formal level, the solution to the latter challenge appeared straightforward – assume continuity of the Latvian state. Effectively this meant reinstating the pre-war constitution, which was indeed done for the most part. Symbolically this continuity was signalled by, for example, calling the first post-Soviet parliamentary elections held in June 1993 the elections for the 5th Saeima (parliament). The elections for the 4th Saeima had taken place more than 60 years earlier in October 1931.
At a practical level the challenges were more complex – Latvia had had no practical experience of statehood for nearly fifty years and mistakes were made. For example, Latvia initially diplomatically recognised Taiwan rather than the Peoples Republic of China.
There was a presumption that newly independent Latvia should become a market economy but little consensus on how this should be achieved. This is in contrast to Estonia where a group of ‘young market economy Turks’ were able to implement a kind of zero option i.e. zero tariffs, fast privatisation, etc. In Latvia there were strong protectionist sentiments and the initial privatisation was a muddled process.
Advice and advisers were abundant in post-independence Latvia. In the early 1990s, Latvia was awash with international advisers: the IMF and the World Bank were both present, the Germans were advising on a constitution for the Bank of Latvia, the British were active in public administration reform, the Danish advised on research and higher education and so on. Advice was often conflicting with different advisers promoting their own visions of structures as models that Latvia should adopt e.g. on legal and education systems. Today, we see something akin to this in the Eastern Partnership countries such as Moldova and Ukraine.
There was a general sense of the desirability of a ‘return to Europe’ but no plan or strategy. Nevertheless, even without a conscious plan a strategy emerged – namely a strategy of external anchors.
The external goals or anchors that emerged included the following:
- World Trade Organisation, 1998
- NATO, 29 March 2004
- European Union, 1 May 2004
- Eurozone, 1 January 2014
The most important effect of the external anchors was that they ‘depoliticised’ many potentially contentious areas of Latvian life. This has been particularly important given the fragmentation that has historically dominated Latvian politics. Thus, in the interwar period, no less than 32 different political parties were represented in the Saeima. In the early post-Soviet parliaments, similar tendencies were observed with newly created parties being the winners in terms of the number of seats in the first four elections. The election of 2006 was the first in which the previously largest party returned as the largest party. Between the first post-Soviet election in 1993 and the 2014 election, there have been no less than 17 governments which mostly have been uneasy coalitions of 3 or 4 partners with divergent views and interests. In this context the benefit of external anchors is self-evident.
The external anchors each contributed in different ways: WTO accession contributed to modify the protectionist sentiments that were rife in the early years of independence. Rather curiously, Estonia, which adopted a radical free trade policy right from the first days of independence, had more difficulties in achieving their WTO membership than ‘protectionist’ Latvia. Estonia was obliged to implement additional economic regulations in order to conform to the rules of the WTO and the EU (to which it was committed to join as its WTO application proceeded), and as a consequence, Estonian WTO accession was delayed to 1999. The WTO accession process also gave Latvia’s fledgling Foreign Ministry invaluable experience of multi-lateral negotiation.
Apart from the obvious security benefit, NATO membership was conditional on the creation of the Latvian anti-corruption Bureau (KNAB) and on the liberalisation of citizenship legislation, the latter because NATO was concerned about the prospect of a member state with a large number of non-citizen residents.
EU accession represents the biggest and most significant anchor. The requirement of candidate countries to accept the EU acquis communautaire took huge swathes of economic and social legislation out of the political arena. While the economic criteria for accession presented few difficulties of principle for Latvia – most people were in favour of a market economy – the requirement of respect for and protection of minorities presented problems for many Latvian politicians and liberalisation of the citizenship law was resisted until after 1997 when the rejection of Latvia from fast-track EU accession talks in December 1997 prompted a rethinking of Latvia’s intransigent position on the quota or ‘windows system’.
It is hard to over-estimate the impact of EU accession on Latvia. What would Latvia be like today if it were not a member state of the EU? There are sufficient tendencies even now in Latvia to suggest we would observe something like a tax-haven, off-shore economy, probably with weak democratic institutions. EU accession has saved the Latvian people from something like such a fate.
Even later in Latvia’s largely self-inflicted financial and economic crisis of 2008-10 it was the ‘Holy Grail’ of accession to the Eurozone that politically anchored Latvia’s famous austerity programme.
What of today? The ‘big’ external anchors are used up, and Latvia today:
- Is the fourth poorest country in the EU with GDP per capita in 2013 at 67% of the EU average (only Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria are poorer);
- Is a particularly unequal society – Latvia has some of the worst poverty and inequality indicators in the EU;
- Has a shadow economy at 23.8% of GDP (data on 2013; Putniņš and Sauka (2014)); and
- Has an internationally uncompetitive higher education system.
These and other problematic aspects of Latvian life and society are home grown and it is hard to imagine external anchors that can improve poverty or inequality, that can reduce the size of the shadow economy, or which can improve the quality of the Latvian higher education system.
Nevertheless, Latvian policy makers seem to be addicted to the external anchor concept and often find difficult to progress without it. The recent experience of reform of the financing of higher education illustrates. Latvia has historically had a funding mechanism for universities and other higher education institutions based entirely on student numbers. The lack of a link between funding and quality has resulted in a Latvian higher education system that is strong on enrolment but low on quality e.g. as measured by peer-reviewed publications. At some level this has been understood and there has been much talk of reform. Although various reports and evaluations have been published, there has been little progress on concrete reform until the Ministry of Education commissioned the World Bank in December 2013 to produce a report on funding models for Latvia. The final report was delivered in September 2014 and action has now been taken to adopt the World Bank recommended three-pillar model where the funding criteria will now include performance and innovation.
Of course, the new model will not solve all the problems of Latvian higher education – far from it – but it illustrates the pervasive nature of policy makers seeming dependency on external anchors.
- Putniņš, Tālis & Arnis Sauka (2014). “Shadow Economy Index for the Baltic Countries. 2009-2013,” The Centre for Sustainable Business at SSE Riga, May 2014.