Do Reforms drive International Businesses or International Businesses drive Reforms ?

Reforms driving International Businesses or Vice Versa?

It is debatable whether the reforms in emerging and developing markets drive the entry of international businesses into those markets or whether the international businesses with their strategies drive reforms in these markets. Of course, the bottom line requirement for any international business to enter the emerging markets is that the market economy in that country must be open to foreign investment. Hence, this is the b basic requirement that drives the entry of the international business. However, many emerging markets stop at this reform and do not make their economies friendly to foreign investors beyond a certain extent. In other words, once a country allows foreign businesses in some sectors, it does not automatically follow that it would open all the sectors to international businesses.

Factors to be taken into consideration

On the other hand, many international businesses once they gain entry into developing countries push for further liberalization of the economy in terms of investment friendly policies related to profit repatriation, increase in stake of the international business in the joint ventures, tax breaks, and convertibility of the local currency.

Indeed, as the experience of India shows, the country initially opened up some sectors to foreign investment, then stopped shy of full convertibility and is now at a stage where it is taking a gradated approach to opening up its economy. Further, the entry of the multinationals in India was accompanied by these companies putting pressure on the government to liberalize the economy further and hence, in the case of India it can be said that both aspects of the question posed in the topic are true.

The Case of China and India

However, the case of China is different. It went in for full liberalization and made its investment climate so friendly that multinationals just started to flock to the country. Further, the reforms in China were not halfhearted like in the case of India. Moreover, the Chinese government was free to implement reforms unlike India that is hamstrung by political considerations and the fact that policy paralysis has set in because of bad governance. Of course, this is not to say that one example is better than the other and vice versa because each country has its own set of factors in the political economy of development.

Some Recent Developments

Apart from these considerations and drivers, it needs to be mentioned that once the genie is out of the bottle, it is difficult to undo the reform process. This has been the experience of countries like the Maldives where once foreign investment was allowed by a particular government, it was not possible for the successor government to go back on its commitment. This is also the case with India where despite opposition to foreign investment, the broad policy framework is supportive of foreign investment.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the specifics of development are unique to each country because of historical, cultural, societal, and political factors apart from the baseline factor of economics. Hence, the approach to reforms and which aspect drives the other has to be done in a manner that suits the country.


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International Business