This annual report is usually a celebratory recognition of some of the world’s best performing economies, especially those most successful at attracting investment and creating jobs. And we’ll still do that. But it’s impossible to highlight last year’s successes as populations and economies in every corner of the world are ravaged by an unprecedented crisis.
The world we celebrate on these pages no longer exists, what comes next hotly debated by talking heads on tv screens. Global foreign direct investment (FDI) has declined for the last four years. It’s collapsed this year. It will be years, perhaps decades, before global FDI returns to recent norms. We can’t know what we’ll be reporting on this time next year, and none of the forecasts are rosy, so perhaps it’s more important than ever to focus on positives, and take hope from the good that has come before.
This issue, this cover story, will do exactly that. Our Global Best to Invest rankings are a look back at the economic and job creation successes from the year gone by, and may give us a hint as to which economies will lead the global recovery.
2019 was not a banner year for FDI, the fourth straight suffering a decline, though last year’s decline was paltry compared to the previous three.
UNCTAD’s Investment Trends Monitor noted that global FDI totaled US$1.39 trillion in 2019, slightly less than a revised $1.41 trillion for 2018, and a 24% drop from the $1.81 trillion record set in 2016.
|1. Costa Rica|
|3. North Macedonia|
|8. United Kingdom|
|2. United Kingdom|
|9. South Korea|
|4. United Kingdom|
The United States, unsurprisingly, remained the largest recipient of FDI, attracting $251 billion in inflows.
China, again, followed with inflows of $140 billion, a slight increase over 2018.
The biggest winners were Latin America, who saw the greatest worldwide increase in FDI, and Singapore, whose FDI inflow went into hyperdrive, up 30% over 2018.
The losers were almost everyone else, especially in the developed world, where flows to developed economies as a group decreased by 6% to an estimated $643 billion — just half of the record high recorded in 2007.
The UNCTAD report notes, “The trend for developed economies was conditioned by FDI dynamics in the European Union, where inflows declined by 15% to an estimated $305 billion.”
UNCTAD found that flows to developing economies remained unchanged in 2019 at an estimated $695 billion.
Africa continued to register a modest 3% rise while flows to developing Asia fell by 6%.
So let’s do as we promised in the intro and focus on the positives and showcase the best performing countries from a time before the madness. The 12th annual Best to Invest Awards are based in part on capital investments into private-sector facilities in each country (total projects and per-capita projects) as compiled by Conway Analytics, proprietary data produced by Site Selection parent company Conway, Inc. Qualifying projects are corporate facility investments (from both FDI and domestic expansion) that contribute to the stability and growth of areas in which they are made by meeting at least one of the following three criteria:
The following three data sets are also used to compile these proprietary rankings:
Our collective and well-deserved fear and uncertainty about the future cannot diminish the successes celebrated on these pages. Let us hope that the kind of ingenuity, policies and reforms that allow countries like tiny Singapore to so consistently bat above her weight will be deployed to help guide us through today’s debilitating crisis.
Better days ahead.
Adam Jones-Kelley serves as President of Conway and Publisher of Site Selection magazine, having been with the company for nearly 20 years. Adam is a featured speaker at events around the world and a regular contributor to Conway's various publications.