NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

OPIC Stands Privatization On Its Head

June 9, 1999

While the U.S. preaches the virtues and economic benefits of privatization to poor countries, its own Overseas Private Investment Corporation may soon be buying up harbors, shipbuilders and other maritime interests in the developing world.

  • In a rider added hastily and at the last minute to the emergency spending bill, Congress gave OPIC the go-ahead to take minority equity stakes of up to a total of $100 million in global maritime projects that help American shipbuilding companies.
  • The independent federal agency's is supposed to use the money to mobilize private U.S. capital and skills "in the economic and social development of less developed countries."
  • While it provides political risk insurance and loans and guarantees to U.S. firms investing in developing countries, never before has it taken any direct equity stakes.
  • Critics say there is no need for OPIC to establish such a maritime fund, since a consortium backed by Lazard Freres had already applied to OPIC to sponsor its own fund.

Source: "Uncle Sam Goes Shopping," Economist, May 29, 1999.


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