A Holiday Gift from OPIC

December 14, 2012 By Ashley E. (Chandler) Chang


Infographic by OPIC

Fiscal cliff? Sequestration? Partisan divide? It seems like the Grinch stole the spirit of the holidays here in Washington. And yet, there are reasons to be merry on these dark December days. Earlier this week, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) announced that it generated over $500 million for U.S. tax payers over the last two years.  In addition, while it was returning over half a billion bucks to the U.S. Treasury,  it committed over $6 billion to development projects in emerging markets, which in turn, catalyzed billions more in private sector finance. OPIC also grew its portfolio by a record 30%, marking its 35th consecutive year of deficit reduction.

Now if there is one thing we can all agree upon, it’s the urgent need to get the American economy growing and to create more opportunities for our entrepreneurs. With more than 95% of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, the success of American business will increasingly mean expanding into the global marketplace to reach new customers.

So here’s a stocking stuffer, small, strategic investments in economic development and diplomacy overseas are creating markets for American goods and services. How small an investment you ask? Try just 1% of the budget. That’s right, for a fraction of our federal budget, our development and diplomacy programs can help American businesses gain greater access and compete in the global marketplace.

Since 1971, OPIC has been facilitating U.S. private investment in developing countries and emerging markets. It also has the added benefit of being able to act swiftly following a crisis. By mobilizing private capital across the developing world, OPIC advances our foreign policy agenda while helping U.S. companies expand into areas where investment possibilities would otherwise be prohibitively challenging (think Haiti, Egypt, and Afghanistan). Plus, it doesn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.

“We are proud,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield, to respond to critical “development challenges, to be having a positive impact on the lives of people and the health of the planet, while creating growth opportunities for US companies.”

We all should be proud, actually. America has always stood for compassion, a belief in human dignity, and a willingness to help the less fortunate in the world. South Korea was our largest recipient of foreign assistance 30 years ago, and today, we trade more with South Korea than France.  We respond to humanitarian suffering like the earthquake in Haiti or famine in the Horn of Africa, and America should be proud of our moral leadership in helping those in need.

The capability of the United States to address these challenges adequately depends on being able to deploy strong and effective development and diplomatic solutions. This also includes situations in places like Egypt, where people are struggling for freedom, or in Afghanistan, where private investment is key to stability as the U.S. draws down its troops. OPIC, like all of our foreign assistance tools, demonstrates the values we stand for as a country, but in addition to helping grow our economy, it is also works to keep us safer at home.

During this moment of budgetary austerity, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how foreign assistance is a projection of our responsible leadership in the world – one that leads to real dividends in terms of our security and prosperity. And I’ll toast some eggnog to that.


Read the OPIC press release here