Real estate investors are attracted to the United States because its strong legal system protects their investment and because of the easy availability of accurate information. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
I recently participated in George Washington University’s 2015 Global Real Estate Conference in New York. Having been invited to share CIPE’s work developing the International Property Markets Scorecard at the International Real Estate Federation’s (FIABCI-USA) annual meeting, which dove-tailed with the conference, I took the opportunity to educate myself on the current happenings in the real estate field and see how CIPE’s work might resonate with the professionals most connected to international investment in property.
Headliners at the conference included international representatives from such prominent companies as Morgan Stanley, CBRE, Knight Frank, and Cushman & Wakefield. Mostly I learned a great deal of “inside baseball” language and can now boast a broader vocabulary, but there was another theme that kept coming up. Whether talking about mitigating risk, conducting valuation of property, or trying to determining capitalization rates, it all came down to the need for reliable information and a stable environment that allows for confident investing.
This year I had a great privilege to serve as a judge at the International Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition – the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 550 law schools in more than 80 countries. The Competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the UN International Court of Justice. The best teams worldwide qualify for the International Rounds, which are held yearly in Washington, DC.
In 2009 I was among such participants, representing Belarus at the International Rounds as a member of the team from the Belarusian State University. It was a great experience that allowed me to broaden my knowledge, practice real application of international law, acquire important skills, and meet the best international law students and professionals from around the world.
This time I was on the other side, which was a completely different but still rewarding experience. It is indeed inspiring when you see incredibly capable, intelligent, and skillful individuals pleading their case in front of you. No less outstanding were the benches of judges I was privileged to be part of – legal professionals from all over the world.
What is the “rule of law” and why does it matter for entrepreneurs? In this video, Democracy that Delivers for Entrepreneurs keynote speaker Hernando de Soto explains how the legal and institutional structures that entrepreneurs and business people in the developed world take for granted are sorely lacking in many developing countries. As a result, those who want to start a business are often forced to operate in the shadows — lacking formal registrations, licenses, and any protection for their property.
De Soto’s organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD), estimated that up to five billion people may be completely shut out of the legal system. The results can be catastrophic and even world-changing.
When Tunisian fruit peddler Mohamed Bouazazi had his cart, scale, and inventory confiscated by a police inspector in 2011, he was so despondent that he set himself on fire — igniting the Arab Spring that brought down several governments around the region.
The great Peruvian democracy advocate Hernando de Soto has spent much of his career focused on bringing informal entrepreneurs into the formal sector, where their rights are enshrined in and protected by law. When citizens have the tools to access to capital and a business environment that supports them, they are able to move up the development ladder from the survival entrepreneurship of the informal sector to the prosperity of the formal economy.
De Soto’s work encouraged an important new way of thinking about how to create opportunity where none previously existed. In so doing, he and his organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Peru, have had a profound and positive impact on the lives of millions in Peru and around the world. CIPE’s first partner 25 years ago, De Soto’s and ILD’s work personifies the proven belief that strong markets require vigorous governance and vice versa, and that open participation in both markets and government are a foundation of democracy.
In this most recent Economic Reform Feature Service article, De Soto looks at the necessity of institutions—and specifically the rule of law—to create and nurture a successful entrepreneurial environment.
Article at a glance
Creating wealth through entrepreneurship requires combining different resources (for example, the parts of a pencil or those of a watch). Institutions are crucial to facilitating that combination.
To do all the things that entrepreneurs in developed countries take for granted – like dividing labor, using property as collateral, protecting personal assets, expanding markets, or creating economies of scale – entrepreneurs in developing nations need the standards that only legal institutions can provide.
The wealthy in developing nations have convinced the poor that no matter how talented or enterprising they are, they will never succeed. In fact, the world’s most successful entrepreneurs just have access to superior legal institutions.
Georgia’s Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani is interviewed on Georgian television.
In October 2012, Georgia’s parliamentary elections resulted in the unseating of the incumbent United National Movement party by the opposition coalition, Georgia Dream, with 55 percent of the vote. In the wake of the post-Saakashvili era, the newly elected government is working tirelessly to define the priorities for democratic reform, governance, and rule of law.
Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC on February 22, Georgia’s newly appointed Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani — previously a renowned human rights lawyer — outlined her agenda for judicial reform. Throughout her speech, transparency, accountability, and impartiality were stressed as cross-cutting themes for reform initiatives.
Three key reforms highlighted by Tsulukiani included: universal free access to laws and penal codes; inclusion of civil society and the private sector in the drafting of new legislation; and strengthening the position of the defendant before a judge in the criminal procedure code.
This attention to democratic reform of the judiciary was warmly welcomed by many, as Georgia’s judicial system is perceived as highly corrupt with little to no independence from the regime. It is nearly impossible for ordinary citizens to win a court case against the state – the acquittal rate in Georgia is a miniscule 0.01 percent. This stark statistic comes into the light when you consider the fact that there are 300 state prosecutors, yet only 33 defense investigators. What this means is that judges are provided overwhelmingly with evidence for the prosecution, rather than a balanced argument.
By Patrick Kilbride and Terri O’Connor, Coalition for the Rule of Law in Global Markets, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
It’s a brave, new, global world for business. Plenty of opportunity; plenty of risk. As e-commerce, free trade agreements, and modern infrastructure have opened the world’s markets, many companies have found that on the frontiers of trade there are not always a lot of rules. And where rules exist, they are not always enforced.
This new tool for business is featured in the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom released by The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Myron Brilliant writes for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Companies look to invest in markets where they have confidence in the integrity of public and private institutions and where there is fairness, enforcement, and proper adjudication of the law.”
President of Burma U Thein Sein at the US-ASEAN Forum (Photo: The Nation)
In his speech at the July US-ASEAN Business Forum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, U Thein Sein explained that Burma “has embarked on a democratic path” and is “moving toward a new democratic era.” He went on to outline the reform efforts his country is presently undertaking, efforts that give reason for optimism following April’s dramatic electoral victories for Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.
In addition to promises of regular and free elections, increased media freedom, and constructive engagement with leaders of ethnic minorities, President Thein Sein announced plans “to transform [Burma’s] centralized economy into a market-oriented economy.” At this same event, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that President Thein Sein is a leader “who has moved his country such a long distance in such a short period of time.”
Moving forward, a successful and sustainable transition in Burma requires that economic growth be widespread and that economic opportunities arise for more than the well-connected few. However, numerous key institutions that are necessary for the realization of this goal are either weak or completely missing in Burma today.
Paramount among these institutions are private property rights and the rule of law. If these institutions, which are fundamental for the development of a market economy, are not substantively reformed and strengthened in Burma, its economic and democratic transition will prove unsustainable.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.