OPIC recently published its annual report for fiscal 2011, a year that OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield describes as “a pivotal year for foreign affairs and a banner year for the U.S. Government’s development finance institution.” Littlefield’s full letter is preinted below, and the complete annual report is available on OPIC.gov.
When I embarked on my first full year at OPIC, I did not foresee all the events that would soon unfold to make fiscal year 2011 such a pivotal year for foreign affairs and such a banner year for the U.S. Government’s development finance institution. As you will read in this report, OPIC was once again a powerful force in mobilizing private capital for investment in emerging markets around the world. This was accomplished even as we launched a quick response to the Arab Spring and tripled our worldwide financing and insurance commitments in the renewable resources sector.
Our work in fiscal year 2011 created new opportunities for people in many developing nations, opened up new markets for American businesses and helped foster the sort of economic growth and stability that advances U.S. foreign policy. OPIC also significantly expanded its business in the world’s poorest countries: low income countries accounted for almost half of our transactions. A full three quarters of our business was with small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and OPIC achieved all of this at no net cost to the American taxpayer: for the 34th consecutive year, OPIC earned a net profit in fiscal year 2011.
The impact of our work is evident from sub-Saharan Africa, where OPIC is supporting a project to distribute medical equipment to hospitals in Ghana; to Central America, where our financing is enabling more affordable mortgage lending; and Southeast Asia, where we have provided political risk insurance to a project that is helping preserve large tracts of Cambodian forest. In Afghanistan, a small business that got its start selling bottled water to American troops has used OPIC financing to establish the country’s first beverage facility providing clean drinking water and is now looking to expand to provide juices and milk to the local population. Many other finance and insurance projects supporting renewable resources, housing, infrastructure, telecommunications, agriculture and microfinance are having a positive developmental impact around the world.
In 2011, OPIC also demonstrated how swiftly and effectively it can respond to unforeseen political events. Shortly after the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, I traveled with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region, where we met with the interim governments and revolutionary and civic leaders. Our conversations with youth leaders showed us how promising and vibrant a force the young people of the region are. In response to the Arab Spring, Secretary Clinton and President Obama committed $2 billion in OPIC financing and insurance to support private investment that will help promote the economic growth that will be essential to a peaceful transformation in the region. Within months of that commitment, OPIC had approved the fi rst $500 million for loan guaranties for small business lending. This swift and effective response reflects the close collaboration between OPIC, the Department of State and other development-focused agencies such as USAID that has been fostered under the Obama Administration.
During a year when most of the world faced economic challenges, OPIC also focused on improving our own productivity. We have streamlined our policies, cut paperwork and are simplifying our applications and making them all available online. OPIC, which has a staff of just 205, has always run an efficient operation and I am confident that our attention to all our internal processes will make us even more so in the coming year.
When we understand that the private sector can act as a force for good in the developing world, and when we foster the ability of businesses to make a positive social and environmental impact, we can accomplish great things. As I look back on such a successful year, I would like to thank all of OPIC’s clients and project sponsors who worked with us to bring private sector solutions to many of the world’s toughest development challenges.