What follows is the general outline for the calculation of the overall levels of total foreign
investment, portfolio, and direct investment—referred to as “My preferred,” “My Total”
and “My calculation. Exceptions to these general rules are listed at the end of this section.
The reader is advised to note the “revision date” on the first worksheet of the file, as I
expect to continue to work on this issue. All data refer to stocks.
1900. Portfolio and direct investments were estimated as the sum of investments from
France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. French investment was
estimated as that of 1902 (converted at 0.193 US$/French Franc), taken from UN-
ECLA (1965), which uses Rippy (1948) and his sources. United Kingdom
investment was estimated as the average of the values for 1895 and 1905, from
Stone (1987), converted at 4.87 US$/£. The investment from the United States
was estimated by linear interpolation of the data for 1897 and 1908 in UN-ECLA
(1965). This procedure effectively assigns a value of U.S. portfolio investment in
1897 of zero, which while generally true is probably not accurate for Mexico.
Portfolio investment was taken to be the amount of loans to the respective
1914. The estimates for portfolio and direct were taken from UN-ECLA (1965) Tables 16
and 17, respectively.
1929. Portfolio investment was taken as “external public long-term debt outstanding”
from Table 23 of UN-ECLA (1965), whose source was Annual Reports of the
Corporation of Foreign Bondholders. Direct investment was calculated as the sum
of British investments in 1928, from Rippy (1959)—converted at 4.87 US$/£--and
United States direct investment, from US Department of Commerce (1960).
1938. Data were taken from Lewis (1948), with the separation between portfolio and
direct investment being carried out by examination of the information included
1950, 1957 and 1960. Debt from UN-ECLA (1965) Table 166.
1950 and 1957. Direct investment calculated as the sum of that from the U.K. (from Bank
of England United Kingdom Overseas Investments, subtracting government loans
from all securities) and from the United States, from U.S. Department of
1967 and 1971. Foreign direct investment from OECD (1972) and OECD (1973).
1970 to the present. Portfolio investment was taken to be total long term debt outstanding
(LDOD), as reported by the World Bank in the World Debt Tables and Global
Development Finance, and downloaded from the World Bank’s c-d rom in April,
1980 to the present. Direct investment was downloaded from the UNCTAD DITE
database (which became unavailable in June, 2004), that provided data that are
published in the World Investment Report.
Bolivia: 1929 debt was taken as U.S. debt, from Lewis (1938, 655). 1929 FDI uses data
from Manger (1931) on investment from Britain, Chile, and France.
Brazil: 1929 FDI incorporates Manger (1931, 1067) on investment from France.
Chile: 1929 FDI incorporates Manger (1931, 1068) on investment from Germany.
Colombia: 1950 FDI from UN-ECLA (1957).
Cuba: 1929 debt taken as the sum of that from the U.K., from Rippy (1959) and the U.S.,
from Lewis (1938). 1950 debt taken from IBRD (1951). Debt from 1990 taken
from ECLA Anuario Estadístico. 1950 FDI taken from IBRD (1951).
Guatemala: 1929 FDI from outside the U.S. taken from Manger (1931, 1072). FDI from
1980 from the World Investment Report, 2003
Jamaica: 1900 debt from Kesner (1981), 1914 debt taken from Halsey (1918, 455), 1929
debt from Statistical Abstract for the British Empire, 1929. Table 15. 1914 FDI
taken from Halsey (1918) pp. 457-461, 1929 FDI taken as the sum of U.S. plus
Canadian investment; the former from Dickens (1931), the latter from Armstrong
and Nelles (1988, 252).
Mexico: Debt and FDI for 1911, from D’Olwer (1965). FDI for 1929 sums to the data
from the U.K. and the U.S., the amounts for France, Spain and Germany, from
Manger (1931, 1073). FDI 1940-1970 from Sepulveda y Chumacero (1973).
Nicaragua: FDI from 1980 to the present from UNCTAD’s “Country Fact Sheet”, based
on the World Investment Report.
Panama: FDI from 1980 on was taken from the “Country Fact Sheet” of UNCTAD,
based on the World Investment Report
Paraguay: 1938 investments from France and the U.K. were rather arbitrarily split evenly,
between debt and FDI.
Peru: 1929 FDI from Italy, Germany, France, and “all others” taken from Manger (1931,
Venezuela: 1929 FDI includes estimates from other countries, from Manger (1931,
The accompanying Excel file represents an effort at collecting and making available
estimates of data on foreign investment for Latin American countries for the twentieth
century. As such, it continues my own work (Twomey 1998 and 2000). The second
reference discusses in some detail the practical and conceptual difficulties of such an
In the tables, blank spaces indicate that the data are not available, as do the “NA(),”
which prohibits a summation for including the datum as zero. Any interpolations other
than simple addition or subtraction are indicated by italics. With the goal of facilitating
readability, currency units in individual data series are only indicated if they are not U.S.
There are three considerations: the sub-categories of investment, the reliability of the
various sources of data, and the comparability of data, among countries, and over time.
For the past two or three decades, the IMF and the World Bank have been reporting
estimates of FDI and Debt (public and private) for these countries, which have, in most
cases, been generated by those countries’ officials. For the first half of the century,
however, most estimates of foreign investment are the results of research done by private
investigators, usually foreigners, who worked with incomplete data. This leads to
innumerable problems of non-comparability of data, among countries and over time.
For the last half century, academics working on this topic generally accepted the
categories utilized by the United States Department of Commerce--direct and portfolio
investment—where direct investment is identified by control of the enterprise, typically
estimated by ownership of more than a certain fraction of stock, such as 20 percent.
Portfolio investment was often identified with loans, which from the United States were
overwhelmingly given to governments, but this is not true elsewhere. My choice of
labeling as FDI all capital flows to the business sector avoids a major issue in the
literature, relating to the competitiveness of British entrepreneurs. An important work
that clarified the empirical magnitudes is Swedberg (1978).
There are two comments on this categorization. First, for the period before World War I,
Wilkins and her associates have introduced the category of Free Standing Company, “[A]
firm set up in one country for the purpose of doing business outside that country.”
(Wilkins and Schröter 1998, 3).” These enterprises are controlled by foreigners, typically
residents in the host country, in a situation in which the contact in the home country is
minimal-the proverbial nameplate on the door in the City. My own work (Twomey,
2000) was influenced by that suggestion, but I focused on isolating data on the railroads,
without attempting to distinguish between direct and portfolio. These spreadsheets have
not been completed on railroad investment.
A more recent modification of the direct/portfolio dichotomy relates to recent innovations
in the international capital markets. It is becoming easier to purchase non-controlling
shares of stock of enterprises located in other countries; the so-called portfolio equity
investment. The International Financial Statistics has been reporting this item along with
a fuller balance sheet of total overseas assets and liabilities; several Latin American
countries are so represented.
The UN-ECLA (1965) is the most important source for the estimates up through 1929.
One of the admirable qualities of this work is its thorough representation of the state of
knowledge up to that time. Nevertheless, it provides totals from different sources, and the
inconsistencies in the amounts from those sources are reflected in the tables in that
source. An important example is the change of estimates of US FDI in 1929, from Lewis
(1938) and US Department of Commerce (1960).
Any suggestions—or corrections—please notify me at <email@example.com>
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