Sovereign Wealth Funds: Is Asia Different?

Working Paper
June 2011

Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) have become a prominent feature of the international financial landscape. They are sufficiently diverse in their origins, structures, and objectives that generalizations are perilous. However, legitimate concerns have been raised in home and host countries about the management, behavior, and interactions of these funds. Many of those concerns can be addressed via increased accountability and transparency. The Santiago Principles are a good start in doing so, but Edwin M. Truman's SWF scoreboard points to areas where these principles can be improved. Meanwhile, SWF compliance must be further increased. At the same time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) effort to address concerns from the host-country side has not resulted in the erection of new barriers to that form of cross-border investment, but the OECD failed to reverse the creeping financial protectionism of the past decade. Because of their size and the source of their funding, some Asian funds are different. As a result, they will be held to a higher standard of accountability and transparency even as their government owners press for more openness to cross-border investment.