Increasing Foreign Investment in Asia – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Increasing Foreign Investment in Asia

HWS economics professor Jo Beth Mertens presents tax regulation findings before an international panel on investments in South Asia

(May 21, 2003) GENEVA, N.Y.—Foreign exchange controls, tax rates, hiring practices and bureaucratic red tape can keep investors from operating in foreign countries. In an effort to sidestep these hurdles and improve their economies, officials from eight countries in Asia called together a group of experts to give them input, including Hobart and William Smith professor Jo Beth Mertens.

Mertens, a professor of economics, was one of six experts to offer counsel at the South Asia Foreign Direct Investment Roundtable in the Republic of Maldives on April 9 and 10. The discussion was sponsored by the Foreign Investment Advisory Service, a joint service of the International Finance Corporation and The World Bank. The eight participants were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In her address to the panel, Mertens highlighted administration and compliance costs with regard to corporate tax and indirect tax of various regions. She also gave her impressions of investor ability to meet compliance and audit responsibilities, and offered suggestions on how to improve the processes and procedures from an investor’s perspective.

Prior to attending the roundtable discussion, Mertens traveled to Bhutan and Sri Lanka to conduct interviews with tax administrators, tax policy makers and private sector representatives. In addition, she published a 60-page report that describes tax administrative barriers, including the tax situation faced by investors in each country.

Mertens has served as consultant for the Ministry of Finance and Tax Administration in Georgetown, Guyana; the fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund in Pristina, Kosovo; and The World Bank. In addition, she has served the U.S. Treasury as senior tax advisor to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has presided over similar projects in Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Russia, the Ukraine and Nigeria. She is the author of several publications and professional papers.

Mertens has taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 1997. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas, a master’s degree from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Emory University. Her major areas of study are tax policy, economic policy in developing countries, regional economic development and tax reform in transition economies.