Upgrading destruction? How do climate-related and geophysical natural disasters impact sectoral FDI

Nadia Doytch, Ateneo School of Government



The authors investigate natural disasters’ impact on manufacturing and services foreign direct investment (FDI), both, in contemporaneous and time-lag contexts. Manufacturing and services FDI account for different types of technology transfers, respectively, through tangible physical assets and intangible knowledge assets. This paper aims to hypothesize that natural disasters that have pronounced physical impact, have different effect on different sectoral FDI.


The authors merge a data set from emergency events database, which covers natural disasters occurrences with a sector-level data on FDI for 69 countries for the period 1980-2011, distinguishing between four different kinds of natural disasters such as meteorological, climate, hydrological and geophysical, as well as between different geographical regions.


Controlling for commonly accepted determinants of FDI, such as output growth, quality of institutions and natural resource abundance, the authors find that manufacturing FDI is negatively affected immediately after the disaster and positively in the longer run- a finding that is in unison with the “creative destruction” growth theory. Services FDI, on the other hand, do not show such pattern. Meteorological disasters have no effect on services FDI and climate and hydrological disasters have long-lasting negative effects. For both, manufacturing and services FDI, geophysical disasters have a positive impact on FDI in the long run.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to 69 countries for the period 1980-2011.

Practical implications

FDI bears tangible and intangible knowledge assets and provides means of financing, even in countries with under-developed banking systems and stock markets. FDI is impacted by climate change, manifested by intensifying and increase of frequency of natural disasters.

Social implications

Natural disasters destroy infrastructure and displace people. The rebuilding of infrastructure and intangible capital present an opportunity for upgrading.


This is the first study that analyzes the impact of natural disasters on sector-level FDI in a multicounty and regional context.