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Protecting your business from political risks

With the globalization processes going on in the world economy it is clear that the world itself is getting smaller every year. And as much benefits this brings, there are as many downfalls posing risks to any business working internationally. Local riots, wars, social instability in other regions can directly affect your business. In order to protect your enterprise from such risks you can employ political risk insurance.

Political risk insurance (PRI) is a type of business insurance that covers the loss due to political or social instability within the country. This type of insurance coverage is also a tool for attracting foreign investments, providing proof of the enterprise’s stability. Even small businesses may be required to purchase such insurance when working with many international partners.

Let’s take an example. A small business works as an importer in the US and wants to set up a shipping facility to reduce its costs of import. But the enterprise has problems with setting up the facility, not because of credit unavailability or poor financing, but because the area is often subjected to social riots or political disputes that impede normal functioning. And due to that many foreign companies are not willing to work with businesses from that area.

In such a case, a PRI coverage would be very beneficial for the project. In case of any loss or damage to the property or goods due to political or social riots the cost will be paid for, and this will initially encourage the presence of foreign partners, assuring financial stability of their operations. From this point of view PRI is not only a form of business insurance but also a risk management tool for foreign investment projects.

PRI is not quite similar to other types of cheap small business insurance. It is typically purchased and tailored by each company individually, assuring that specific risks of the region and situation are eliminated. However, there are three typical risks included in the majority of such policies:

Expropriation, which means nationalization of previously private owned property by the government. Take the Venezuela oil industry for example.
– Political violence, which in a broader sense includes social protest, riots, military actions and so on, that may damage the enterprise’s assets. Think of typical violent protests at G20 summits.
– Currency inconvertibility, which makes it quite difficult to operate for the enterprise financially. Think of the inflation in Zimbabwe.

PRI doesn’t make part of standard cheap small business insurance and rarely can be found at your local insurance provider. These policies are typically sold as an element of a private-public partnership in the parent country as a tool for encouraging foreign investments. This means that the situation differs from one country to another taking into account the foreign business policy of the current government. To find brokers and agents who offer PRI you can consult with a list issued by the World Bank.

Prior to going on an international level it is better check the current situation in the region you’re looking forward to work with. International trade usually benefits all the parties involved. However, the current economical downshift is likely to cause more political and social unrest, making it almost mandatory to have political risk insurance for your project if you want to succeed.

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