Sovereign Wealth Funds: Catalysts for Robust Economic Growth in the United States

By: Andrew Gluck  |  September 21, 2023

By Andrew Gluck, Staff Writer

Sovereign wealth funds, often abbreviated as SWFs, have emerged as significant players in the global economy, particularly in the United States, over recent years. These funds, owned and operated by the nations they represent, amass capital derived from a country’s reserves or revenues. The primary objective of SWFs is to enhance the wealth of their respective nations, exemplified prominently by entities such as the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia or the biggest SWF, the Government Pension Fund of Norway. In the case of Saudi Arabia, a nation traditionally reliant on oil revenues and concerned about the long-term viability of this finite resource and the environmental impact that fossil fuels have on the world, PIF plays a pivotal role in diversifying the nation’s economic portfolio to ensure resilience in the face of potential oil market volatility. While the core purpose of SWFs centers on the preservation and augmentation of a nation’s financial assets, their influence extends far beyond, significantly contributing to the economic expansion of the countries where they invest, most notably the United States. However, it is imperative to acknowledge that while SWFs have significantly contributed to the growth of the US economy, their substantial influence raises valid concerns regarding the preservation of American interests.  

Sovereign wealth funds have witnessed a meteoric rise in prominence over the past quarter-century, fueled by soaring commodity prices and intensified trade interactions with resource-rich nations. Notable SWF-holding countries include Norway, China, Saudi Arabia as well as many others. As of the conclusion of 2022, these SWFs boasted an impressive total asset under management (AUM) tally of $11.3 trillion.  

The influence of SWFs on the US economy is palpable, as they allocate their investments across various sectors. In 2015, SWF investments in US real estate contributed a record-breaking $96 billion to the American economy. Notably, the PIF, in recent times, has ventured into American sports by initiating the LIV Golf Tour, which has since merged with the PGA Tour, albeit amidst ongoing legal scrutiny. SRJ Sports Investments, an entity under the PIF umbrella, recently acquired a minority stake in the Professional Fighters League, a competitor to the UFC. The league has expressed intentions to expand its American operations to Saudi Arabia. Such investments empower companies to undertake initiatives essential for their growth, thereby fostering a positive ripple effect on the overall economy. While SWFs have played an instrumental role in promoting economic growth and stability in the United States, they are not without their challenges and potential drawbacks. 

Despite the evident economic advantages, concerns loom over SWFs, particularly pertaining to national security and the potential for external, detrimental influence on American businesses and politics. Skepticism has arisen regarding the motives behind SWF engagements with American corporations, raising apprehensions about political impropriety and the possibility of influencing decisions that may run counter to US interests, especially in the case of SWFs originating from the Middle East. Nevertheless, despite these concerns and speculative debates surrounding the underlying motives, SWFs have become an integral component of the US economic landscape. Their investments have fortified American infrastructure and businesses, fostering growth and innovation while simultaneously unearthing new opportunities for advancement.