Davos Notebook

Will Goldman’s new BRICwork stand up?

RTXWLHHJim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs back in 2001, is adding four new countries to the elite club of emerging market economies. But does his new edifice have the same solid foundations?

In future, the BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, China and India will be merged with those of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and South Korea under the banner “growth markets,” O’Neill told the Financial Times.

Hmmm.  Doesn’t quite grab you like BRICs, does it? The Guardian helpfully offers an amended branding banner of  “Bric ‘n Mitsk” (geddit?). But which ever way you cut it, it’s hard to see a flood of investment conferences and funds floating off under the new moniker.

Ten years ago, Goldman had this field to itself. Now more and more acronyms are being bandied around by  banks  seeking to pique investors’ appetite for higher returns.

Goldman has already launched the N-11, or Next Eleven countries, and other contenders include the VISTA economies (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and Argentina), the CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa) and the EAGLES (Emerging and Growth-Leading Economies).

Of confidence and coconut trees

“Confidence grows at the rate that a coconut tree grows, but confidence falls at the rate that the coconut falls,” Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India’s Planning Commission, told a panel in Davos.

He also indicated that India’s decision not to float its currency and to build up massive reserves was correct, noting that this gave it a cushion during the downturn.

“Floating (currencies) would be fine, if that was what was meant, but what they mean by floating is crashing upwards and crashing downwards.”

The shift in power from West to East

One news theme I’ve asked our journalists to be alert to this year is the shift in power and emphasis from est to East.

The rise of China’s economic power during 30 years of reform and opening to the world is just one manifestation of this; the knowledge and service powerhouse that India has come in a globalised world is another. At Davos this year I’m moderating a panel on Asian innovation that will surely highlight software advances in Japan, Korea and Thailand as well.

I’m convinced the current global economic crisis must lead to a fundamental reassessment of how power and influence is expressed through the world, from manufacturing and service oriented Asia through the oil-rich Gulf.