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MINT – the new ‘in-crowd’ for economic growth potential?

Mar 18, 2014
Former chief economist for Goldman Sachs and Telegraph columnist, Jim O’Neill has popularised a new acronym for the next group of countries with the most potential for significant economic growth – MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). By Ed Roberts

In 2000, Jim O’Neill coined the term BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to describe the five countries most likely to join the G6. He followed this up a few years later with a second group of contenders called the N11 or Next Eleven. The MINT countries were singled out of the N11 for demonstrating the highest potential for positive change.

 

The BRICS have recently suffered a major growth slow down for different reasons and finance pundits have speculated that the group members were too tenuously linked and too different from one another to be grouped convincingly in the first place. The same criticism is being angled at the MINT group. The four countries all stand to improve their standing in finance terms but at what costs?

 

Mexico

Mexico is the world’s tenth largest oil producer and currently the centre for car manufacturing. With its young government it continues to become integrated into US supply chains tying their prospects closer to America’s. However, accusations of squeezing the middle classes for taxes whilst their banks launder cartel money freely give a picture of instability and a risky place to invest. On the other hand, with rising wages in the manufacturing sector in China, Mexico is set to capitalise, by winning new business whilst taking advantage of its proximity to American product markets.

 

Indonesia

Indonesia has the fourth largest population on Earth and it’s thought that over half of them are under the age of 30. This signals a large and willing workforce. However, Indonesia is blighted by huge numbers of unemployed off-set against its rapidly expanding population and high levels of poverty.

 

Nigeria

Nigeria has the fastest moving economy on the African continent with huge numbers of entrepreneurs setting up new businesses. Many Nigerians who were educated overseas are said to be returning to Nigeria to be a part of an exciting time to start up new businesses. It is also rich in natural resources such as oil. However, Nigeria is often criticised for its lack of infrastructure, corruption, poor education and the lack of a national power grid.

 

Turkey

Turkey is a ‘catch up’ economy. Experts observed that there was virtually no economic growth in Turkey between 1970 and 2001.  Nowadays all this has changed. The world’s largest airport is due to built in Istanbul and expensive new builds are springing up in all of the major cities. Turkey is also being seen to exploit its enviable position of being able to trade easily with companies in Europe and the Middle East. Turkish businesses also appear to be keen to make in-roads north and south to Russia and down to Africa to establish new trade routes. The Turks are saying that ‘the new Silk Route is now open."

 

In Roger Bootle’s article in The Telegraph (12 Jan 2014), he ventured that the MINT countries have few common factors to unite them. “Whereas the BRICS consisted of the largest economies in their respective regions, each of the MINT members is the second or third largest.  Also Nigeria (170 m) and Indonesia (250 m) have huge populations, whilst Mexico (80 m) and Turkey (120 m) have smaller,” Roger highlighted. He also said that income levels vary considerably between the four. The lack of political stability, such as in Nigeria, is harmful to growth too as a potentially weak government will have problems pushing through reforms.

 

Nick Dearden of the World Development Movement pointed out in The Metro (2 Jan 2014) that MINT member countries appear competitive because of the large numbers of people prepared to work for small wages. In Nigeria and Indonesia poverty levels have risen in-step with an increase in wealth. “We are seeing a form of development in these countries driven by finance and high commodity prices, that hugely benefit the rich but makes the lives of the poor even harder,” he observed. Like all developing countries, it would seem that the divide between the very rich and those below the poverty line is ever widening in most of the MINT countries.

 

A country’s make up is only predictable in its unpredictability. To group countries together and forecast convincingly that they will all pull in the same direction and befall similar fates is a hard thing to do. The MINT group like the BRICS will all perform radically different to one another from day one as demonstrated already by Nigeria’s stellar year at the stockmarket, increasing by 50 per cent, whereas equity levels fell in each of the other three dramatically.

 

So what is the point of the MINT group of countries? Do they make a convincing set or are they the result of some financial strategist having fun with forced ironies and acronyms?

 

Here are a few others that we came up with at The Mover: DON’T (Djibouti, Oman, Nicaragua, Tanzania); HELP (Honduras, Ethiopia, Laos, Papua New Guinea); and how about Canada, Romania, Australia and Portugal.


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