Making a Mint: but is there a hole in Jim O'Neill's theory?

There's more to analysing emerging markets than finding a good acronym

LAST UPDATED AT 15:28 ON Fri 24 Jan 2014

JIM O'NEILL, the Mancunian former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, famously coined the acronym "Bric" in 2001 to describe the four rapidly developing countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China – to which economic power looked set to shift. Now he's back with a new line-up, says Sally Hamilton on Thisismoney.co.uk, and now the airwaves are saturated with talk of the "Mints": Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, which O'Neill argues have "potential to be powerhouses of the world economy". Is he right? 

Brics, Civets and the Next 11

The Mint acronym is only the latest in a series of attempts to find another emerging market grouping after the Brics, says Roger Bootle of Capital Economics in the Daily Telegraph. Others include the "Civets" (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa) and another O'Neill creation, "the Next 11".

He's not entirely convinced. The Brics make "a good acronym but a bad concept": each has a unique set of characteristics and, as we have seen of late, problems. The Mints seem an equally "odd grouping" – varying considerably by demographics, income levels, economic structure and growth projections. They look like "an attempt to put together an alternative to the Brics in each of the main emerging market regions".

But O'Neill does have a point of sorts, adds Bootle. Barring the occasional hiatus ("I am especially worried about Turkey") the Mints "will probably do pretty well" in the years ahead, with Indonesia in particular perhaps capable of seven per cent growth. But they don't particularly "stand out from others in their respective regions". In South-East Asia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have "exceptional growth prospects". And Kenya (and possibly even Egypt if it sorts itself out) could give Nigeria a run for its money in Africa.

And now for a new one...

Talk of stellar growth prospects inevitably fuels hopes of spectacular stock market returns. But the link is misleading, Sam Vecht of BlackRock Frontiers Investment Trust tells Thisismoney.co.uk. True, Nigerian shares have doubled in 18 months, but the other Mint markets all fell last year.

O'Neill may actually be barking up the wrong tree, says Martin Vander Weyer in The Spectator. The talk in think-tanks these days "is all about high-growth mega-cities, rather than countries". Check out McKinsey Global Institute's "Urban World" reports. With 600 booming conurbations to choose from, any catchy acronym is possible. "So far I'm favouring Bangalore, Atlanta, Lagos, Lima, Shenzhen."

A version of this article appears in the 18 January 2014 edition of The Week · 

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As a Goldman Sachs man, I thought he'd be recommending Malaysia, Uruguay, Peru, Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand and Syria. MUPPETS might be a better acronym.

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