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Source: China Daily China Daily

Smart money should be invested in emerging markets

Published: 25 Feb 2015 01:21:18 PST

Growth in fellow BRICS members and the new MINT bloc pale in comparison to that of China

In early December, the Chinese government appeared to acknowledge publicly that the economy is set for a fairly prolonged period of relatively slower growth. Last year's GDP figures are expected to reach somewhere in the region of 7.5 percent and this year's growth forecast is closer still to 7 percent.

But this modest slowdown needs to be put into perspective and the benefits, such as more sustainable growth, need to be highlighted and appreciated by those dithering over potential or continued investment in the now supposedly fragile Chinese economy.

In so doing, a far clearer picture should emerge and point to the emerging market economy or economies where the smart money should be invested during 2015 and beyond.

It was economist Jim O'Neill who made a name for himself when he first coined and subsequently publicized and popularized the term BRIC back in 2001. BRIC, and later BRICS, supposedly represent a shift in global economic power from developed countries.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa were identified by O'Neill as countries to watch most closely as their economies advance rapidly and challenge the long-held dominance of the United States, Canada and the major European economies.

Despite China's recent and modest economic slowdown, its economy has motored at an incredible average growth rate of about 10 percent since O'Neil's BRIC proclamation.

It is with the other BRICS countries, therefore, where any sense of perspective should begin.

China is often compared most with its neighboring, burgeoning economic powerhouse India. The two countries are not only neighbors but also both have extremely large population.

Recently, the World Bank forecast the Indian economy to arrive at a growth rate of only 5.6 percent for last year and predicted GDP to reach 6.4 percent for this year. This is all that is expected despite renewed confidence in the Indian economy and high hopes as a result of a series of planned economic reforms by the new government.

In 2013, the Indian economy grew by only 5 percent.

China's growth rate this year can only spread envy across the Indian border with the expected gap remaining between the two rival economies.

Staying with O'Neil's BRICS set, the comparison becomes starker when the other member economies are compared directly with China.

The Brazilian government recently revised its target GDP growth rate for 2015 from 2 percent to a paltry 0.8 percent. What's worse, the Brazilian economy looks like it will be posting a pathetic 0.2 percent GDP growth rate for this year after entering recession during the first half of 2014. But the Brazilian government does foresee an economic pickup over the next few years with GDP for 2016 expected to grow to only 2 percent and only 2.3 percent in 2017. Surely the Brazilian government would kill for China's 7 to 7.5 percent growth rate.

Sadly, the gap becomes even greater when we turn to the remaining BRICS countries, Russia and South Africa.

With a long history of cooperation with China, Russia is often compared to it and many have predicted and still predict a similar economic development path. GDP figures, however, tell a very different tale.

The Russian economy, not helped by plummeting oil prices and subsequent collapse of the rouble, is now widely predicted to enter recession next year. Western sanctions imposed as a result of the conflict in Ukraine together with a sharp fall in investment by Russian companies are prime factors.

This year, the Russian economy could shrink by up to 4.5 percent if oil prices remain depressed. In direct comparison, China shines as some sort of economic Utopia.

Finally, let's cast an eye toward Africa and South Africa.

More dismal news here, too. The South African government estimates a growth rate for this year of only 2.5 percent, while GDP figures for this year are now expected to come in at a lowly 1.4 percent. Over the medium term, South Africa's GDP is forecast to continue to rise but only at a level approaching 3 percent.


But perhaps it is rather misleading to compare China's relatively impressive economic record only with the other BRICS countries. Many would argue that these cannot now be classified as "emerging". In fact, according to O'Neill, last year has produced a "new" set of economies that, he argues, represent the next wave of newly and rapidly industrializing countries: the MINTs (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey).

So, let's now compare China's recent economic performance with these newly proclaimed tiger economies.

Only a month ago it was reported in the Financial Times that Mexico's growth forecast may be adjusted slightly downward for this year. A target of only 3.7 percent has now been established, an increase of a mere 1 percent on last year's figure.

What would the Mexican government not give for a growth rate anywhere close to China's current 7.5 percent

Moving back to Asia but this time to Indonesia, the picture does at last appear slightly rosier. It is widely predicted that the recent decline in Indonesia's growth rate has in fact bottomed out at 5 percent for last year. Furthermore, encouraging signs and rhetoric by the new government about efforts to reduce the fiscal and current account deficits and free up funds for infrastructure and welfare investment have led to a growth forecast of 6.1 percent for this year and several years beyond.

But even this impressive GDP forecast for Indonesia falls nearly 20 percent below China's current growth rate.

In Nigeria, now the largest African economy and the "N" in MINTs, it was reported that the government had slashed its economic growth forecast for this year as a result of plunging global oil prices. Oil accounts for the bulk of government income so it is no surprise to see a revised growth forecast for this year, down from an initial 6.4 percent to 5.5 percent.

Even the original forecast for growth by the Nigerian government of 6.4 percent falls almost 15 percent short of China.

Moving along to Turkey, which is always on the verge of full membership of the single European market and has long been heralded as an economic tiger waiting to pounce. Only a few days ago, the World Bank released a growth forecast of only 3.5 percent for the country this year.

Even if this is achieved, Turkey will be running at less than half the speed of the Chinese economy.

Any potential investor with an eye on overseas, emerging economies should study the above carefully.

China remains a relatively attractive destination for foreign investment with growth rates and forecasts far in excess of all its competition.

In addition, China's central government has made it clear that a stable, more balanced and more sustainable economy is the priority. A modest slowdown is seen as an integral factor in this more sensible and longer term economic perspective. That said, the central government has also made it clear that ministimulus packages will continue to be rolled out in order to ensure that no additional decline in GDP figures occur.

Recently, more economic good news has also been reported. Inflation remains low and has been on a downward and stable path for well over a year now, and the Shanghai stock exchange has shown dramatic upward movement recently.

Furthermore, China's central government appears determined to push on with the process of economic reforms, and slightly lower growth may well allow for far speedier implementation.

Of course, European investors should continue to scour emerging market economies where gains are most likely to be greater but in so doing, no economy will shine more brightly than China.

The author is a visiting professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing and a senior lecturer in marketing at Southampton Solent University's School of Business. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.



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