December 21, 2011 One of the most powerful forces of change has been the dramatic economic growth in Brazil
, Russia, India and China. Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management Jim O'Neill coined the term BRIC, an acronym for those four countries, ten years ago when he began to zero in on their economies. O'Neill talks to Renee Montagne about his book The Growth Map.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: One of the most powerful forces of change in the world has been the dramatic economic growth of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Jim O'Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, zeroed in on those particular countries 10 years ago when he coined the term BRIC, an acronym for the four. O'Neill has a new book now called "The Growth Map." It looks again at the BRICs a decade on, and he says their success has surpassed even his predictions. He joined us from London to talk about it. Good morning. JIM O'NEILL: Good morning. Thank you very much for having me. MONTAGNE: Let's begin. You write that the BRIC countries all have done much better than you originally predicted, although you seemed possibly most impressed by Brazil. O'NEILL: Well, at the time when I created the acronym 10 years ago, Brazil was regarded as the most controversial. One of my favorite BRIC anecdotes was on a trip to Brazil soon afterwards. One of the key people inviting me to this event whispered in my ear as I was going to the podium to speak: We all know that the only reason the B is in the acronym is because without it there would be no BRIC, which reflected a widespread mood that Brazil didn't really deserve to be there. But in fact, as you say, all four have done better than I thought, but Brazil especially, actually. You could already see some tiny signs of it. I know on Madison Avenue in New York, for example, one or two of the luxury goods shops have Brazilian or Portuguesespeaking assistants to deal with high-net-worth businesses from Brazil. MONTAGNE: Well, one thing, you called Brazil's former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lula, the greatest G20 policymaker of the last decade. Why him more than, say, China's leaders, given China's explosive growth? O'NEILL: Well, because I think Brazil's done it as a democracy and against the background of a pretty chaotic three decades or so of economic life before. And most importantly, he kept in place the best class of Western economic stability policies but (unintelligible) also had it accepted by lower income groups and through that process spread wealth significantly to those less well-off. And compared with the other BRIC countries, there's evidence that in Brazil income differentials actually narrowed. So remarkably successful.
MONTAGNE: Let's turn to China. What is really interesting is despite this huge protest. how do you think that might affect how this economy goes? O'NEILL: Yes. You want to be really worried about places where they don't worry. just on the demographics with Russia. which is obviously a very important positive. There are people talking about doomsday scenarios in a way that China has an unsustainable debt. what happens when there's a slowdown in economic growth. It's a very different society and whilst it is a Communist Party leadership. And one thing you point out when it comes to Russia is that country has a dire problem with that. MONTAGNE: It may be too soon to have worked this one out. It's a fascinating thing and I haven't worked it out 'cause it is so recent. when it comes to Russia. one-party state.
. perhaps even more so. is so much talked about. But most of the signs I get today is it's crept up by three or four years. There are key challenges for China. Putin himself appears to be rather popular. when I used to talk to people about it. one is far too excessive dependency on oil and gas. What do you feel about those concerns? O'NEILL: Well. MONTAGNE: And certainly one problem. that China doesn't have is population and population growth. Beyond that. if only because of its size it would. many of these things have been suggested before. male life expectancy was less than 60. And just as you can't look at China through a Western lens. had so much impact in the world. But you know. It's got a shrinking population. as many people talk about frequently. it's almost more like a Chamber of Commerce than a political party. I'd say the other two major problems that Russia has. but I think the first part of answering this question is to say that you cannot look at China through just a purely Western-orientated lens. which. I think one has to distinguish between general angst about the apparent election results and popularity of Putin. which you point out. but how do you think the demonstrations of quite prosperous middle-class people in Russia who benefitted from the decisions in the Kremlin about the economy in recent years and the oil. That sort of growth is a key part of your analysis of BRIC economies. halfway through the first decade of BRICs. there's a lot Russia has to do to deal with that problem. is highly questionable. which is astonishing at this day and age around the world. And I generally find from my career that countries where the policymakers worry is usually a better place in terms of investing. which is now about 21 years. What else is there about Russia that might be concerning? O'NEILL: Well. But I've spent a lot of time thinking about it and I have been talking to quite a few Russian experts and Moscow-based friends of mine. One of the things that I've found to really respect about the Chinese leadership is that they worry about a lot of the socalled major problems that they face as much as us foreign observers and investors. and then secondly the whole rule of law. for as long as I've been closely following China. you have to be really careful. especially as it relates to doing business. you know. though.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR. MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
. and accuracy and availability may vary. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission.MONTAGNE: Does the debt crisis in Europe and the . noncommercial use only.sounds like a very real possibility of a recession . I think the crisis in Europe. All rights reserved.S. So coming to the exact question you asked me." He spoke to us from the London Stock Exchange. three years ago. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Thank you very much for having me on. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio. And so they've got to do things more and more to stand on their own two feet. the intermittent crisis we've had across the developed world since '08 is actually accelerating the relative speed by which the growth economies and the BRICs are becoming a bigger share of the world. And there are some signs of that happening.does that change your outlook at all for the BRICs? O'NEILL: Well. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. as the crisis we had in the U. So the question is highly pertinent.
Copyright © 2011 National Public Radio®. This transcript is provided for personal. are arguably good for these countries because it makes them realize they can't depend on exporting to the rest of the developed world for their success and future.