Thursday, June 11, 2009

Crisis speeds BRIC rise to power: Goldman's O'Neill

Tue Jun 9, 2009 -- By Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Stott

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The global crisis means China and other emerging market powers will overtake developed world economies even more quickly, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the BRIC concept told Reuters.

Goldman Chief Economist Jim O'Neill said China's economy was now likely to overtake the United States in less than 20 years time and the four BRIC countries combined -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- could dwarf the G7 over the same period.

"Their relative rise appears to be stronger despite the rather pitifully thought out views by some a few months ago that the BRIC 'dream' could be shattered by the crisis," he said in a telephone interview from London.

O'Neill invented the term BRIC in 2001 when he forecast that Brazil, Russia, India and China would overtake some of the world's top economies in the first half of the 21st century, becoming building blocks of a new world order.

"We now conceive of China challenging the U.S. for number one slot by 2027 and ... the combined GDP of the four BRICs being potentially bigger than that of the G7 within the next 20 years," he added. "This is around 10 years earlier than when we first looked at the issue."

Goldman is forecasting that the world economy will contract by 1.1 percent this year while BRIC economies will grow by an average of 4.8 percent, O'Neill added.

"They are dominating the world growth picture even more than when the world was booming, and this is despite a revised very weak forecast for Russia in 2009," he said.

"China has had a good crisis. In terms of China's role in the world the crisis has arguably been very helpful because it has forced China to realize that the next stage of their development cannot be led by export growth."

Goldman is forecasting Chinese growth of 8.3 percent in 2009 and 10.9 percent in 2010, while it sees the world economy growing by just 3.3 percent next year.

India is predicted to grow at an average rate of 6.3 percent from 2011 to 2050, China 5.2 percent, Brazil 4.3 percent and Russia -- constrained by forecasts of a declining population -- just 2.8 percent.

BRIC POWER?

The four BRIC countries have been trying to form a political club to convert their growing economic power into greater geopolitical clout. But is unclear how such different countries will work together.

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China will meet in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on June 16 for the first summit since the international downturn struck their economies.

"Arguably because China is the biggest of the four in terms of its current size and potential, they are the ones who are most disinterested in the BRIC grouping," O'Neill said.

"It is primarily Russia, but also Brazil, that is interested in having these get-togethers and meetings."

O'Neill said BRIC was unlikely to become a powerful political institution on the world stage but could serve a temporary purpose -- to prompt reforms.

"I think BRIC as an institution is a very useful threat and inter-temporal political grouping to force more realistic change of global institutions," O'Neill said.

He said the G8 should be reformed, with China, India and Brazil taking the places of eurozone members Germany, France and Italy, which he said should be represented by the EU and European Central Bank. Russia is already a member of the G8.

O'Neill said the idea floated by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, to make the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights (SDR) the basis of a new supranational currency was a fascinating idea.

He said he thought the idea meant that China would have to allow more convertibility of the yuan and that the idea of including yuan in the SDR in six years' time was conceivable.