Ever since the success of the acronym “BRICs” – coined at the beginning of the 2000s to describe the large fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – economists and investment managers have been attempting to come up with another collection of large emerging economies with bright prospects that can be combined to form a catchy acronym or phrase. Over the years this has included the CIVETs (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and Turkey), MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey) and the Tiger cubs (Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand) among others.
The MINT acronym originated in a strategic plan from the Japanese company Panasonic in 2010. They used the term “MINTS + B” to denote Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Balkans, parts of the world where growth in sales could be achieved. In May 2011, Fidelity, the large investment company, highlighted the MINT economies in an effort to find markets with strong long-term potential gains for investors. More recently, Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRICs, has made a BBC radio series looking at each of the countries that form the MINTs.
There are some similarities between these emerging economies, with the main one being that they have large populations and “have favourable demographics” with a large supply of younger workers. All four countries have populations in the world’s top 20, with Indonesia having the fourth highest at around 250 million.
Three of the four also have favourable geographic positions: Mexico, neighbouring the US and Latin America; Turkey, straddling Europe and Asia; and Indonesia in South-East Asia and not too far from China. One could also argue that Nigeria is ready to take advantage of potential strong growth in African countries.
Three of the MINTs are large commodity producers: Indonesia (minerals, coal, oil and gas), Mexico and Nigeria (both predominately in oil). In addition, three of the four countries are already members of the G20, with only Nigeria not included.
Although these four economies share some similarities, there are also large differences. While Mexico and Turkey on average have similar standards of living, based on GDP per head statistics (see table below), Nigeria and Indonesia are much poorer. On this measure, Nigeria ranks 142nd out of 186 countries in the world, and Indonesia 124th.
GDP growth since 2000 has also been very different. In Mexico, annual growth averaged 2.3%, while in Nigeria it was 8.2%. While this may be at least partly be down to Nigeria starting from a lower base in terms of its development as an economy, this just highlights the different progress their economies have made to date.
Cultural and political differences are also, of course, very large.
Each of these economies also faces potentially large obstacles on the road to becoming an “economic giant”. Corruption is a problem in all the MINTs, as it is in many developing economies. This does not necessarily prohibit strong growth, but may hinder it. Turkey and Indonesia also have large trade deficits making them reliant on foreign investors to fund the shortfall. This makes their economies exposed to volatilities in financial sentiment, as was the case during parts of 2013, when investor outflows caused their currencies to weaken.
In Nigeria, political and social tensions between the North and South of the country ensure instability is always a threat to growth (see the Library’s note, Nigeria: MINT-ed?), while in Turkey recent developments have raised tensions between the government and sections of the population who fear the rolling-back of the country’s secular traditions.
Author: Daniel Harari