Business

Brics 'grew more than I thought', says Jim O'Neill

Locals in Goa stare at a poster for the Brics meeting Image copyright AP

The Brics nations, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will hold their seventh annual meeting this weekend in the Indian state of Goa.

They would not be doing it if it wasn't for the former Goldman Sachs economist, Jim - now Lord - O'Neill.

He coined the term 15 years ago as a marketing tool for investors looking for more adventurous growth prospects.

Lord O'Neill has told the BBC the group have performed better than even he had thought.

"The Brics countries collectively are bigger today even in the most optimistic scenario I thought 15 years ago, and it's primarily because of China."

He says this despite recent weak performances from Russia and Brazil, whose economies were the most reliant on commodity prices.

"Despite the problems Brazil and Russia face - and they're big - in the first decade of Brics they all grew way more strongly than I thought."

Warning

The countries were picked as they are all leading developing or newly industrialized countries, with potential for fast growth and therefore investment returns.

South Africa was not one of the original four he was looking at. The others asked that country to join them at the meetings they began holding in the late 2000s.

They contain half the world's population and represent between 20-25% of world gross domestic product.

He was warned after he came up with the acronym in 2001 that including Brazil and Russia in the list was risky, since notoriously volatile prices for the oil, metals and minerals from which they derive a large source of income made them an easy hostage to fortune.

Lord O'Neill said: "I have occasionally, when pushed, joked that the group should have been called 'Ics'!

"Brazil and Russia have been really disappointing and some people in the earliest days said these countries would be found out when commodity prices fell sharply and on one level that of course has happened."

'Happy'

Brazil and Russia are both in recession, Brazil on some counts is suffering its worst downturn since the 1930s.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jim - Lord - O'Neill

But Lord O'Neill said there had been a very strong recovery in the Brazilian real: "If you look at financial markets the Brazilian financial market is the top performing market in the world.

"I think the Brazilian real has probably risen 50% against the pound, so I wish I would have put some money into Brazilian real because I'd be more happy about Brazil than many people I see writing about it."

Listen to Jim O'Neill on the BBC World Service's Business Daily programme

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