WPGM Commentary: The MINTs – Problems With No Solutions

MINT

I love this whole new ‘MINT’ countries thing. Once people realised that China wasn’t as easy to break into as we first thought, India’s still got a way of a way to go, and Russia was basically just squeezed in to make the Acronym look good, everyone needed an excuse to awkwardly clear our throats and turn our attention away from the BRICs. Being of Nigerian heritage myself – and having a lot of family based in Nigeria – I’m quite up to date with the human cost of corruption in Nigeria. It’s very real, and nothing’s really being done about it, in fact, many people believe that the whole system would essentially have to be razed to the ground and built back up again. Good luck with that. I wasn’t, however, so aware of the myriad of problems facing these other future giants.

Of course, all developing countries have teething problems – you can’t build without clearing away what was already there, so to speak. But the way people are brushing over these problems and, as far as possible, only focusing on the plus side without even attempting to suggest solutions for them, is frankly worrying. Take this article from The Gateway for example. I found it’s ‘look on the bright side’ approach almost comical. Sure, it’s just meant to be a quick overview, and I don’t really expect an in-depth analysis from a one page article, but anyone can see that benefits are clearly not outweighing the negatives here. In short:

Mexico = Resources abound vs drug trafficking + gangland violence.

Indonesia = Cheap labour + resources vs shaky infrastructure + well…cheap labour.

Nigeria = Resources (starting to spot a pattern here) i.e. huge oil reserves vs rampant political corruption

Turkey = Young workforce + this close to joining the EU (because that’s a party right now) vs political instability, not helped by neighbours

Well, it’s open to interpretation I suppose.

But honestly, if one took the time (and I’m sure many an economics undergraduate is taking this route as we speak), one could write a whole essay on just one of these countries and its barriers to economic epicness. Just as the Romans left the UK in a second dark ages (an early version of a double-dip recession), Africa has been left to deal with the consequences of colonisation, exploitation (of people and resources), and tailor-made political conflict dealt out by the greater powers, whilst being patronised to the extent that people will probably never be able to look past the images of starving children to see the continent’s true potential. And yes, I am treating Africa as one country here, because that’s what people have always done, and what they’ll probably continue to do, which makes the promotion of just one heavily divided African nation a tough job to say the least.

But all that’s really needed to make a country successful is a growth in the number of millionaires apparently. Obviously a clear measure of a country’s success is it’s developing ‘wealthy’ class, we all knew that right? Sorry if I’m coming across a little cynical – bare with me please, as it only gets worse.

Thank God most articles referred to go on to explain the facts of income equality and Mexico’s rampant drug lord problem…

The best thing about this ‘MINT’ acronym is that it was thought up by the same guy that brought us ‘BRIC’! Classic. In a recent interview with Jim O’Neill on NewStatesman, not only does he try to just gloss over the fact that ‘yes, I came up with the term BRIC, but I’m totally over it, and I’m not really sure why you guys are still going on about it, besides this whole MINT thing is totally gonna work out, man it’s hard being rich and successful’, but he also tries to surreptitiously promote working for American banks over British ones. He also tries to sum up Chinese economic growth as a result of the political inclinations of the entire country. Apparently they don’t demand free elections and democracy doesn’t really work anyway. Clearly he’s an expert in the field. But I digress.

In sum, it’s only our expectations that let us down really, isn’t it? I mean, the big C in BRIC – that’s China – is the second biggest economy in the world for goodness sake. After all, it wasn’t developing for the sake of the West, was it? Wasn’t it? Well, it should have been, is the essential verdict of the feature article in The Economist: ‘China Loses It’s Allure’.

So if the MINTs don’t end up pulling the West out of it’s slump like they should, it’s because we all got our hopes up too high in the first place. So curb your enthusiasm people.

Words by Edi Obiakpani-Guest

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