Surprises aside, economic power shifts south, east [toward BRICs] – by Gwynne Dyer (Sudbury Star – April 8, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable,” said John Kenneth Galbraith, the wisest American economist of his generation.

But you still can’t resist wondering when the Chinese economy will be bigger than the American economy — or the Brazilian economy bigger than the British, or the Turkish bigger than the Italian — as if it were some kind of horse race.

The latest document to tackle these questions is The World in 2050, drawn up by HSBC bank, which ranks the world’s hundred biggest economies as they are now, and as (it thinks) they will be in 2050.

It contains the usual little surprises, like a prediction that per-capita incomes in the Philippines and Indonesia, now roughly the same, will diverge so fast that the average Filipino will have twice the income of the average Indonesian by 2050.

But what’s happening at the top of the list is of interest to everybody. That’s where the great powers all live, with the so-called BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India, China — nipping at their heels. Or rather, some of the BRICs are nipping at their heels, and some are not.

That’s the big news.

We owe the concept of the BRICs to Jim O’Neill, who came up with it almost 15 years ago when he was head of economics at Goldman Sachs. He was the first to realize that some big, poor countries were growing so fast economically that they would overtake the established great powers in a matter of decades.

The really impressive performers were Brazil, Russia, India and China, so he called them the BRICs — and pointed out that at then-current growth rates the Chinese economy would be bigger than that of the United States by the 2040s.

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