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MINT Nations Rising, but Giddy Optimism Has Fallen Flat Before

By: Rafael Arribas - @rarribas - Jan 31, 2014, 1:00 pm

EspañolMexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey — increasingly known by the “MINT” acronym — have garnered a host of positive attention lately, amid projections that they will be economic powers by 2050. Economist Jim O’Neill, who coined the “BRIC” term in the 1990s to refer to Brazil, Russia, India, and China, is now promoting MINT nations instead.

O’Neill points to MINT members as the next economic giants based on two commonalities. First, over the next 20 years each nation will have more people in their prime working years, as opposed to the current elderly and young demographic dominance. Second, they are located in extremely advantageous positions geographically, as global trade paradigms shift.

Mexico is the link between the United States and Latin America; Indonesia, in the middle of South East Asia, maintains important connections to China; Turkey is the nexus between the east and west; and Nigeria, though lacking some of advantages right now, possesses equal potential as a regional hub. Once conflicts in the area give way to development, Nigeria’s role will become even more crucial.

Particularly for interests in Latin America, Mexico is now — as is the case with Brazil in South America — more than a mere linking agent between north and south; it is a future economic giant. Both Mexico and Brazil have the greatest economic activity in the region, are G20 members, and are fundamental pieces of their respective regional integration organizations, the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur.

As for wealth, Mexico and Turkey are hand in hand, each with Gross Domestic Product per capita at around US$11,400. Indonesia ($4,100) and Nigeria ($1,700) follow in the rankings, according to the International Monetary Fund’s estimates for this year. Further, Goldman Sachs predicts these economies will be among the 20 most powerful globally by the year 2050.

With that said, I would be remiss not to mention the underwhelming performances of the BRIC nation, which offer a warning. MINT members share other characteristics similar to those of the BRIC, and they are all developing nations. With wide disparity gaps on economic, social, and political classes, problems that have plagued the region in the past may reappear.

Given this, it’s imperative to consider additional factors when analyzing a country’s capacity for development.

Analysis of the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom provides perspective. Mexico and Turkey have achieved moderately free status, ranking 55th and 64th, respectively. But Indonesia and Nigeria trail significantly, considered to be “mostly unfree,” and rank 100th and 129th.

If we look at Freedom House’s 2014 Freedom in the World Index — taking into account political liberties and civil rights — it categorizes all four countries as partly free. Turkey, Nigeria, and Indonesia also score low on civil liberties. For example, Nigeria, despite its economic progress, recently passed a controversial law criminalizing homosexuality, drawing harsh criticism and damaging its global image.

The list of impediments to development is endless among the MINT nations, but health and education also bear mention. O’Neill himself points to the regions demographic advantage when discussing MINT’s economic potential. But how can that potential be optimized without adequate training and sufficient health benefits? Mexico and Turkey have the lead on this, but unfortunately educational systems in all four nations remain weak, and unable to keep up with rising demand.

In order for members of the MINT moniker to become regional forces, each country must undertake institutional changes, and make strong investments in their respective populations. But even more important, they must generate the proper legal and economic framework for their development. That will be the key to their success.

Translated by Melisa Slep.

Rafael Arribas Rafael Arribas

Rafael Arribas is chief financial officer at the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima, Peru, holding the position since 2011. He joined ILD in 2008 and has carried out field research and institutional analysis in Peru, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, and Timor-Leste. Follow @rarribas.