Will the MINT countries become the best place in the world to become a millionaire?

Economist Jim O'Neil has grouped Mexico, India, Nigeria and Turkey together as the economies most likely to explode over the next decade. But there are lessons to be learned from the BRICs - a rising tide does not lift all boats.

Where in the world can you still expect to get minted? The clue is in the question. Jim O’Neill, the economist of "BRIC" fame recently invented a new acronym, MINT, to showcase the next four economic frontiers.

O’Neill’s prophetic acronym was coined in 2001 to predict the economic emergence of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) and resulted in a rush of new-found wealth in all four economies. Over the past decade we’ve seen the number of millionaires swelling in these countries. Indian millionaires have developed a fad for yachts, Russians for Knightsbridge, Chinese for fine wine and apparently, the latest thing to have in Brazil, is a helicopter.

Just as these BRIC economies come off the crest of the wave and start lowering their growth predictions, O’Neill has come up with a new acronym for the decade: MINT, meaning Mexico, India, Nigeria and Turkey. 

So, will the MINTs follow in the wake of the BRICs and become the next great wealth frontier? Research conducted by wealth consultancy WealthInsight, together with Spear's magazine, which compares the MINTs, BRICs and G8, suggests so. Led by Indonesia, which expects to see a 22 percent increase in the number of resident millionaires in 2014, the MINTs are set to overtake the BRICs over the year ahead. In doing so, however, they will leave the old G8 countries far behind. The countries in the G8 are struggling in the single digits and the growth of millionaires in the US is under half that of Indonesia.

Green refers to MINT countries, red to BRICs and white to the G8.

These are startling figures and here’s why: data on millionaire populations is akin to estimates on the size of the middle class. Though the term is rooted in English traditionalism, the idea of the "middle class" is important to economists. So, when the World Bank estimates that the Nigerian middle class has grown by 28 per cent, there is a data domino effect with the last domino being GDP. In simplistic terms, when the GDP rises, so does the local economy, resulting in prosperity and poverty reduction ... or so the neo-liberal theory goes.

This is when figures on millionaires come in. They allow perspective by looking at the extreme ends of the data domino chain: poverty and prosperity. If the number of millionaires rises faster than poverty reduction, then there are serious problems of inequality to be addressed. You might think such a scenario absurd, but look at what’s happening now in Nigeria: while the percentage of millionaires grows at 17.1 percent, the number of Nigerians living below the poverty line is also growing. Between 2010 and 2012 the percentage of Nigerians living below the poverty line grew to 67 per cent according to the World Bank.

So, to misquote the renowned phrase: a rising tide does not lift all boats. Many will remain firmly on the sea bed during 2014, as poverty sees no change or even rises in some MINT countries. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that O’Neill’s prophetic acronyms turn out to be a double-edged sword. The blazing path to extreme wealth, buttressed by the less fortunate, has already been set by the BRICs. MINTs should learn from this and promote measures to counter extreme inequality. 

In the meantime we can only guess what extravagance will arise from a new millionaire class in Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. We thought we saw it all with the BRICs.

The number of millionaires in India is expected to grow by 17.1 per cent this year. Photograph: Getty Images.

Oliver Williams is an analyst at WealthInsight and writes for VRL Financial News

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear