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

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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