- New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 4: The uneven quality of the BRIC countries: Russia and Brazil as the weaker half
The term BRIC – an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China – entered the intellectual vocabulary as a symbol of the presumed ‘tectonic shifts’ in the global economy. These four countries came to symbolize the emerging challenge to the established Western economic powers (with Japan functioning since the 1970s as a part of the West). However, both those common, as well as sharply differing, characteristics of the challengers raise many questions. To use the BRIC metaphor, this ‘brick’ is not made of ingredients of equal quality. Different pieces of the BRIC offer different prospects. Thus, in my opinion, Russia is not an emerging economic challenger of the West at all. The London Economist called it in the mid-1980s ‘Upper Volta with rockets’. That might have been an excessively ironic description, but the term ‘Saudi Arabia with its own capacity to manufacture weapons’ (but little else!) is not more complimentary, but much closer to reality. Russia is as rich in fossil fuels as Saudi Arabia and, moreover, much richer in industrial raw materials, but in contrast to Saudi Arabia is able to manufacture sophisticated weapons. The cost of such manufacturing, though, is very high due to the inefficient institutions and policies pursued within the antiquated institutional framework.
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