The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa) are beginning to make their mark on the global scene. They were derided at first and probably will have to do plenty to prove themselves in the coming decades. But the simple fact their finance ministers meet before the Group of Twenty and so on makes BRICS a beat for some second secretary in every major foreign ministry. The same can’t be said for IBSA (BRICS, minus China and Russia) but by putting its eggs in a democracy basket, it will take a lot of time to get a hard-nosed agenda. The only other international organization that makes democracy a prerequisite for membership is the Commonwealth – and look how relevant they are. The RIC (BRICS minus the B and S countries) is defunct. BASIC (BRICS minus Russia) only comes together when multilateral climate change is on the table – and it isn’t right now.
So why this profileration acronymic organizations? The Cold War is over, the sole superpower is in deep doo-doo, and a lot of new economies are coming out of the woodwork. No one knows who will win or lose, who will rise or fall. So they hedge by joining as many groups as possible. Who knows, one of them may be king of the heap 20 years from now, and if one is already plugged into it, one can set the rules for the world of tomorrow. BRICS, to be fair, is moving at a faster pace than anyone could imagine. But still has to prove itself.
The acronymic universe is littered with formulations whose premises were as sound as the original Goldman Sachs BRIC report but have yet to inspire an international organisation. Does anyone remember CIVETS, the most favoured emerging economies chosen by the economist Robert Ward in 2009? Those were Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. Then there was MIST – Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey – the next claim of the same guys who thought up BRIC. And the EAGLES, which stood for Emerging and Growth Leading Economies, which numbered 10 economies. Then there were even fuzzier, tier-three economies, who were part of the EAGLES Nest or the Next Eleven.
This acronym proliferation tells us about investment bankers trying to build street cred with investors, it tells us about political aspirations of rising economies and it tells us that there is a lot of uncertainty going around – so why not toss a hat in the ring, the least that can happen is that no one pays attention and the best that can happen is that you are hailed as the next Nostradamus.