Archive for the ‘BRICs’ category

Futurescape Issue 16 – Global Challenges

April 13, 2011
Welcome to the first edition of the Futurescape newsletter for 2011. In this issue we focus on global challenges that have been occupying our attention recently and some that we have identified as potential game changers on the world scene, specifically:

  • Unrest in the MENA region
  • Counting the cost of natural disasters
  • Econonic Power shifts
  • Terminator? More like Communicator!


It’s hard to believe how fast the first quarter of 2011 has gone. We’ve been busy working on a variety of client consulting projects and taking forward the 2011 programmes for the Convention 2020 research study and the Future Convention Cities Initiative. We are also running a study on the future of human resources and another on global trends and drivers for a US client.  We’ve also been responding to the tremendous interest generated by our Hotels 2020 study.

So far this year, client workshops, project work and speaking commitments have taken me to Las Vegas, Cancun, Melbourne, Adelaide, Geneva, Lisbon, Belfast, Berlin, Vina del Mar – Chile, Seoul, Gothenburg, Budapest and Frankfurt.

We hope you enjoy this edition and as always we welcome your feedback.

Copies of previous editions of the newsletter can be downloaded here


ROHIT TALWAR, CEO Fast Future Research

Tel: +44 (0)20 8830 0766

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Watch a short video of Rohit’s keynote speech on global trends  here

Please Take our Venues Survey

We have just launched our latest Convention 2020 Foresight survey. The survey focuses on innovation, future strategy, design, finance and future success factors for convention venues.

The report will be published at IMEX Frankfurt in May 2011 and all respondents will receive a free copy.

We hope the results will prove invaluable in plotting future venue strategy.  We will donate $1 to the Save the Children Fund for each survey response.  The survey can be accessed here Please share the link with colleagues who might be interested in the topic.

Student Case Study Competition

IMEX and Fast Future have launched a Student Case Study Competition. The goal is to identify examples from around the world of how business events, meeting venues and meeting destinations are innovating to prepare for the future. It is open to students over the age of 18 studying at an academic institution anywhere in the world.The authors of the two best case studies will get free travel and accommodation to participate in IMEX 2011 in Frankfurt. Case studies must be a maximum of 1000 words, in English and received by April 22nd 2011. Full details of the competition can be found here.



What will be the outcome of the wave of popular uprisings in the MENA region and what is the end game for the western intervention in Libya?

The last two months have seen a surge in popular uprisings and revolutions within the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf. The fundamental drivers of unrest in many of these countries are social inequality and employment. The OECD reckons 100 million jobs need to be created in the region by 2020[1].

The success or otherwise of the revolutions of 2011 – and of those existing leaderships that continue in power – will largely depend on the ability of their economies to create the necessary jobs.

Five Scenarios for the Future

We are suggesting five possible scenarios for how the situation could play out over the next 12-24 months.

1. People power – Popular revolutions unseat more Middle Eastern governments and internal pressure leads to increasing governmental transparency. Broadly democratic and open governance models are adopted and despite inevitable teething troubles, the prospects are encouraging. Relative stability acts as a catalyst for economic growth and encourages foreign investment.

2. Revenge of the despot – Stalemate in Libya gives encouragement to other embattled strongmen, leading to a mixture of regional repression, guerilla movements and in some cases civil war. In this scenario, economic opportunity declines overall and gives rise to more forms of extremism. Foreign businesses start to withdraw from all but the most stable of Middle East economies.

3. Ignition – Popular revolutions succeed in removing the current leadership in several states. In many cases we see the installation of Islamist governments either via ballot box or through force. Domestic tension and conflict continues in many of these states.

Several economies suffer from continuing domestic tension and the exit of foreign capital. Fears rise over the prospects of a war involving Israel and Iran and / or other regional agents.

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4. Volatility as standard – The divergent outcomes from 2011 failed to stem the real issue afflicting most MENA economies – the lack of enough small to mid sized companies to accommodate excess youth labour. This leads to a prolonged period of uncertainty where some weaker governments fail in the face of civil unrest and an uneasy and awkward geopolitical framework envelops the region.


5. As you were – A failure to sustain foreign intervention results in eventual victory for the Gaddafi regime over the rebel forces. The outcome gives courage to more oppressive leaderships across the region and unrest from Bahrain to Yemen dies out gradually.

A number of leaders across the region make serious efforts to create more jobs, encourage business start-ups and tackle underlying social issues. Social tensions remain with occasional flare-ups but the changes in Tunisia and Egypt are seen as exceptions rather than the norm. Foreign investment is largely targeted at the most stable and open economies and an uneasy relationship with the international community persists for a decade or more.



Is the world braced for increased incidences of natural disasters?

What level of risk should we be willing to accept in disaster planning?

What lessons have we learned from the events of the last few years?

The globe has been rocked by natural disasters with unnerving regularity in recent years. Pakistan suffered a devastating flood in 2010[2], China a similarly destructive Earthquake in 2008 and the worldwide H1N1 Bird Flu Pandemic has so far claimed 10000 lives.[3] 2010 also saw perhaps the worst disaster in recent history, the catastrophic Earthquake in Haiti, which took at least 220 000 lives[4] with an estimated economic cost of at least $14 billion.[5]

Recent events have demonstrated the fragility of even the most robust states in the face of natural disasters. The recent 9.0 magnitude earthquake near the Honshu region in Northern Japan has had a devastating effect.[6] Up to 25 000 people have lost their lives[7] and the World Bank has estimated the economic impact at up to $310 billion.[8]

The subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant on Japan’s East coast has highlighted the critical planning, financial and communication challenges and trade-offs at the heart of disaster planning.

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Ø  What level and frequency of natural disaster should we be planning for?

Ø  How much are we willing to spend on preventative measures against the most exceptional of circumstances?

Ø  How well does the public understand what is considered an ‘acceptable risk’ when planners decide on the level of disaster protection they will put in place?



Is the East’s economic dominance in the 21st century now a ‘given’?

Will the West go gently into the night or will the fight for economic supremacy become a bitter struggle characterised by protectionism and currency conflicts?

What strategies are the leaders of the G20, the World Bank, the IMF and other global and pan-regional institutions adopting for the economic shifts shaping are world? Are they running on the assumption that Asia – led by China and India – will be the dominant economic power of the 21st century? Or is there a sense that we’ll see a resurgent west standing toe to toe with its Asian counterparts on the economic landscape over the next 20-50 years?

The argument that the global financial crisis has expedited the transfer of economic power eastwards is one that has become increasingly popular. While the larger economies such as China and India slowed down, they didn’t actually go into recession. Many other emerging Asian economies endured a shorter and less severe recession than their western counterparts. The Economist [9] argues that this, coupled with generally healthier banking systems and debt structures, puts them in a strong position for growth.

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The global crisis may have removed previous competitive advantages from western economies but in practice, the trends were already underway and had signalled growing Asian strength for some time before the crisis.

Pre-crisis estimates from E&Y suggested the BRIC nations would contribute 40% of global economic growth in the decade from 2008 to 2018[10]. Others suggest that even with a recovery in the developed world, emerging markets will account for 70% to 75% of global growth every year for the foreseeable future[11].

The rise of Asian GDP as a percentage of the world economy (at purchasing power parity (PPP)) is notable – increasing from 27% in 1995 to 34% in 2009 [12]. Indeed the Economist notes that by 2014, Asia’s share of the world economy, at PPP, should exceed that of America and Europe combined[13]. They also estimate that by 2020 Asia could well produce 50% of all sales and profits for some Western multinationals, advancing from a typical range of 20-25% today.

The Institute for International Finance forecasts that for 2010 and 2011 combined net inflows of capital into emerging economies will total more than $800bn over the two years[13].



We’d like to finish with a fascinating take on Cyborgs from the recent TEDWomen event in December 2010. Here Amber Case takes a light hearted look at how we as humans are already Cyborgs and where the technology might take us. It’s only a few minutes long and well worth watching.

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One of the events I’ve most wanted to speak at was Innotown, and I finally got the opportunity to deliver a keynote speech at the 2010 conference. The conference is held in the picturesque Art Nouveau town of Aalesund in Norway and is a real feast for the mind and soul alike. This year’s line up of speakers is truly exceptional. Over two thirds of the tickets have already been sold with more than two months to go. It’s well worth checking out the programme and giving yourself permission to attend if you possibly can.



In the next few months I will be delivering workshops and speeches in the following locations – Lucerne, Brussels, Singapore, Berlin, Slovenia, Frankfurt, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Copenhagen.


Finally, a number of people have asked to re-publish our content in their magazines, blogs, websites and newsletters. We are happy for you to do this – if you want to republish any articles, please acknowledge the source, provide a link back to our website and let us know you’ve done it.


Many thanks and we hope you enjoyed this week’s newsletter.

Please contact me at if you’d like to discuss the possibility of me delivering a speech for your organisation in one of these locations.



[1] OECD, MENA Ministerial Brief,,3746,en_34645207_34645466_43401490_1_1_1_1,00.html

[2] Pakistan floods ‘hit 14m people’, 6 August 2010,

[3] A Disastrous Year: 2010 Death Toll Already Abnormally High, 11 March 2010,

[4] ibid

[5] Economic Cost of Haiti Quake Could Hit $14 Billion, 17 February, 2010,

[6] Japan quake magnitude raised to 9.0 from 8.9: USGS, 14 Mar 2011,

[7] Japan rattled by aftershock 1 month after tsunami, April 11, 2011,

[8] ibid

[9] ‘East or famine?’ February 25th 2010, Economist

[10] ‘E&Y report states BRIC nations to account for 40 per cent of world growth by 2020,’ India Brand Equity Foundation, 24th December 2008,

[11] ‘Emerging Markets: The new drivers of growth,’ by Janice Mace, February 4th 2010, Pambazuka

[12] ‘East or famine?’ February 25th 2010, Economist



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February 23, 2009


A BRIC short of recovery?

July 1st 2009

I’ve always been somewhat skeptical about the inclusion of Russia and Brazil in Goldman Sachs’ list of the top four emerging economies – collectively known as the BRICs. Brazil has always appeared as an unlikely bedfellow alongside China and India. However it is Russia which has caused the greatest doubt. I’ve frequently stood alone in investment conferences and economic debates as the luminaries around me all extolled the virtues of Russia and largely scoffed at my concerns.

For me the lack of transparency, infrastructure issues, declining birth rates, massive poverty, the difficulty of upholding contract law, the volatility of the stock market, corruption and the ever-growing list of foreign businesses who had given up on the Russian market have led me to conclude that this is a market that’s ready to claim its place as one of the big four. Indeed I am constantly surprised that so many supposedly forward thinking and well managed companies are still diving headlong into the market on the basis that it is part of the BRIC acronym.

This doesn’t mean the market is dead or that there aren’t opportunities – see the examples of Coca cola and Unilever cited below. However we’ve felt for some time that Russia is a market whose time has yet to come. Interestingly even Goldman Sachs seems to be changing their mind on the Russia story – along with a number of other economic forecasters.

Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the term BRIC believes both China and India could almost be said to be enjoying a ‘good crisis,’ – a situation at odds with much of the world and even their fellow BRICs. Against a backdrop of global recession, consensus forecasts for India in 2009 and 2010 are that it will grow by close to 6 per cent. Despite weak exports China is likewise expected by GS to grow by more than 8 per cent in 2009 and over 10 percent in 2010 as domestic demand picks up[i].

Brazil has fared somewhat worse – the OECD said it expects gross domestic product this year to shrink by 0.8% from 2008, following 5.1% growth in 2008. The OECD said it expects Brazil’s GDP to rebound in 2010 with 4% growth[ii], whilst the Economist believes growth in Brazil could even reach pre-crisis levels by that date.

The fourth BRIC, Russia, has always been somewhat anomalous within the grouping – for example, it is the only BRIC with a shrinking, as opposed to growing, population. The economic downturn also highlights this seeming discord. The Wall Street Journal notes that Russia’s 9.5 percent contraction in the first quarter was the steepest in the G20 save Japan[iii]. Furthermore, the recovery underway in China, India and Brazil, which is showing above trend growth for the Latin American region, has also thus far missed Russia. The World Bank is now predicting (as of 24th June 2009) a 7.9 percent contraction that will spike unemployment up to 13 percent by the year’s end and push 7.5 million Russians below the poverty line. Using international definitions, the number of poor is forecast to rise to almost a fifth (17.4 percent) of the population[iv]. As such, the BRIC term at present encompasses both the best and worst performing major world economies, save Japan.

At a time when China and India in particular appear to be decoupling from other emerging economies, many of whom are still mired in recession, could it be that Russia’s stuttering economy renders the BRIC term itself obsolete?

The crisis has exposed an oil dependent economy and, arguably, a poor choice of policies to deal with it – such as the gradual rouble devaluation. However, for many analysts, the underlying long-term expectations generally remain positive. As of June 11th, its foreign reserves stood at $401.1 billion, third in the world behind China and Japan. Forecasts for 2010 range between 2.0 percent growth (EIU) to 3.7 percent (World Bank) with much of it being dependent on the oil price, whose 63 per cent drop during the crisis predicated the economic fallout affecting the country.

Looking further out – for the years 2011 through 2013 the EIU is predicting average growth of around 4.5% in what the World Bank terms a ‘gradual and prolonged recovery.[v]’ Just as importantly, inflation is forecast to average around 7.5% in this period, far below the 14.1% seen in 2008[vi]. A number of businesses are also using the downturn to expand their operations in Russia in anticipation of healthier times ahead. Coca Cola – which is predicting Russia to become one if its top 5 markets both in terms of revenue and profit[vii] – has launched 8 new products since May 2008 and is maintaining advertising spend. Likewise Unilever is investing $140 million in the city of Tula in 2009-14 in a bid to solidify and build its market presence; indeed Unilever is still targeting double digit growth in Russia for 2009.

Even so, is 4.5 percent growth enough to warrant inclusion with China and India, whose economies still have the potential to grow 10 percent plus according to Goldman Sachs?