'Mr. BRIC' to emerging markets: Stop "bitching and moaning"

Jim O'Neill on the BRIC problem
Jim O'Neill on the BRIC problem

Economics guru Jim O'Neill -- who coined the popular "BRIC" acronym -- said officials in emerging markets should quit "bitching and moaning" and start taking more responsibility for themselves.

O'Neill, a former chairman at Goldman Sachs (GS) Asset Management, rose to fame after proclaiming in 2001 that Brazil, Russia, India and China were emerging investment magnets that would drive global markets for a decade. The financial crisis notwithstanding, he was broadly correct.

But now, some emerging markets are struggling as they contend with plunging currencies, rattled stock markets, increasing borrowing costs and the threat of slower economic growth. Their current woes are being blamed on the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is planning to cut back on stimulus measures that had been flooding global markets with cash. With talk of the stimulus being scaled back, the money is drying up.

O'Neill is taking a tough love approach with the BRICs.

"I don't think it's really right for them to just constantly blame the Fed," O'Neill told CNN, as emerging market leaders this week called on developed economies to be careful about how they scale back their stimulus programs. "It's up to them to grow the role of their own currencies, and to take more responsibility within the G20 rather than just bitching and moaning about the Fed all the time."

Related: BRIC markets create $100 billion buffer fund

O'Neill said the BRICs should collaborate more effectively in order to take control of their currencies, economies and monetary policies.

"If they want to have some kind of influence, they need to start doing sensible things together," he said. "One thing they could do is ... actually agree to coordinate their own monetary and exchange rate policies when they need to. I think it's a smart thing to do."

That could involve intervening in currency markets if necessary.

"If I were a foreign exchange trader trying to short the Indian rupee -- and I knew there was the chance the Chinese might buy rupees the following day -- I might think twice," he said.

On Thursday, the original BRICs -- Brazil, Russia, India, China -- plus newcomer South Africa pledged to create a $100 billion fund designed to provide member countries with an emergency cushion of cash during times of crisis.

O'Neill called the fund an "encouraging, interesting development."

Related: Chinese yuan now among most traded currencies

But not all emerging markets are struggling. The economies that rely heavily on foreign capital, including India, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil, have suffered the worst.

China, the largest emerging market by far, is protected by its huge foreign currency reserves and current account surplus.

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