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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Key Learnings from Breakout Nations

All Thanks to Ruchir Sharma for his splendid book : Breakout Nations.

1) The old rule of forecasting was to make as many forecasts as possible and publicize the ones you got right. The new rule is to forecast so far into the future that no one will know that you got it wrong.

2) Goodhart's Law (Coined by former Bank of England, adviser Charles Goodhart) : Once an economic indicator get too popular, it loses its predictive value.

3) It is said that it takes money to make money, but for nations to grow rapidly it is much easier to be poor - the poorer, the better.

4) Typically it is difficult for any nation to expand the manufacturing share of its labor force much beyond 20 % , and China is already at around 23%.

5) "Low context", in contrast describes societies like United States and Germany in which people are individual oriented, care about privacy and more likely to stick to timelines and their word. Both India and Brazil are "high-context" societies, a term popularized by the anthropologist Edward Hall. It describes cultures in which people are colorful, noisy, quick to make promises that cannot always be relied on, and a bit too casual about meeting times and deadlines. These societies also tend to be particularly family-oriented, with tight relationships even beyond the immediate family, based on close ties that are built over long periods of time. In an environment this familiar, there is a lot that goes unsaid — or is said very briefly — because values are deeply shared. By the same token, much is implicitly understood from context. The spoken word is often flowery and vague. Apologies are long and formal. In that regard, Indians and Brazilians are a lot more like Italians than, say, Germans.

6) There are three layers of life in India : the increasingly cosmopolitan cities, the faceless towns and often the desperate villages.

7) Demographers traditionally expected customers to start asking for non essential "aspirational" goods like deodorant and hair conditioner only after they entered middle class.

8) The commodity windfall is fun while it lasts, but it also carries seeds of its own destruction

9) They say money talks and wealth whispers but in Moscow wealth dances on the bar.

10) A rich country need to make rich things to keep growing.

11) In the 1980s the late Vaclav Havel, at that time only dissident Czech writer, put the call to counter revolution well; he wrote that people living under Communism yearned for a normal life, free from communist call of 'permanent revolution', the unceasing efforts to turn themselves into model socialists.

12) Local authorities will start competing for growing pot of investment dollar by lowering prices of bribes and tips. Since the bribes collected locally are spent locally, the decentralization of corruption tilts the upside of even ill gotten gains away from Jakarta.

13) When everyone's a victim, its wonder anyone ever had the confidence to invest in the economy.

14) The basic idea that rich foreigners are always first to run in crisis is widely accepted. The truth is that the first to flee are most often the well positioned insiders.

15) To take the pulse of the global economy, look in Seoul. The numbers are fast, accurate and reliable.

16) At a certain point, when an apparently unconventional approach is working, you have to rethink the conventions, not the approach.

17) The Korean experience backs up the argument that the strongest corporate model is family owned but publicly traded and professionally managed. The family gives the company an inherent focus on the long run, while selling stock on the open market forces the family to keep the books clean, to put experts in charge of day to day operations , and to keep the loopy cousins out of the corner offices.

18) Some times it appear that South Korea has cultural blindness to the value of the services.

19) At zero on Gini scale everyone has same income, and and at 1, just one has all the income.

20) But moderation while preferable to chaos, is no longer in the post crisis global environment of less easy money and tougher competition.

21) Most workers in the informal sector have learned to live with what they have, and learned to live with quite little.

22) The arbitrary management of arbitrary rules is hardly the main risk in the fourth world frontier.

23) Markets are especially bad at foreseeing the financial implication of the war and hey are also weak at recognizing the benefits of peace.

24) The future must be decided based on what works, not on the ideological debates that retarded SriLanka's growth for so long.

25) Political systems don't impact growth for better or worse; political leaders do.

26) Even a small dose of market logic can produce dramatic results in a backward communist state.

27) A general rule for spotting credit bubbles is that if bank lending expands by more than 20 percent a year for five straight years.

28) Sometimes just modest reform or the arrival of a dynamic new leader can unleash growth, particularly in the frontier market.

29) The later a nation develops, the more opportunity it has to learn from nations that came before, and to leapfrog entire development steps in the process.

30 )Saying anything outrageous is considered a badge of merit among leaders on the frontier market.

31) The first rule for a successful oil state is :"Thou shalt not steal."

32) No bubble is a good bubble, all leave some level of misery in their wakes.

33) Cheap money policies also tend to fuel what the research firm GaveKal Dragonomics has aptly called "the worst kind of bubbles", because zero interest rates encourage investors to pile into assets that are priced on scarcity (gold, fine wines, collectibles, trophy properties), not on productivity (tech, machine tools, ships). When bubble pops the capital is simply destroyed and society is left with no more gold diamonds or fine wines than when it started. Atleast the tech bubble helped wire the world and left behind a whole new range of Internet tools and services, which have grown more valuable since.

34) The author George Goodman , best known by his pseudonym, Adam Smith, captured the closing moments of all manias perfectly in his book The Money Game, written at the height of a market boom in 1967 : "We are at a wonderful party, and by rules of game we know that at some point in time the Black Horsemen will burst through the great terrace doors to cut down the revelers; those who leave early may be saved , but the music and wines are so seductive that we do not want to leave, but we do ask, 'What time is it? What time is it?' Only none of the clocks have any hands.

35) George Orwell once observed, “Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”


  1. Well Analysed - but what do you make of some of his more unusual predictions for the Breakout Nations such as Indonesia?

    1. As of 2010, an estimated 13.3% of the population lived below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate was 7.1% that seems to be quite favourable from the point of view of human resources. Only the failure of national integration in this ethnically diverse nation can set this country back. But my knowledge is quite limited in this aspect.



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