As the glitter starts to wear off the BRIC economies, New Zealand can learn salient lessons from their slow down.

New research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) reveals that businesses in the fast-growing BRIC economies increasingly view under-investment in national infrastructure as a major constraint on their ability to grow. Further, the data reveals that for the first time, the top five most optimistic economies include no BRIC nations.

Forty five per cent of BRIC businesses cite transport infrastructure as a major constraint on their ability to grow, up from 21% this time last year and well above the global average of just 12%. The figure is particularly high in Russia (74%) and India (59%).

In addition, 47% of BRIC businesses cited ICT infrastructure as a growth constraint. This compares to the 19% figure recorded 12 months ago and the global average of just 14%. Again, India (64%) and Russia (63%) are most concerned.

Growth in the BRIC economies over the past decade has been incredible with the four economies accounting for more than 30% of global economic growth since 2002. However, the IBR results reveal that they are now facing capacity issues. Investment in infrastructure appears to have lagged behind growth, leaving unsatisfied business demand for better connectivity.

Peter Sherwin, partner of Grant Thornton, said that New Zealand should reflect on these figures and see if it is a case of “the hat fitting” as far as our economy is concerned.

“New Zealand has under-invested in infrastructure for years and while we are trying to play catch up, are we actually doing enough.

“This research reinforces the strong parallel between investment in infrastructure and a strong economy. Yes, we have made progress in New Zealand with the gradual roll out of the high speed broadband network. Wellington has invested up to $500m on its rail public transport network with new rolling stock and  upgrades and extensions between Paraparumu and Waikanae. In Christchurch the new Southern Motorway has opened and the Western Corridor continues to be upgraded. The Auckland transport network is being expanded and strengthened, although the rail network doesn’t necessarily get to where the people are living. Transpower continues to spend hundreds of  millions of dollars upgrading and reinforcing the National Power Grid .

“This is all a good start, but it is going to need a substantial investment if we are to catch up on past under investment, or at least hold our spot at worst.

“And the worrying thing is that with the present social/political scene in New Zealand we may not have the means to carry on with the widespread infrastructure upgrades if the Government’s asset sales programme fails to realise the income projected, or there is a change of Government.

“The Greens and Labour sabre rattling over power structures and the Mighty River Power asset sale certainly paints a gloomy picture for future investment in our infrastructure, while a change of Government would halt much of it in its tracks, literally,” he said.

Sherwin said that such is the importance that these countries put on their infrastructure investment that at a summit last month the leaders of the four BRIC economies announced that they would, together with South Africa, be setting up a new development bank based on their “considerable infrastructure needs”.

Opportunities for frontier economies

The Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) indicated that for the first time in Q1-2013, no BRIC economy makes it into the top five for business optimism. Top of the list is Peru, followed by the Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Chile.

“Investment in infrastructure is a sign that governments are serious about facilitating business growth. This in turn breeds confidence. Last month’s announcement in South Africa indicates that the BRIC infrastructure concerns highlighted in the research are not temporary blips.They represent long-term problems that need to be addressed if growth is to be maintained in the coming years.

“However, while the BRIC economies overcome their growing pains, the next wave of emerging markets – such as rapidly reforming Mexico and the other rising Latin American stars, Peru and Chile – look ready to take up the mantle. There is no doubt that holes in output left by the BRICs offer opportunities for these  frontier economies.”

For further information please contact:

Peter Sherwin            
Grant Thornton New Zealand Partner, Privately Held Business
T +64 (0)4 495 3777
M+64 (0)21 638 522