All that Glitters …

If you’re involved in international business, you are accustomed to hearing about emerging markets. The breathless promotion of the so-called “BRIC” economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) dominates the discussion at many international trade forums. And if the BRIC countries aren’t the focus, the attention inevitably turns to other developing markets whose rates of GDP growth are enticing, to say the least.

On one level, this is perfectly understandable. Many markets in the developed world are growing very slowly, if at all, in terms of both population and economic activity, so who wouldn’t be interested in vibrant, young economies whose infrastructures need upgrading, whose populations thirst for consumer goods, whose universities are producing eager and capable graduates?

When faced with a choice, wouldn’t you rather focus on a market growing at 6% annually than one plodding along at 2% each year?

Well, call me a curmudgeon (you wouldn’t be the first, by the way), but I think there’s a lot to be said for measured and predictable markets, even if they are growing more slowly than some others. I’m reminded of this as I watch current events unfold in some emerging markets often held up as poster children for the excitement and potential of new markets.

Recent unrest in Turkey, for example, is giving serious pause to those who have regarded the country as the embodiment of a modern Muslim state in which business, self-expression and conservative religious principles can co-exist.

Brazil, a perennial economic under performer which transformed under the leadership of former president “Lula” da Silva into a modern, increasingly prosperous country, is also being hit by violent disturbances.

And a proposed fuel hike in Indonesia has provoked street demonstrations that are resulting in confrontations and an increasingly prominent law enforcement presence in that country, as well.

Now, nothing is without risk, and it’s true that one could look at almost any country and cherry-pick news items that raise red flags. Indeed, I have no problem with – and I do business in – countries and environments that require a heightened level of vigilance.

But there’s something to be said for the basic, predictable, and admirable rule of law that characterizes the mature and developed economies of the world. As we encourage emerging countries to make the transition to modern, functioning states, we should – particularly from a business perspective – remain mindful of the opportunities that exist in those that have already gotten the memo.