For at least two years in a row, BRIC has, in the words of SGS's Albert Edwards, stood for Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept, not an acronym for populous emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China as Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill saw it ten years ago.
In fact, O'Neill has himself expressed disappointment in India, one of the BRICs, a designation that has boosted foreign investment in India and helped accelerate its economic growth since 2001.
"All four countries have become bigger (economies) than I said they were going to be, even Russia. However there are important structural issues about all four and as we go into the 10-year anniversary, in some ways India is the most disappointing," said O'Neill as quoted by Reuters.
Noting India's significant dependence on foreign capital inflows, Jim O'Neill went further and raised a concern about the potential for current account crisis. "India has the risk of ... if they're not careful, a balance of payments crisis. They shouldn't raise people's hopes of FDI and then in a week say, 'we're only joking'". "India's inability to raise its share of global FDI is very disappointing," he said.
United Nations data shows that India received less than $20 billion in FDI in the first six months of 2011, compared to more than $60 billion in China while Brazil and Russia took in $23 billion and $33 billion respectively. Stocks in all four countries have underperformed relative to the broader emerging markets equity index, as well as the markets in the developed nations. Pakistan's KSE-100 has significantly outperformed all BRIC stock markets over the ten years since BRIC was coined.
As India's twin deficits continue to grow and the Indian rupee hits record lows relative to the US dollar, there is pressure on Reserve Bank of India to defend the Indian rupee against currency speculators who may precipitate a financial crisis similar to the Asian crisis of 1997.
In addition to Jim O'Neill, a range of investment bankers are turning bearish on India. UBS sent out an email headlined "India explodes" to its clients. Deutsche Bank published a report on November 24 entitled, "India's time of reckoning."
"Suddenly everything seems to be coming to a head in India," UBS wrote. "Growth is disappearing, the rupee is in disarray, and inflation is stuck at near-record levels. Investor sentiment has gone from cautious to outright scared."
India's current account deficit swelled to $14.1 billion in its fiscal first quarter, nearly triple the previous quarter's tally. The full-year gap is expected to be around $54 billion.
Its fiscal deficit hit $58.7 billion in the April-to-October period. The government in February projected a deficit equal to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product for the fiscal year ending in March 2012, although the finance minister said on Friday that it would be difficult to hit that target.
As explained in a series of earlier posts here on this blog, India has been relying heavily on portfolio inflows -- foreign purchases of shares and bonds -- as a means of covering its rising current account gap. Those flows are called "hot money" and considered highly unreliable.
Indian policy makers face a significant dilemma. If they do nothing to defend the Indian currency, the downward spiral could make domestic inflation a lot worse than it already is, and spark massive civil unrest. If they intervene in the currency market aggressively by buying up Indian rupee, the RBI's dollar reserves could decline rapidly and trigger the balance of payment crisis Goldman Sachs' O'Neill hinted at.