Review of Ruchir Sharma’s “Breakout Nations”

by samantakbhadra

Economics has always possessed that characteristic indigestible and toxic charm which renders the study or dissection of any topic, even remotely associated with it, an intensely grey-cell-intensive expedition. This is where Ruchir Sharma’s book barges in through the gates of the mighty impenetrable bastion and brings with it a deluge of fresh air. The very first element that catches the reader’s attention is the ingenious and yet simple compartmentalization of different countries and geographical regions into independent and distinct chapters. This breaks down the seemingly convoluted concepts of economics into understandable and soluble pieces or nuggets. Each chapter delves into the economic situation of a particular country or a geographical region. The current economic situation when coupled with the past, the predictable future, political events and bigwigs, cultural mindsets and other good and not-so-good elements makes for a heady concoction. In that vein, each chapter can be likened to a short story narrated from the third person’s perspective by a master story-teller. To extend the viewpoint, the book, itself, is synonymous to a collection of short stories where each story is equally engrossing and unique.

The book is an ode to the emerging or breakout nations of the immediate future, nations that are going to stride ahead in terms of development and stability and stand out as role models for the other nations of the world. Through logic and reasoning, it scrutinizes certain economies and gives a verdict on whether that particular nation is poised to grow or fall in the coming years. Sharma starts off with the big giant, namely China. According to him, the wonderful stories revolving around China’s gargantuan growth in the future are over-estimations of the real scenario. Its growth rate is poised to slow down alongside the negative factor of an aging population. Inflation is also a major factor that will play spoilsport to the long term meteoric growth story that is projected now. Soon after the hype about China is busted, Sharma goes on to tackle the Indian conundrum. The most hard-hitting fact that comes across in the chapter concerning India is that the ‘demographic dividend’ factor is highly overrated. Besides this, poor infrastructure, corruption, policy paralysis and inflation are serious hurdles that are going to stem the apparent steaming ahead of India into the developed world.

Through the examples of Mexico and Russia, Sharma highlights the destructive effects of oligarchic nations.  The infrastructure in Brazil has degraded to such an extreme level that CEOs are compelled to use helicopters for commuting from one location to another. As for the disaster story of the Eurozone, he points out that all is not doom through the examples of Poland and the Czech Republic. He also talks about the grey area of the world aka The Fourth World which is represented by countries such as the African nations, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the others. Although the future trajectory of these nations cannot be determined in any particular manner because of the varied volatile factors governing the economic and political machineries of the nations, Sharma throws in delectable pieces of logic supported by facts which hints at the possible demise or growth of certain countries.  The two countries that stand tall by the time the reader has completed the journey called Breakout Nations are South Korea and Turkey. While South Korea is flexible and dynamic enough to churn out world-class Asian brands, Turkey is headed by one of the most charismatic leaders of our times.

The book, in itself, is a beautiful odyssey that is characterized by an in-depth knowledge about the machinations of different nations around the world. Sharma’s genius comes to light through the manner in which he has effortlessly and quite simply put forward the complex logical theories governing the economic future of the nations. This book is highly recommended for people who wish to come to terms with the current global economic situation as the book helps the reader to compare, dissect, analyze and judge economic theories and deductions in a much simpler and digestible manner.



Published in  (April, 2013)