The Big Blink

Although the source of future global demand is clearly the billions of consumers in Africa, China, and India, policies being pursued in the advanced countries are jeopardizing the adjustment process. The showdown between advanced and emerging-market economies should end with all sides blinking simultaneously and embracing commonsense compromises.

CHICAGO – World growth is likely to remain subdued over the next few years, with industrial countries struggling to repair household and government balance sheets, and emerging markets weaning themselves off of industrial-country demand. As this clean-up from the Great Recession continues, one thing is clear: the source of global demand in the future will be the billions of consumers in Africa, China, and India.  But it will take time to activate that demand, for what is now being produced around the world for industrial-country consumers cannot simply be shipped to emerging-market consumers, especially the poorer ones among them.

If we want to talk about billions of new consumers, rather than the tens of millions who have incomes similar to the middle classes in industrial countries, we must recognize that many emerging-market consumers have much lower incomes than industrial-country consumers, and live in vastly different conditions. Their needs are different, and producers around the world have, until recently, largely ignored them.

But times are changing. Increasingly, producers are focusing on people who, if not at the bottom of the income pyramid, comprise the vast numbers nearer the base.

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