Brazil, which saw its credit rating downgraded to junk last week, is only the latest BRICs economy to crumble in the face of a strong dollar, a global trade slowdown and the prospect of higher US interest rates. Russia is already in recession; many economists believe China is heading towards a “hard landing”; and South Africa, which managed to append itself to the emerging-markets club in 2010, is on the brink of recession. Of the group once identified as the shining economic beacons of the future, only India has so far remained relatively insulated from what World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu described last week as the “troubled” state of the global economy.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In 2009, as the rich western countries were surveying the chaos wrought by the financial-market crisis, China was cranking up an immense fiscal stimulus program to boost demand and kick-start growth. Beijing’s ability to muster financial firepower in the face of the crisis seemed to underline the shift of power towards the nimble emerging nations, with their rapidly growing middle classes, and away from the sclerotic Old World. FULL REPORT