From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : BRICS
Mains level : Future agenda of BRICS
As India is gearing up to host this year’s BRICS summit, the grouping is facing fresh challenges, from disputes among member countries to tackling COVID-triggered crises and opportunities.
What is BRICS?
- To be clear, BRICS was not invented by any of its members.
- In 2001, Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill authored a paper called “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”, pointing out that future GDP growth in the world would come from China, India, Russia and Brazil.
- Significantly, the paper didn’t recommend a separate grouping for them, but made the case that the G-7 grouping, made up of the world’s most industrialized, and essentially Western countries, should include them.
- O’Neill also suggested that the G-7 group needed revamping after the introduction of a common currency for Europe, the euro, in 1999.
- In 2003, Goldman Sachs wrote another paper, “Dreaming with BRICs: Path to 2050”, predicting that the global map would significantly change due to these four emerging economies.
- In 2006, leaders of the BRIC countries met on the margins of a G-8 (now called G-7) summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, and BRIC was formalized that year.
Issues in its consolidation
- Common ground for the members was built by ensuring that no bilateral issues were brought up, but the contradictions remained.
- Many economists soon grew tired of “emerging” economies that didn’t reach the goals they had predicted.
- Others saw India’s closer ties with the US after the civil nuclear deal as a sign its bonds with BRICS would weaken.
- Meanwhile, Russia, which had hoped to bolster its own global influence through the group, had been cast out of the G-7 order altogether after its actions in Crimea in 2014.
- China, under Xi Jinping, grew increasingly aggressive, and impatient about the other underperforming economies in the group, as it became the U.S.’s main challenger on the global stage.
- China’s decision to launch the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative in 2017 was opposed by India, and even Russia did not join the BRI plan, although it has considerable infrastructure projects with China.
- South Africa’s debt-laden economy and the negative current account have led some to predict an economic collapse in the next decade.
- Brazil’s poor handling during the Covid-19 crisis has ranked it amongst the world’s worst-affected countries, and its recovery is expected to be delayed.
- India’s economic slowdown was a concern even before Covid-19 hit, and government policies like “Aatmanirbhar” were seen as a plan to turn inward.
Issues with BRICS nations
- Concerns about aggressions from Russia in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and China in the South China Sea, the border with India and internally in Hongkong and Xinjiang are clear visible.
- There is creeping authoritarianism in democracies like Brazil and India have made investors question long-term prospects of the group.
- In the market, BRICS has been mocked for being “broken”, while others have suggested it should be expanded to include more emerging economies like Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey, called the “Next-11”.
A roadmap to progress
- BRICS is an idea that has endured two decades, an idea its members remain committed to, and not one has skipped the annual summits held since 2009.
- Along the way, BRICS has created the New Development Bank (NDB) set up with an initial capital of $100 billion.
- There is a BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement fund to deal with global liquidity crunches, and a BRICS payment system proposing to be an alternative to the SWIFT payment system.
Reforming the multilaterals
- The BRICS ministerial meeting held this week sent several important signals to that end, issuing two outcome documents.
- It included the first “standalone” joint statement on reforming multilateral institutions, including the UN and the UNSC, IMF and World Bank and the WTO.
- It remains to be seen how far countries like China and Russia, which are already “inside the tent” at the UNSC, will go in advocating for the other BRICS members.
- Another important agreement was the BRICS ministerial decision to support negotiations at the WTO for the waiver of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) for vaccines and medicines to tackle the Coronavirus.
- What appears clear is in the post-Covid world, priorities for all economies will change, and offer up a churning in the world of the kind seen two decades ago, when the idea of a grouping of emerging economies was first floated.
- For BRICS, the next few months could crystallize that idea, or sink it further, leaving others to wonder whether the “Rise of the Rest” as it was once called, is an idea whose time will ever come at all.