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The BRICS nations and their priorities

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International Journal of Innovation and Economic Development
Volume 1, Issue 5, December 2015, Pages 7 – 14


The BRICS nations and their priorities

DOI: 10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.15.2001
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.15.2001

Miroslaw Przygoda

University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, Warsaw, Poland

Abstract: The so-called “BRICS nations” have recently proven to be the most fascinating group of worldwide economies that collaborate with each other. The name is an acronym for an association comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries, they are however distinguished by their large, rapidly growing economies and their significant impact on regional and global affairs. Before the inclusion of South Africa, the organisation was known as BRIC. On 13 April 2011, when South Africa joined the group, BRIC gained the letter “S”. The name “BRIC” itself was used for the first time by Jim O’Neill, a British economist of Goldman Sachs. Published in November 2001 and then widespread, O’Neill’s forecast predicted that by the half of the 21st century those countries would have become world powers. As of 2014, the BRICS countries represent almost 3 billion people – approximately 40% of the entire world population. The five nations have a combined nominal GDP of US$ 16.039 trillion, equivalent to approximately 20% of the gross world product, and an estimated US$ 4 trillion in combined foreign reserves. Since 2010, the representatives of the BRICS government have been meeting annually at formal summits. The nations within this group do not form a political alliance or an official trade association. The priorities of the members are as follows: Development of a new currency system; Reforming the United Nations, Increasing the role of developing countries in the international monetary institutions. Having regard to the emerging political and economic changes on a global scale, the BRICS nations have been undertaking new ventures and initiatives aimed to make them key players on the international arena. Today, it is really captivating to see to what extent those intentions are real and exercisable.

Keywords: BRICS, Forecast, Members, World power

1. Introduction

Coming into being of the BRICS nation’s organisation should be considered a world phenomenon of a political and economic nature. The so-called “BRICS nations” have recently proven to be the most fascinating group of five worldwide economies collaborating with each other. The name is an acronym for an association that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries, they are however distinguished by their large, rapidly growing economies and their significant impact on regional and global affairs.

At this stage, BRICS is to be perceived as an elite club, in the statute of which one may find innovative elements, revolutionary even, in regard to the message they are conveying. The method of implementing those ideas has already been meticulously planned: it is first to reform the global governance within the members of the “Five”, and then to take the reforms further – to all the corners and countries of the world. At the moment, the BRICS countries comprise five structures, all quite unlike the rest. At first glance, they do not seem to have anything in common: different is the civilization development, different is the material culture, and different is the way of thinking. A most turbulent history, settlement patterns, and utterly different languages set them apart.

However, the truth is that these countries do share some common features: they all are the dominant economic superpower of their region, they all had been ruled by charismatic rulers and they all have direct access to at least one ocean. They hold a strategic geopolitical position, they have gathered the military forces of all formations and they are currently exerting the biggest impact on the international arena. Most of them also occupy a large enough area. The key element though is something else, and that is common interests. Some analysts believe that the BRICS countries also share a common enemy (Skowronek T., 2011) and that an existing, discernible animosity towards him effectively consolidates their activities.

2. Origins of the Brics

The year 2006 is regarded as the date of establishing the BRICS nation’s organisation. It was then, when the representatives of the first four founding countries, known back then as BRIC, met at the foreign ministry level during the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. This was not, however, the sole and only attempt at creating an organisation that would associate the most economically active developing countries. Much earlier, already in the year 1961, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines had formed the Association of South-East Asia. This project failed miserably though.

It was ASEAN that emerged from the rubble left behind by the aforementioned organisation. ASEAN currently consists of the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Burma, and Cambodia. Based on this organisation, an ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) initiative has been created (it is not an institution however). It focuses on establishing mutual trust and on settling disputes amicably.

In addition to the original ASEAN founding countries, ARF brings together Australia, China, India, Russia, Bangladesh, Japan, Canada, Singapore, North Korea, Republic of South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, United States of America and, as an integral whole, the European Union. ASEAN Regional Forum is a place of dialogue between, on the one hand, the countries of Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Asia, and on the other, the most developed countries in the world; it exists for discussing the sensitive regional issues.

Another attempt intended to ease and stimulate mutual relations on the trade and economic front between the developing countries was undertaken with the creation of APEC. APEC is a loose integration association that deals with international economic collaboration of the Asian countries as well as countries situated on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It was founded in the year 1989 in Canberra as a result of an informal meeting between six ASEAN members.

The countries that have joined APEC are: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and USA. APEC is not an international organisation per se; the collaboration within it involves mainly political declarations, thus the participation in it concerns only the state economies. Because of the fact that the membership of China in APEC and of India in ASEAN has more likely than not disappointed the governments of those countries, IBSA group has been formed in order to yield tangible results. IBSA is intended to form a strategic alliance, an alliance that would promote and strengthen the tripartite collaboration of developing countries, and through which the members could voice their opinions on the international arena. Apart from IBSA, there is also a group called Outreach-5. Outreach-5 comprises all the members of IBSA plus China and Mexico. The creation of Outreach-5 reveals the organisational effort of members of the G7 group, an effort put into deepening the political and economic relations between the most dynamically developing countries on the one side, and countries whose economies are not yet comparable to the economies of developed Western countries on the other. Worth mentioning is also the collaboration of developing countries that started in 2005 and whose members are: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam. Although it has a less meaningful impact than the aforementioned structures, one should take into account a potential future growth of those countries. Together they form the “Next Eleven” group (N-11) that influences no less than 4 continents. MIKTA and CIVETS carry even less weight in the international arena. Out of the two, only MIKTA is the name of a functioning organisation, while CIVETS is merely an abstract term, used to describe a group of countries in a more precise way.

Lastly, one must also mention the Eurasian Economic Community, established in October 2000. Its members are: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Russia. Armenia, Moldavia, and Ukraine were only observing the situation. In October 2014, an agreement on the termination of the Eurasian Economic Community was signed by the leaders of the member states in connection with the launch of the Eurasian Economic Union. The founding treaty provides for the free movement of capital, labour, goods, and services between the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. It is not difficult to notice that this organisation is based on the European Union, as it has a similar structure and shares similar goals.

It has been designed and created for the states originating from the Eastern Bloc as a competition and an alternative for the European Union as well as other such organisations. The Eurasian Economic Union is open to new members that are willing to collaborate closely with the member states of this organisation. What is also important is that its pre-accession requirements are not set as high as those of the European Union. However, all the most important political and economic organisations, such as APEC, ASEAN, or Group of Seven + Five have a huge drawback that sets them back in their aspirations. The drawback is that the most economically developed countries participate, on various bases, in the works, meetings, and discussions of those organisations, creating an awkward situation, where the “rich” control the “less wealthy”.

The presence of the United States in all those three leading organisations must be especially disturbing for them. It is only IBSA that could enjoy a higher level of autonomy, operating, to a certain extent, outside of G7. Attempts undertaken by the West to control the Russian and Chinese economies had to result in a communication between the aforementioned countries and the state members of IBSA. It was indeed the sole and only viable solution for them. The four countries that constitute BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) decided to join forces and create a common political and economic bloc just when the global hegemony of the United States begun to fail and falter.

The factors that have contributed to such an outcome are: the lack of a clear success in the conflicts in Afghanistan and in Iraq (Romanek B., 2014), and before that, a strategic fiasco of the American troops in Somalia and a highly controversial NATO-led operation in Yugoslavia (Waldenberg M., 2003, pp. 373-379). Those happenings seem to have convinced the heads of state of the “rising countries” that America has no longer the power, nor the means necessary to single-handedly solve great antagonisms on a world scale.

This sound of a wake-up call was heard loud and clear, a call telling it was high time those countries took the matters into their own hands. Political dialogue within the BRIC format began in New York City in September 2006, when the BRIC foreign ministers conferred during the 61stUN General Assembly. In 2010, South Africa undertook efforts to join the BRIC grouping and the process for its formal admission began in August of the same year (Smith J. A., 2011). South Africa officially became a member nation on 24 December 2010 after being formally invited by the BRIC countries to join the group.

The group has been then renamed as BRICS – with the “S” standing for South Africa – to reflect the group’s expanded membership (Blanchard B., Zhou X., 2011) In April 2011, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma attended the 3rdBRICS summit in Sanya, China, as a full member (Xuequan M., 2010). In this way the BRICS organisation has reached its contemporary size and acquired its contemporary structure.

3. Main Goals

The grouping has been holding annual summits since 2009, with member countries taking turns to host. The first and second BRIC summits, comprising of only four members, were held in 2009 (Yekaterinburg, Russia) and 2010 (Brasilia, Brasil). The first five-member BRICS summit was held in 2011 (Sanya, China). The fourth meeting took place in 2012 in New Delhi, India, while the fifth meeting was held in 2013 in Durban, South Africa. The most recent BRICS summit took place in Fortaleza, Brazil, from 14 to 16 July 2014 (Patel K., 2012). The next meeting, seventh in total, of all the five member nations is going to be held in 2015 in the city of Ufa with a population of over one million, located to the north of the border with Kazakhstan in the European part of Russia. This metropolis is the capital of Bashkiria, an autonomous republic, which is a part of the Russian Federation. The annual meetings of the BRICS countries are of extreme importance. During these meetings, determined are the projects, which are then implemented. The first five meetings specified the number of basic objectives, outlined the plans, and identified the main mission of the organisation. Its aims and objectives can be divided respectively into several groups according to the accepted criteria.

Group I The group has been selected by the criterion of “creating a new world order.” The BRICS intentions that are expected to be implemented can be formulated in the following points (Cimek G., 2013, p. 69):

  • World based on the existence of at least three leading countries, as a tool preventing the domination of one superpower.
  • Dialogue between civilizations instead of the clash of interests.
  • Creation of a new, multiple and democratic governance at the international level, where decisions are made collectively by all states.
  • Changing the current approach to the problem of the sovereignty of states and laying out the new, fair boundaries.
  • Support for the governments and the people in charge of the Third World countries, expressed on the international political scene.
  • Striving to create full-fledged, coordinated global governance.

Group II Determined by the “criterion of changes in the operation of international organizations.”This group consists of the following points:

  • Recognition of the increasingly important role of G-20 countries and the announcement of the increase of BRICS contribution to the work of this group.
  • Comprehensive reform of the ineffective and inefficient United Nations.
  • Enlarging the BRICS group in the coming years.
  • Adding to the UN Security Council two or even three new permanent members, such as Brazil, India, and possibly also South Africa.
  • Use of international law in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations as a means of resolving any and all conflicts between states. Group IIICriterion: “socio-economic issues”. The most important points are as follows (Steward S., 2015):
  • Ensuring the food safety of the entire world population
  • Development of the middle class through imposing social responsibility of private corporations
  • Carrying out investment projects by BRICS members in the developing countries in dire need
  • Ensuring an adequate level of supply of energy and its sources
  • Capitalism based on the development of the real economy and, in particular, of the industry, technology and services instead of financial capitalism
  • Collaboration and coordination of BRICS activities, aimed at other developing countries in order to build a “harmonious world”
  • Idea of the sustainable development of societies and countries, based on a holistic and ecological worldview rather than mechanical, neoliberal principles of profit maximisation of the private investors
  • Ensuring that the relevant aid and development assistance will be provided to the poorest countries and societies

 Group IV Criterion: “financial issues”. Key points:

  • Creation of a new monetary system based on the principle of multi polarity.
  • Resignation from the US dollar as a global currency.
  • Reforming the global banking system.
  • Limiting the role of the International Monetary Fund.
  • Increasing the role and importance of developing countries in the international financial institutions.
  • Establishing BRICS’s own rating agency

Group V Criterion: “environmental issues”. The main points are as follows:

  • Preventing the climate change.
  • Preventing the devastation of the natural environment.
  • Development of environmentally friendly technologies.
  • Protection of still existing natural resources.

The results of the first five meetings of the Group can be generally described as wishful thinking. What had proven to be the major turning point for BRICS was a meeting in 2014 in Brazil. Between 14 and 16 July, in the city of Fortaleza that borders the Atlantic Ocean, two extremely important economic and financial projects were concretised, namely two agreements on the establishment of a joint bank for the group and on the establishment of its own fund of reserves. The document on the establishment of the New Development Bank, because such a name was adopted for the newly-created institution, was signed in the form of a resolution by the ministers of finance in the presence of the presidents. It took nearly three years to prepare this event. Established were the details of the operation of NDB: the initial capital of the bank was set at $50 billion, with each of the five countries making a commitment to transfer the sum of $10 billion to the shared fund. Ultimately, by the year 2021, the NDB capital is expected to have been raised to $100 billion. The BRICS New Development Bank was set up to challenge the two major Western-led giants – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. NDB’s key role will be to serve as a pool of currency for infrastructure projects within a group of five countries with rapidly growing national economies – Russia, Brazil, India, China, and South Africa. New Development Bank was established for BRICS and United Nations countries alike. However, shares of the BRICS countries in the capital of the bank may not fall below 55 percent. In the initial phase of the Bank’s existence, an accounting currency will be US dollars (USD), and it’s only in the year 2017 that they are planned to be replaced by the Chinese Yuan. The New Development Bank is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year 2015, with the headquarters slated for opening in Shanghai. The chairmanship, with a term of five years, will rotate among the members (Whitaker P., 2015). The Bank will be managed jointly. The Board of Governors will have the supreme authority, while the chief executive power will be vested with the Board of Directors. It was agreed that the Representative of India would be designated as the first President.

The second resolution of the summit in Fortaleza refers to the establishment of the common Reserve Monetary Fund (Contingent Reserve Arrangement – CRA). The main reason for the creation of this body was bad financial decisions made in the past by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank authorities. In order to support the currency of countries that struggle due to a difficult financial situation, the creation of an own additional pool of reserve currencies was decided upon, with the funds being non-transferable, but a certain amount will be kept in the accounts of central banks. The Contingent Reserve Arrangement is to be funded with pooled reserves of $100 billion. However, the share of each country in the Fund will not be even.

China Will Have The Biggest Share, Amounting And Equivalent To $41 Billion, While Brazil, India And Russia Will Contribute $18 Billion Each. South Africa, Which Economically Speakingis By Far The Weakest Partner, Is Expected To Pay $5 Billion. The Cra, Pooling In Foreign Exchange Reserves, Is Of Utmost Significance To South Africa, Which Will Contribute Only $5 Billion In Guarantees, But, Should The Need Arise, Will Have Access To $10 Billion – A Sum Doubling Its Contribution ( Steyn L., 2014).

Other important provisions that concern the evolution and improvement of BRICS and are attributable to the meeting in Brazil can be reviewed in but a few points. The main goals of BRICS in the nearest future are (Szafarz S., 2015): •        Creation of an own statistical office that will be responsible for publishing all official data concerning the entire grouping.•        Establishment of its own rating agency.•        Creation of a joint research centre (the so-called “think-tank”).•        Creation of an economic council and the board of advisors of the BRICS countries.•        Supporting online trading (the so-called “e-commerce”).•        Enhancement of collaboration with other countries on all continents, especially with South America and Africa.•        Conducting “cultural diplomacy «based on spreading knowledge about the achievements in arts as well as the cultural and historical heritage of the “BRICS Five” to the whole world.•        Development of mutually coherent social policy, particularly in terms of employment and creating new jobs.•        Coordination of the most vital decisions in common foreign policy. When analysing the outcome of the 6thBRICS meeting in Fortaleza, one can conclude that the opinions anticipating the imminent «burnout” of the organization’s core turned out to be completely wrong and exaggerated. Governments of these five countries showed at this stage of cooperation not only their determination, maturity, care, and responsibility for the future of their nations, but also a huge concern for the future of the entire world. It can be said, and it can be said with full conviction that a giant leap has been made in 2014 in Brazil towards the construction of a new world order.

4. Political and Economic Potential of the Group

BRICS nations constitute a group in many respects varied. For instance, according to data gathered in 2012, China surpassed Brazil over five times in terms of GDP growth rate. As regards GDP per capita, India recorded a nearly four times and a half lower rate than Russia. The population of South Africa equals only slightly more than 25% of Brazil’s, 4% of India’s, and only 3,6% of China’s. A brief overview of the basic data is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: BRICS 2012 overview (Dmochowska H., Witkowski J., Gus 2014)

 

Brazil

 

Russia

 

India

 

China

South africa
GDP

Growth rate

 

1.5%

 

3.7%

 

5.8%

 

7.8%

 

2.5%

GDP

Usd (billions)

 

2,296

 

1,951

 

1,842

 

8,144

 

366

GDP per capita usd  

12,160

 

17,604

 

3,978

 

9,451

 

11,859

Populations persons (millions)  

195

 

143

 

1,220

 

1,329

 

49

Land

Km2

 

8,511,965

 

17,098,242

 

3,287,263

 

9,595,960

 

1,219,912

An analysis of the separate data points to china as the unquestionable leader of the group, followed by Russia in terms of economic results. Those powers enjoy a strong position not only in the group, but also on the global arena. Both belong to g20, which officially unites world’s wealthiest countries. Only recently Russia ceased to engage in the discussions of g8, an important political and economic forum giving the most developed states the opportunity to meet in their closed circle.

After the annexation of Crimea on 24 march 2014, other members of the group (the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the USA) decided to suspend the participation of Russia in the meetings (Acosta j., 2014). Thus, g8 was transformed into g7. China and Russia are important players on the international arena beyond a shadow of doubt, but only the combined potential of the whole “five” gives an idea of their status in the world. Moreover, the situation is improving with each year.

As of 2014, the BRICS nations represent almost 3 billion people, accounting for approximately 40% of the world population. the five nations have a combined nominal GDP of USD 16.039 trillion, equivalent to approximately 20% of the gross world product, and an estimated USD 4 trillion in combined foreign reserves. A lion share of the reserves was allocated to developed countries as material or capital investments and yielded substantial profit. Another part of the foreign reserves was used in the developing countries which either are BRICS neighbouring states or have a strategic importance for the group. A flagship investment of this type is the so-called “Nicaragua canal” intended to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. An estimated cost of the massive construction amounts to over USD 40 billion.

As for the canal itself, it is known to be planned as a waterway 278 km long, 260-520 m wide and, on average, almost 28 m deep. A railway and an oil pipeline will run along the canal and two huge ports will be built on its ends. The Chinese offered to perform the works and cover the costs. Contrary to what one might expect, it is a very profitable undertaking for china, as the contract guarantees it an exclusive right to exploit the canal for 50 years (a privilege which may subsequently be extended by the next half a century) and full exemption from taxes. According to the information available to the general public, Nicaragua will receive only a small share of the profit: 10% after the first ten years with annual increases by less than 1% thereafter (Staniul m., 2014).

The canal is a huge opportunity for the poverty-stricken Nicaragua. Obviously, it is also a great success of china and indirectly of the whole BRICS, considering that the canal manager and its allies gain independence from the Panama Canal and secure a foothold for their own activity in Central America. The construction will create an important post for controlling one of the zones of the highest strategic importance on the earth as well as for spreading beliefs and ideas.

Therefore, permanent presence in the region, investments on a large scale, and dissemination of social and cultural standards will become efficient and effective tools for political and economic expansion of china and its allied BRICS nations. The aforementioned investment and similar initiatives will become an attractive alternative for capital undertakings in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and South America. In such cases, the greatest benefit consists in gaining financing from sources outside America and Western Europe.

6. Conclusion

Apparently, the BRICS nations enter a period of particularly good times, as indicated by a body of facts. All of the states in question, possibly with the exception of Russia, have proved immune to the economic crisis. Their economies maintain a sustainable and dynamic growth. Each of the countries separately is a prominent regional military power, strong and resolved enough to support its ambitions by military presence or intervention in the event of any infringement upon its outlined sphere of interest. China, Russia, and India are sovereign nuclear-weapon states. Supposedly, also South Africa possesses nuclear weapons from late 1970s (Pławski K., 2011). Brazil did conduct its own nuclear-weapon programme in 1975-1988, although its final results remain unknown. Human capital of the BRICS nations comprises massive resources including tens of millions of students, scientists, and specialists in all imaginable areas of expertise. Moreover, the BRICS nations hold a significant part of world’s most precious natural resources, including oil, natural gas, uranium, gold, and diamonds.

South Africa’s accession revealed that the group may also be joined by other countries in the future. There is no shortage of prospective members: main candidates include Turkey, Mexico, South Korea, and Indonesia. Indonesian authorities have even declared their willingness to participate in BRICS summits as a full member. This indicates that the countries aiming to join the group perceive the participation as an opportunity to boost their position on the international arena and benefit from mutual cooperation (Skowronek T., 2011).

Rumour has it that Germany has initiated secret negotiations on accession to BRICS (Hunter G., 2014). If this is true, the consequences for the existing global balance of power will be far-reaching. Keeping in mind the close ties of politicians from the Federal Republic of Germany with Russian and Chinese officials, it is not an impossible scenario. Other prospective candidates for BRICS members comprise: Japan, Argentina, Iran, Egypt, and Nigeria. Most recently, Bangladesh have expressed an interest in joining this organisation. In the light of the existing international situation, one should not disregard the candidacies of Kazakhstan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Vietnam, either.

The diversity of objectives set by BRICS, and particularly their considerable number, indicate that the achievement of goals is a multi-year project, necessitating the involvement of many people, the development of administration, and the accession of new members. The political and economic international structure of BRICS dismantles the existing system, demonstrating its anachronistic nature and serious, conspicuous faults.

The group overturns the present geopolitical balance entirely and sets a new direction for the growth of international trade and economy by offering to replace the existing solutions with a new global order friendlier and fairer for economically weaker countries. The programme has already presented an enticing and attractive development alternative for the countries outside G7. Therefore, the developing countries look towards the meeting in the capital of Bashkiria with hope and profound interest. The forthcoming summit in Ufa will show whether the group has not lost its radical approach and still makes its decisions with a flourish.

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