BRICS Sally Campbell
Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa: What do they have in common? They comprise BRICS, the group we’d do well to keep our eyes on. Formed in 2009 after the global financial crisis, they jointly decided to pursue other ways to respond to the World Bank (WB)’s and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s grip on their economies/stringent policies on lending. Helena Cobban’s research on Globalities, a branch of her Just World Education site, shows that in the decision-making of the World Bank, the US vote counts for 15.64% of the total vote, while that of the original five BRICS nations combined Is 14.24%. No wonder BRICS is creating its own system of global finance. Their focus for their first decade was on trade, the dollar, sanctions, development and infrastructure finance.
They are part of what is now being called the “majority world”, and 40 other nations in that world are clamoring to join them. Of those, 23 countries have formally applied to join BRICS, including 7 of the 13 oil-producing countries. At their late-August summit in South Africa, they accepted six new members, (now becoming BRICS +). They are Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, & UAE.
How different an idea this is from the Western concept of the “3rd world” or even the “developing world”. Remembering how language shapes thinking, it’s time to give our heads a shake and examine the myths we hold about Western superiority, the cultural conditioning many Westerners consider to be unshakeable reality, and how we define “developed”. Maybe our language needs to become more inclusive; certainly our thinking needs to.
Our ingrained, often unconscious racism may lead some to simply judge or fear BRICS as a threat or perhaps to dismiss its rapid growth by ignoring or minimizing it. So maybe this is a time to learn more about BRICS. Here’s a few things they are not:
They are not a socialist or even an anti-imperialist bloc.
They are not a military alliance.
They are not attempting to be a moral force in the world.
They are not trying to take over the world.
Their interests are geo-economic, related to having a sustainable way of life in the countries they live in. They are trying to cooperatively build their own economies, out from under the grip of US/Western hegemony.* For instance, they are offering loans to their member countries without the austerity provisions of the IMF. 30% of those loans are in local currencies.
The US, and to a lesser extent, the EU, currently have sanctions in place against dozens of countries. Naturally, Russia has been sanctioned for its invasion of Ukraine. To the surprise of many, Russia’s economy only diminished by 2.2% in 2022 (John Power, Aljazeera, May 20,2023). After the 2022 sabotage and destruction of its Nordstream Pipeline to Germany, Russia diverted its energy exports from the EU to China, Turkey and India.
And as so many countries are being sanctioned these days, BRICS members are trading in their own economies and gradually leaving the dollar behind. Their bank is called the New Development Bank (NDB), intended as a counterpoint to the WB & the IMF. The NDB has authorized capital of $100B, no small change.
In 2009, Head of Economic Research for Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill described BRIC (before South Africa joined in 2010) as including the “largest emerging markets” in the world, growing faster than the G7. He stated that G7 should “be adjusted to incorporate BRICs representatives”. (Progressive International, No.34: Dismantling Northern Hegemony BRICS by BRICS, July, 2023) This didn’t happen, and now O’Neill’s research assistant, Roopa Purushothaman, is chief economist to India’s TATA Group, whose $106B market capitalization value is three times that of Goldman Sachs. The times they are a-changing. Speaking of which, thanks to Music from the Deep Dark Woods’ King Anderson for playing Frazey Ford’s stunning version of that Dylan song last week on Hornby Radio CHFR! Well worth a listen indeed, a fresh take on a song as relevant as ever. Back on topic: The G7 countries – Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, US, UK and the EU had a 70% share of the global economy in the 1980’s. That share has now diminished to 44% today. (Aljazeera, above) These are rather startling numbers, not ones we often hear in mainstream media. Will we pay attention and ride the horse the direction it’s going?
Here’s more from Progressive International’s 34th weekly news bulletin: “The BRICS is not a moral force. But its development is part of a historical process that sees Northern hegemony wane and splinter. That process presents opportunities for progressive forces around the world to engage with critically”. That gives me hope.
We in Canada, a mid-size power, would do well to cease our sabre-rattling against China, lobby for an immediate cease-fire and negotiations to end the Ukraine War, and attempt to maintain and extend our economic ties globally. We have a global climate crisis to attend to, after all, and this summer has shown we are far from immune to the ravages of global warming.
* “Hegemony is the phenomenon whereby one group leads the whole by projecting its interests as the collective interests” (Progressive International, above).