Hamid Al Caid 2017-08-28
BRICS: Is It Only About Economic Inclusion?

In 2015 Russia presides over BRICS for the second time after Yekaterinburg summit in 2009. This year’s gathering took place amid various challenges pertaining to the member countries and the entire world. Leaders and government representatives of several sectors from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa gathered across Russia to discuss issues of mutual interests, in addition to global affairs affecting the member countries. Although the discussions focused on boosting economic ties among them while advancing each country’s competitiveness at the regional and global levels, political analysts and experts raise the speculations regarding the development of the grouping’s ambition from economic association into potential political front vis-a-vis Western hegemony.


BRICS is the acronym for the joint inter-state bloc of 5 emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This multi-lateral grouping was created incrementally after several informal meetings on the side event of UN general assembly. The bloc was initially abbreviated “BRIC” by Jim O’Neill, former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, in his book Building Better Global Economic BRICs In 2001. The acronym BRIC was added an “S” after South Africa joined the other countries in 2010.


The member countries share common features that motivated their leaders into such an inclusion. Despite that all of them have had distinctive geographical, historical, cultural, political and linguistic backgrounds, a look at the economic and social indices of each country illustrates that they are classified into the category of “emerging economies” that could create a challenge to the current “Global North” structures, including the EU and US as both traditional hegemonic powers since the end of WWII.


China alone achieved unprecedented leap with nominal GDP worth 10,356,508 US Dollars according to the World Bank in 2014. Brazil and India achieved 2,346,583 and 2,051,228 US Dollars respectively, marking therefore more than 20 % of the global GDP. Beside the gross world product, the 5 countries are now home to more than 3 billion people, which is equal to 24 % of the world population. China and India have the largest population in the world with estimates of over 1,300,000,000 people in each. Hence, the human capacity beside natural resources as gas, oil and mining is the main driving force of economic and social development in the BRICS.


The emergence of BRICS’ seems less interesting to the dominant western countries as they showed apathy towards its existence. However, the economic cooperation between the BRICS countries, beside growing investments in third world countries might threaten the global interests of the US and EU with taking advantage of economic growth into serving political agendas for each member country of the BRICS. Russia, for instance, is diplomatically backed by China in the UN Security Council when decisions are made about points of tensions, including the Middle East and Ukraine. Nevertheless, not all BRICS countries share the same goals behind the unity, but each sole country tries to make benefit out of the deal for national interests; thus there is divergence of interests among them. Some countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, aspire to achieve strong economic and social growth, while others go even further to promote their positions as key players in the global affairs, as is the case with Russia and China. India, on the other hand, appears to be more interested in strengthening its economy and promoting its internationalization capacities without taking part in world politics. Notwithstanding that each of the countries has different strategic goals behind the BRICS as an economic union; the likelihood for interest change is quite high amid instability of global political and economic climate that manifests indices of power shakiness.


With the establishment of the New Development Bank in 2014, the BRICS has started to set institutions which are hoped to give an impetus to the intra-lateral cooperation as well as support to other emerging economies. This new institution though currently operated by 5 countries is actually challenging the Western dominated financial institutions as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Consequently, it appears that BRICS succeeded at “impressing” several emerging economies, among which is Turkey as its hope of joining the EU is fading away. Argentina and Indonesia could also become members into the coalition, if they were satisfied with the outcomes. The fact that Russia has invited Greece to join the BRICS could be portrayed a possible blow to the EU’s integration efforts.


Many questions are to be posed concerning the future of BRICS’s strategic plans in the spheres of economic development as an alternative paradigm against the dominant one. Political Analysts and Economists go even further to argue whether the BRICS is paving the way in the context of the “new world order”. Others assume that BRICS is actually simulating the existing patterns of global economical structures through the same public policies and institutions. The future of BRICS can be forecasted after studying key economic data of each country together with their foreign policies and interests on global issues in the context of dynamic global situations. Therefore, expectations claims multi-polarity of power wherein BRICS will induce emerging countries that are not G20 members create similar structures, enabling them to establish collective development institutions. However, not all developing countries will make it through the economic inclusions; they will face protracted ideological and territorial disputes between proximate countries, besides social instability and their full or mostly complete dependence on one of the global actors that make considerable influences over the world affairs.


Regarding the relationship between BRICS and the other global actors of today, it is necessary to note that there is a significant divergence about this matter, meaning that members of the bloc have different attitudes towards the US and EU regarding the representation of power and the processes of global governance. China, for example, endeavors to win the economic game while Russia struggles to regain the Soviet legacy as a global political and military actor. India, on the other hand, does quite clever by adopting soft power in such alternative means of influence as cultural diplomacy. South Africa, likewise seeks out leadership in the heart of Africa against other North African competitors. Brazil on its part tries to prevail over Latin America. Consequently, BRICS cannot work in isolation from the EU or US in managing global issues of common influence such as Global Warming, proliferation of weapons of mass distraction and the promotion of global peace and security. We may infer that BRICS relations with the West remain stable and incentivized by the need to cooperate against the aforementioned global problems.