The outcome of the 1st BRIC Summit: a derelict zero

Sushovan Dhar The first-ever summit of the BRIC1 countries took place at Yekaterinburg at Russia on 16th June 2009 calling for a more diversified international monetary system. The core focus of the meeting, attended by President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese president Hu Jintao and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva was to improve the current global financial situation, to discuss how the four countries could collectively work better in the future and to reform the financial institutions. At the end of the summit, the BRIC nations suggested the need for a new global reserve currency that is ‘diversified, stable and predictable’. Background BRIC encompass over 25% of the world’s land coverage, 40% of the planetary population and hold a combined GDP (PPP) of $ 15.445 trillion 2 which is 22.4% of global GDP. They are among the biggest and fastest growing emerging markets. These countries belong to the middle rung of the development ladder and the meeting ground is essentially their high GDP growth rate, explosion of the financial markets with rapidly rising stock markets, high recipient of Foreign Direct Investment, etc. China and India lead the pack in most of these aspects. The following table3 provides the BRIC positions vis-à-vis the other nations with a few macro-economic parameters: BRAZIL Total Area Population GDP (Nominal) GDP (PPP) Exports Imports Current Account Balance Received FDI

5th 5th 10th 9th 21st 27th 47th 16th

RUSSI A 1st 9th 8th 7th 11th 17th 5th 12th

INDIA 7th 2nd 12th 4th 23rd 16th 169th 22nd

CHINA 4th 1st 3rd 2nd 2nd 3rd 1st 5th

BRIC refers to the fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The acronym was first coined and prominently used by Goldman Sachs in 2001.Goldman Sachs argued that, since they are developing rapidly, by 2050 the combined economies of the BRICs could eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries of the world. 2 IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, Data for 2008. 3


Russia. Mongolia and Pakistan enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka. To the dismay of a lot of its admirers. far from absolute. 2 . their attempts have been all too sporadic. But to protect and secure safe places within the current hegemonic order. The final statement felt a strong need for a stable. volatility and turbulence of the global economy. However. predictable and more diversified international monetary system. and Uzbekistan. India. in the wake of current “crisis”. Kazakhstan. The typhoon unleashed by the neo-liberal project has resulted in a total deregulation of the financial markets and is wracking the globe in the form of simultaneous crises from global financial collapse to worsening climate changes. the purpose is not really to challenge the “hegemony” or to emerge as the new “hegemons”. The monetary system which they critique so much has also been a product 4 The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental mutual-security organization which was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China.Foreign Exchange Reserves External Debt Public Debt Electricity Consumption Number of Mobile Phones Number of Internet Users 7th 23rd 47th 10th 5th 5th 3rd 20th 117th 3rd 4th 11th 4th 27th 29th 7th 2nd 4th 1st 19th 98th 2nd 1st 1st The Summit Held in the midst of this profound global crisis. however. either at the negotiation table of the now derailed World Trade Organisation (WTO) or at the annual jamboree of the big business leaders as well as the rich and elite at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF). Hitherto. the summit spelt out nothing new or novel in any of its deliberations. Tajikistan. The meeting aimed to face the reforms proposals in circulation or in the pipe-line. the BRIC countries are following the same neo-liberal order which has immensely contributed to the instability. at least in the immediate future. As evident from the statements and deliberations.mainly represented by the G-7. Iran. largely put forward by the developed countries . The summit was also organised at a critical juncture when the advanced industrial states which also forms the core of the imperialist order or the G8 is bereft of legitimacy. this Summit was intended to be a space to officially announce the creation of this loose block. which is. Belarus and Afghanistan are dialogue partners. It is plausible that the BRIC leaders decided to intensify their efforts at a time when the foundations of the G8 domination seem to be trembling. discussions or declarations to provide a way out of the crisis or towards a new global political-economic order that can save humanity from this predicament. Kyrgyzstan. who envision the BRIC or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)4 as a strong bulwark against the US imperialism.

an economist with BNP Paribas in Beijing. to be the dominant global suppliers of manufactured goods and services while Brazil and Russia would become similarly dominant as suppliers of raw materials6. are keen to find a larger share of the global 3 . Paul Cavey. No wonder that they earn so much praise from Goldman Sachs whose thesis 5 recognizes that Brazil.1 billion in November. The trade surplus was only $4. It is often said that when the West sneezes.html China View http://news. It will have a 5 6 7 8 9 “Ask the expert: BRICs and investor strategy”.goldmansachs. the attempt to reposition BRIC on a global scale is essentially an endeavour of its rising capitalist class who have already cornered large chunks of their domestic markets and.htm BBC http://news.stm FX Press http://thefxpress.84 billion . It must be noted that the nation state has historically been a vehicle for capital to enforce the logic of the market. Beijing catches cold.3 billion. The exports were “…. India and China have changed their political systems to embrace global capitalism. The Current State of Affairs Let us turn our attention to the recent state of affairs within the BRIC while covering its tracks with fine sounding phrases about social responsibility and patriotism.a three-year low . The bourgeoisie of these countries are desperately banking upon their states to act on their behalf either alone or collectively. thereby slashing its trade surplus. That was far short of market expectations of $27. and it's difficult to see why that would improve in the short term.xinhuanet.1 billion in January and a record $40.compared to $39. Isaac Meng. Russia. a terrible number. Nov 6 2006 Exports in February dropped by 25. observed: “China has finally and spectacularly succumbed to the world financial crisis on the export side.of the capitalist order that values profit and accumulation above anything else. dwarfing forecasts of 5%. China The leading economic power of this group is in the strong grips of the current global crisis sending exports from the workshop of the world tumbling. Goldman Sachs predicts China and India. argued that it was unrealistic to expect China to remain immune to the sharpest drop in global trade in 80 years. respectively. resulting in the possibility of accelerated growth of unemployment and further slow down of consumption. despite a $586 billion 8 stimulus package that the Government hopes will cushion the blow. The phenomenal growth of the BRIC is due to its ability to entrench this capitalist order by firmly embracing the neo-liberal”9 The collapse in global demand for China’s toys. The fallout is felt across the Chinese economy. footwears and other goods has already put 20 million migrants out of work. Thus. an economist with Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong. Leaders worry that more job losses could spark unrest and are promising to spend heavily to create Financial Times.7% 7 from a year

there are several contradictions and strains with the other members of the selfappointed group. Russia The biggest military superpower in the group. The growth that was celebrated with complete disregard of labour and environmental concerns has considerably slowed down and would halt if the situation drags on indefinitely. they fell down to $48412 billion after money flew out of government vaults to sustain the rouble. a global credit crunch and a slow-motion run on this country’s private banks . it does not imply that the fellow club-members are in perfect agreement with her. Given the fact that she is the world’s wealthiest country in natural resources — from fertile farmlands and metals. Her colossal hydrocarbon reserves are too alluring. to gold and timber.plunging oil prices. At the onset.Russia has had to spend its reserves sooner than anybody imagined. 12 Ibid. she witnesses that NATO is being extended right up to its front-yard and its erstwhile allies (?) capitulating to its competing political and military block. she also remains a nuclear and missile superpower and any antagonism with the country would not let “business” flow unhindered. In August 2008 reserves peaked at just under $600 billion11. In 1980. Besides. Indeed in the postSoviet era all that represents a lucrative opportunity to exploit by global The culmination of these assaults was the US-led action in engineering Kosovo’s February 2008 selfproclamation of independence. the erstwhile G7 could not ignore her.asp? section=Business_News&subsection=market+news&month=March2009&file=Business_News200903129422. In absolute logical senses.thepeninsulaqatar. Moscow’s economic fortunes for long have been tied too heavily to oil . employment and consumption. 4 . However. a 70% crash in stock markets. the authorities insisted that they had ample cash reserves to weather any storm. In fact. Indeed. Russia. prop up the banking system and bail out the businesses of the rich Russian oligarchs. Probably 60 million to 70 million workers directly work in these export sectors. Russia is also a member of G8. the Soviet 10 The Peninsula http://www.a commodity with volatile prices.” 10 That is bad news for those dreaming that China. so there will be secondary impacts on capital expenditure. By October end. However. a post-Cold War scenario would have warranted the ultimate dismissal of all military pacts and posts. the third largest in the world. It is indeed catastrophic that the Chinese authorities perturbed by the Tibetan protests have to face the crisis and have no practical responses to it in a year which also marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests. who had called for developing new reserve currencies to complement the dollar. 2008.pretty big impact on Chinese domestic demand. October 31. But as distress has ensued trouble . Russia was accommodated in the select club considering all such geo-political and economic compulsions. Hence. at a separate event earlier in the day is also not in a cosy zone. with its huge domestic savings.xml 11 The New York Times. could tow other economies out of the distress.

The Economist. which would be its biggest setback since 1948. and foreign investors have fled to safer places.5% contraction of the Brazilian economy.7% in the first quarter of this year16. 2009 at St. “Latin America may contract 4%. Lula declared that the problem of external debt no longer existed.reuters. financial swindles and economic collapses. Russians withdrew 4% of deposits from private banks. 2009. The delights of dullness. About a dozen Russian banks have failed and have been subsequently bailed out. according to an estimate by Citibank's Moscow office. the markets’ decline has not affected them directly. 17 April 2008. In September 2009. on June 5. What was going on elsewhere didn’t matter. which employs around 40% of Brazilian workforce. 15 Andre Solani and Fabiola Moura. Deposits dropped far more precipitously in October: up to 30% for some private banks. The myth of decoupling was over. rising oil prices played a key role in Russian economic revival. 13 14 Reuters http://www. 5 . the global financial crisis has hit Russia harder than any other big emerging market. perceived as more reliable. Caracas. Morgan Stanley has even predicted a 1. zero growth would pull the rug from under the hope for a middle-class life for millions. if oil prices continue to descend. Initially. Some went into state banks. but about half remained in cash. Bloomberg. after a 5. rather than structural troubles with liquidity. and that doesn’t even take account of job losses in the informal economy.3% in April. one thing still sets this country apart: The crisis of 2008 is just the latest in a long string of post-Soviet bank failures. 17 Source: Ministry of Labour & Employment. Indeed. 16 Latin American Herald Tribune. June. The big risk here is a loss of faith among clients and subsequent bank runs. Eight hundred thousand workers lost their jobs between October and January17 (nearly 1% of the workforce). The epidemic stretched in March 2009 and it scared the nation. shrinking their horizons back to cramped apartments and garden plots. Petersburg sounded cautious about the state of Russian economy and said that the global crisis is not over as yet13. businesspeople that relied on Western bank credit are now burdened by debt. Morgan Stanley says”. 16 March 2009. During the Putin presidency. The Bradesco bank’s estimates of growth nosedived from more than 4% in June 2008 to 2. growth would continue “at its present rate for the next 15 to 20 years”14 . Half a million Brazilians have found themselves back in poverty or extreme poverty. Few Russians own stocks and hence. However. when global oil prices were riding high.67% GDP growth in 2007. his spirit was high. President Medvedev speaking at the country’s top business forum. Federal Government of Brazil. Brazil’s economic results meant an end to the debate about its immunity from global contagion. Brazil The Lula government initially declared that the world crisis was not going to affect Brazil.Union overtook Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer. Amid the global fear. His remarks were devoid of the bombast and exuberance which characterized last year’s Forum.5% in December – and then to -0. Instead. 15 Brazil’s industrial production plunged 14. Moscow’s coffers were full and the economy was growing rapidly.

it becomes more difficult for Brazil to import the equipment on which its own output depends. Brazilian exports grew at an average annual rate of 20% in 2003-6. an increase of 50% over the previous year. But those exports were stimulated by a new surge of FDI. Today. while at the same time domestic debt securities enjoyed an annual interest rate of 13%. 16 April 2009. Servicing those debts eats up 30% of the federal budget.5% of GDP). Brazil stresses that it has international reserves of around $200billion to reassure investors worried about the risk of a balance of payments crisis. at $21billion. 6 . The Brazilian industries have proceeded to grant advanced holidays.85% of annual GDP. etc. According to the economist Paulo Henrique Costa Mattos. Take the commercial balance: it has been declining since 2006 – the value of the Real has meant that imports have been growing at a faster rate than exports – and this January it recorded its first deficit in 93 months. In other words. or 1. It was negative in the last quarter of 2008 for the first time since the end of 2005. the inflow of foreign currency linked to the export boom appreciated Brazilian Real by around 20% to the dollar. Socialismo e liberdade. temporarily resolving the balance of payments problem. which went from $10billion in 2003 (about 2% of GDP) to the record level of $45billion in 2008 (or 3. São Paulo. Repatriation of profits and dividends abroad rose to nearly $34billion in 2008 (nearly 3% of GDP). A little later it was evident that the external private debt is an extraordinary mortgage. India 18 “A crise econômica e suas consequências para os trabalhadores”. In the space of a few months. In conditions such as these. In the past 15 years the country’s dependence on foreign capital has increased drastically and one of the most significant developments has been the acceleration of foreign access to Brazil’s financial markets. Foreign investors (or Brazilians who had borrowed dollars abroad at relatively low interest rates) therefore benefited from a return on investment of more than 30% at the end of the year.5% on education.and that the Brazil had recovered its total political. and of 500% compared to 2003.000 Brazilian families who hold 80% of debt securities. It’s hardly surprising that internal debt reached 160 billion Real in January 2009 (over $80billion) which the president boasts of as a sign of Brazil’s economic independence. but with a deficit that was seven times greater.5% of GDP. There’s no real sign of recovery in sight since the IMF predicts an 11% fall in world trade in 2009. economic independence. to suspend and to lay-off hundreds of thousands of people. The current account balance also recorded its biggest deficit in 10 years in 2008: $28. these exports came at the cost of even deeper penetration of the Brazilian economy by foreign capital. the collapse of the international financial system transformed the Brazilian balance of payments into a sieve through which money poured.3billion or 2. In 2007. In this arena all that has been achieved is further lining the pockets of the 20. for example. Less than 5% of that budget meanwhile goes on health and 2. current liabilities could reach $600billion18.

9% annually during 2003-08. capital inflows and the IT boom played a large role in driving job creation. This has resulted in the retrenchment of some 0. 2008 ibid. There is already a dip in the employment market. What the Reserve Bank of India needs to do. In the past. Yet the fact remains that the 6. More than the downsizing itself. is to neutralise the outflow of FII money by unwinding the market stabilisation securities that it had used to sterilise the inflows when they happened. the global economic picture will be harsher next year and there will be greater pressures on Indian economy20”. India's merchandise exports fell last October for the first time in a decade.A report jointly prepared by World Economic Forum and Confederation of Indian Industry was released just ahead of the annual India Economic Summit held in November 2008 in New Delhi attended by top government officials to interact with heads of global firms.and that will change the complexion of the job market. 7 . which may not involve large numbers. The GDP grew by 6. Anecdotal evidence of this in the IT and financial sectors are abound.5 million people.8%. facing its worst crisis in over a decade. Exports grew by a mere 3. “Clearly. and also reports of quiet downsizing in many other fields as companies cut costs. 19 20 India Risk Report. Additionally. Even in the first half of 2008-09 the rate of growth was 7.4% to $168. the economy had grown at a heady 8. there are doubts as to whether this rate can be achieved in 2009-10. other low-cost locations have emerged and the U. after missing the export target for the previous fiscal. The report said “India’s dependence on capital flows to finance its current account deficit is a macroeconomic risk and the global crisis could generate a sharp increase in capital outflows and a reduction in the availability of finance”19.7% is the lowest in six years. and missed the target of $200 billion set for fiscal 2008-09.7 billion. However. what this implies is a significant drop in new hiring . plans to raise taxes on outsourcing companies.S. from $163. as events unfold. the high cost of credit and protectionism by some economies like the US are the reasons why India’s external trade industry is seeking such sops. Also. India’s high dependence on foreign capital and IT exports increased its vulnerability to the global crisis. investment and asset bubbles.8% in the last quarter (January-March). Meanwhile. This will mean drawing down the dollar reserves and that could deplete foreign exchange reserves and if the oil prices shoot up once again the situation could be precarious.7% for the financial year 2008-09 on the back of a better than expected 5. India’s ailing export sector wants the new government to gift it a three-year income-tax holiday. Falling global demand. At the heart of the problem lie questions of liquidity and confidence. FDI has slowed in recent months and India’s IT sector may find it difficult to maintain its outsourcing competitiveness as cost differentials with the West have waned since the last recession. with experts pushing for concrete steps to protect some 20 million direct jobs in the industry.1 billion in 2007-08.

and Eastern Europe. Russia had called for developing new reserve currencies to complement the dollar. handloom. the losses from dollar reserves for some developing countries may exceed 20 % of their annual budgets. that did not find any reference in the final statement issued at this occasion. it could lead to a serious drag on world economic growth and possibly prolonged stagnation in much of the developing world. China’s dollar reserves touched $2 trillion by the end of 200821. If that happens. Developing countries view plentiful dollar holdings as a hedge against economic crises that might precipitate a run on their own currencies. The absence of any criticism of the US dollar appeared to be a compromise by Russia.especially in sectors like gems and jewellery. could be stopped cold. and the World Bank and the IMF go hand in hand. dollar is generally thought to be an extremely safe asset to hold.S. However. Outcomes and contradictions It is in the above contexts that we have to analyse the outcome of the BRIC summit. . this would be especially painful because the fastest-growing markets in Asia. once considered a source of economic stability is becoming more and more dangerous. Pentagon. Latin America. which they are depending on for their growth. Russia. However.htm 8 . such as China and Thailand. investigations of the pattern of 21 Source: Chinability http://www. The dollar has fallen sharply against other major currencies in the last two years.S. transparent and merit-based selection process. Instead. Anybody examining their role would find how state department of the US. big multinationals. a strategy. US treasury. it could fall further in the years ahead. In many ways. which is why it has been the world’s main reserve currency since WWII. It is important to recall that the U. As said earlier. India and China.” It is indeed problematic to note that this group completely ignores the role that these organisations play. current account deficits. at a separate event earlier on the day of the summit. Dollars represent as much as 60% of reserves in some developing countries. There was an earnest plea for a greater representation at major institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank for the emerging economies such as Brazil. These agencies portray themselves as development agencies. In a more or less direct attack on the Western domination of Bretton Woods institutions the statement said emerging and developing economies must have greater voice and representation and the “heads and senior leadership” of these bodies “should be appointed through an open. CIA. with the rising rupee further exacerbating the problems. For large corporations.chinability. The damage of a declining dollar could be extensive: If many developing countries were to sharply increase their exports in order to rebuild the value of their reserves. and textiles. politics-neutral and independent. and because of massive U. the cautious wording appeared to reflect China’s concerns that any anti-dollar statements could erode the value of its currency reserves.

it is not difficult to find that Brazil had been initially reluctant to join the Bank of the South.actions of these institutions reveal the visible fist behind the ‘invisible hand’. and it must maintain its regional economic dominance. Same goes with the IMF. creating support base through consultancy. one can only conclude that this announcement is an anomaly of its sort. long hostile policy towards Cuba or policy towards Afghanistan and Iraq are a few instances of long list of rhetoric and crimes. Their enthusiasm for ‘development’ in some countries or its indifference to crisis of some other countries is strongly linked with these objectives. The Chinese. Lending support to South Vietnam or South Korea’s pro-US regime. Brazil sees it essentially as an instrument of commercial policy speaking primarily in terms of economic bloc and uncritically accepts the European Union (EU) as its model. 9 . or after reinstatement of President Aristide in Haiti. trip abroad and by ‘manufacturing consent’. Abandoning any initiative for South-South co-operation and solidarity. coordinated action and collective decision making of all states”. Brazil has joined the Bank of the South because it cannot be absent from it. mutual respect. equality. In this case. Even though Brazil is involved in the project for the “Bank of the South”. it has no commitments to it. the problem with Brazil is the orientation of the Lula government and the economic and social model that it practices. it would be easier to reach a definition closer to the alternative model that a lot of radical movements advocate. The list goes long and would virtually include all hated dictators that have stepped on this planet. These institutions therefore work as instruments to bargain or lobbying to create necessary arrangements with different countries to protect global corporate and imperial interest. It is painful to see that the BRIC countries whose statement talks about a collective agenda ranging from food security and financial reform to the creation of a “more diversified international monetary system” and a “more democratic and just multipolar world order. their earnest plea is to be co-opted in the global league of gendarmes. not too far removed from neo-liberalism. The 16 point BRIC statement also underlined support for a “more democratic and just multipolar world order based on the rule of international law. hostility to Allende government and sudden change of policy towards Chile after the military take over.” prefer to fight for a larger share of decision making of these oppressive institutions instead of raising a call to dismantle it. It is clear that Brazil’s integration into the Bank of the South will lead the Bank to adopt a much more traditional pattern. lobbying. However. cooperation. Recalling the actions of the Lula government in 2007. judging the statement vis-à-vis the role that these countries have played in the last decade. while if Brazil did not participate. Different country experiences show how the World Bank and the IMF actually work for creating or smoothening path for global corporate grabbing by influencing.

These wars were not attempted to liberate the mass of humanity but. They must have a systematic break with the current global order that seeks to ensure privileges for a selected few imperilling the bulk of humanity. to expect this body to opt for measures that are sufficiently radical is conceptually impossible.html 10 . In his speech at the summit. even within the group. Conclusion The BRIC countries. to do away with 22 The G20 and the Inconsistent Script: What Really Happened in Washington? . As certain commentators have pointed out “Yet what happened in Washington? A sorry show. a script that lacks any credibility. the UK. but few spectators seem to care. Offensives were led by its leading member state. Yet this is what the G20 summit is planning to do. In order to achieve this. nevertheless. Dr. there has been any discussion on the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. on the contrary it was a hasty act since November 2008 to salvage the powers that be and try to plug the ruptures of the capitalist system in the first place and to rescue it from further decays. to enslave them and to have a greater control on their natural resources or at least the hydrocarbons. it must declare it illegal for companies and residents to have any assets in. the US and also faithfully accompanied by a few other member states. if they desire to mean what they pronounce in the statements. Though it seems that there is a little unanimity about the matter. Canada in 2002.” 22 In the midst of this profound crisis it is a matter of common sense that G20 was not born out of any genuine concern to save the planet or to provide authentic solutions.Indian and the Brazilian government have been lobbying extremely hard to be included in the G8 led group and the heads of these states are regularly attending the annual summit of the select group in recent times. November 18. Luxembourg…) as well as Switzerland. 2008.Damien Millet and Eric Toussaint. In none of the G8 summits since its 28 th edition at Kananaskis. Certain BRIC members have also placed confidence on the G20 summit to rescue the world out of this mess that we are in. Singh hailed the cooperation already achieved by BRIC at the G-20 deliberations on the international financial crisis. http://www. He also said cooperation in the G-20 process must be backed by cooperation in the real economy. The important issue today. have to radical rethink their policies.counterpunch. Counterpunch. There is very little doubt about the fact the G8 is a fountain head of the global subversion of democracy. Belgium. the statement of the Indian prime minister amply manifests their common position on this they must raise effective demands and strive for the abolition of tax havens. to a certain extent. The G8 has been one of the greatest violator of the international laws and has been a self-proclaimed agency to control the globe by a few rich and elites. or relationships with partners located in. he said was to implement the decisions that had been taken. Therefore. To begin with. Alberta. It must pressurise the EU countries that function like tax havens (Austria. tax havens. In detective films it is seldom the case that the keys to the Court of Justice be given to arch criminals.

the unemployed and young people all want other solutions to the crisis than those which consist in bailing out bankers and imposing restrictions on the lower classes. with the common motto “Let the rich pay the crisis!” The week of global action called for by the social movements from all over the world at the WSF at Belém last January thus had a gigantic echo. It has proved that it is able to bring large crowds together. 40. Those who had announced the end of the movement for another globalisation were wrong. The recent demonstrations on 28 and 30 March during the G20 summit were big ones. 11 .bank secrecy and put an end to these outrageous practices. thousands and thousands in Vienna. Madrid. Brasilia. Berlin.000 people in London. The success of the mobilizations in France on 29 January and 19 March (three million demonstrators were in the streets) is confirmation that the workers. etc. and this is only the beginning. The BRIC leaders must listen to those voices and act if they are keen on actualising another reality. Stuttgart. Rome.

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