**As Leaders Applaud Performance
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Russia, India and South Africa) have expressed full-fledged satisfaction of the Group’s performance using its current format that includes the Big Five, BRICS Plus and Outreach, and consequently have no plans to increase its numerical strength in the near future.
Russian leader, Mr Vladimir Putin, made the Group’s position known during his final media conference held at the 2018 BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He highlighted that “BRICS is an organic association of countries that have many things in common: they have many shared interests and common approaches to addressing challenges that are relevant to all of humanity, including Russia. This is one of its key advantages, and today, many countries are showing an interest in BRICS.”
“Concerning the group’s expansion, BRICS Plus and Outreach format have already been created to this effect. For now, we agreed to rely on these formats for expanding our reach and drawing into our orbit countries that share the underlying principles and values of BRICS,” the President said.
While many viewed the existing formats of interaction effective, Mr Putin explained that any questions regarding BRICS enlargement in future would definitely need additional thorough discussions and final consideration.
“But so far, we have no plans to expand BRICS membership, since the existing formats have proven effective. As for discussions of issues we intend to address, these are issues relevant for a vast majority of countries and economies around the world. The sky is the limit for us,” the Russian leader explained.
“They are willing to cooperate with other countries and do not rule out BRICS expansion in the future but they believe that it requires additional analysis. This does not mean that the organization is closed, that its doors are closed. No, it is just that this issue should be properly analysed. Otherwise, the organization is open to anyone,” Putin stressed at the media conference.
Historically, the first meeting of the Group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Brazil and subsequently South Africa joined later, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS.
Initially, the goals and tasks were very modest, primarily focus on the economy and the coordination of efforts toward attaining more ambitious goals. As more members joined the Group, it developed into a full-scale organisation with new spheres of activity and broader common interests, according to Mr Putin.
Experts have expressed different views in interviews with me.
Nandan Unnikrishnan, Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, India: There is nothing wrong in trying to expand the BRICS if the new countries meet the criteria of what BRICS represents, their entry adds to the cohesion of the grouping.
However, it appears that at this stage of the evolution of BRICS the need of the hour is not expansion, but consolidation, given developments in the world as well as in each of the BRICS countries.
Secondly, BRICS is quite clear about the Africa’s developmental needs. The question is how to mobilise the necessary resources to propel Africa’s development over and above their bilateral commitments to African countries.
All the BRICS countries are facing economic challenges that they need to address urgently. But in the long run, BRICS is keenly aware of the importance of contributing towards Africa’s development agenda.
Charles Robertson, Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital, argued thus: The BRICS was just a concept from Goldman with little intellectual coherence beyond the fact that 1) all four of the original BRIC countries had a-historically low GDP and were likely to rebound in size, 2) they were populous, 3) there were among them two commodity importers and two commodity exporters among them. South Africa was a late minor addition to the group, to add a “bridgehead to Africa” angle.
“So, it could expand because the BRICS are under-represented in the global financial architecture. Europe and the US dominate institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, and to some extent many others,” in his opinion.
According to him, “Russia and others in the BRICS would like to see larger power centres emerge to offer an alternative to that Western dominated construct. That is reasonable enough – providing there are countries with the money to backstop the new institutions, such as China supporting the BRICS bank, and if the countries offer an alternative vision that provides benefits to new members.”
Robertson, however, questioned whether “a broader BRICS + body would offer tariff-free access to their markets as the EU and the US can? I doubt that. Can they offer financing via a BRICS bank. Perhaps!”
“Now, is a very good time to show that BRICS members and relations between them are an alternative to the format existing in the West,” Executive Director of the Russian National Committee for BRICS Research, Professor Georgy Toloraya, told the Kommersant – a Russian daily business newspaper, adding that “BRICS favors order, compliance with agreements and development.”
Plans are in store to expand the Group, so the leaders of Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia and some African countries invited to the summit.
According to Toloraya, India is currently opposed to expanding BRICS fearing that new members will support China. On the other hand, Moscow argues that “the entrance ticket” to the group is independence and sovereignty, and under no circumstance, potential candidates be called China’s satellites.
There are not so many countries like that – they would include Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and Iran… But then, there are certain political requirements for new members – including recognition of BRICS values and core foreign policy principles, he said.
The BRICS member countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26 percent of the world’s geographic area and are home to 2.88 billion people, about 42 percent of the world’s population.
Kester Kenn Klomegah frequently writes about Russia, Africa and BRICS.
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