Above Photo: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Western policies such as sanctions, conditionalities in loan disbursal, and dollar hegemony were the targets of speeches made by the BRICS leaders during the summit.
The first day of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg saw calls for a more democratic global economic order with greater participation of countries from the Global South. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa set the tone by underlining that BRICS stands for inclusiveness and transparency in its development agenda and must continue to do so.
Speaking on the second day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that India fully supports the expansion of the bloc, adding that it welcomed “moving forward with consensus on this.” India also reiterated its proposal for the African Union’s membership in the G20.
The 15th BRICS summit is being held under the chairmanship of Ramaphosa on the theme ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and inclusive multilateralism.’ Apart from the heads of states/governments of the existing BRICS members—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—over 60 other countries are participating in the summit. Certain crucial decisions are expected during the summit related to the expansion of the group and its objective of creating a non-hegemonic global economic order.
During his speech on Tuesday, Ramaphosa emphasized the need for reform in international financial institutions (World Bank and IMF, among others) so that “they can be more agile and responsive to the challenges facing developing economies.” He noted that BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB) has been designed to pursue a sustainable development agenda without the political and economic conditionalities which often come with the other existing global financial institutions.
The point was confirmed separately by former Brazilian president and head of the NDB, Dilma Rousseff. She was quoted as saying, “we repudiate any kind of conditionality. Often a loan is given [by the World Bank or IMF] that certain policies are carried out. We don’t do that. We respect the policies of each country.”
Brics Fights To End Hegemonic Practices
During their speeches, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin underlined the ongoing efforts by BRICS to de-dollarize international trade.
Lula said that BRICS looks forward to a “new reference unit” to shield their trade from major reserve currency volatility. He also reiterated the need to shift to local currencies for mutual trade and noted that the NDB is already working to smoothen the process.
Ramaphosa noted that BRICS is becoming a much more prominent player in the global economy, with over one-third share in the global GDP. He also noted that trade among the existing members of BRICS is increasing and has already crossed USD 762 billion in 2022.
President Putin addressed the grouping through a video link and criticized the West for the irresponsible policy of imposing sanctions and putting pressure on countries, particularly in the Global South, which were contrary to the established rules of trade and caused massive inflation, unemployment, and inequality. He said that BRICS is trying to pursue policies that will boost development in poorer nations and will be in the interest of the “global majority.”
Putin highlighted that dollar settlements among the group members fell more than 28% in 2022, with increased efforts to conduct mutual trade in local currencies in the future.
China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao delivered the speech on President Xi Jinping’s behalf. In the speech, Xi emphasized that the BRICS model of development and growth is contrary to the West’s approach of hegemonization.
Asserting that countries should have the freedom to pursue their own development model, Xi claimed that one country, “obsessed with maintaining hegemony, has gone out of its way to cripple emerging markets and developing countries”— an obvious reference to the US.
Xi noted that the world is forced to face a choice—between peace and stability and a new cold war—due to the hegemonic agenda pursued by the West, and pointed out that “hegemonism disrupts development, violates the nation’s right to prosperity and sovereign development.”
Xi reiterated that China rejects the “block” mentality pursued by the West and calls for greater expansion of BRICS, highlighting that more than 20 countries have already formally applied for its membership.
Africa In The Focus
With Africa being the theme of the 15th BRICS summit, Ramaphosa stressed the economic potential of the continent and said that it is ready for all kinds of investments for the development of its infrastructure and exploration of its natural resources.
He, however, underscored that African countries do not want to remain mere exporters of raw materials but want to process their natural resources and export finished products.
Following Ramaphosa, Lula assured the African countries that Brazil is returning to the continent. He said that his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro had disastrously reduced investment and trade with the continent, but Brazil was now ready to help Africa with the transfer of technology in areas such as agriculture, Sputnik reported.
Putin said that Russia is ready to provide food grains to all African countries, both commercially and free, and announced that six African countries—Burkina Faso, Somalia, Mali, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea—will receive 25 to 40 thousand tons of grain free of charge from Russia.
Xi is scheduled to hold a separate China-Africa leaders’ dialogue on Thursday with the majority of the 55 African countries in attendance. The BRICS summit will continue until Thursday.