Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 19.2021
2021.05.10 — 2021.05.16
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS building blocks look shaky as fragmented Covid-19 response undermines foundations of solidarity (Строительные блоки БРИКС выглядят шатко, поскольку разрозненные меры по борьбе с коронавирусом подрывают основы солидарности) / South Africa, May, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, covid-19, political_issues
South Africa

David Monyae is director of the Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS) at the University of Johannesburg and Emmanuel Matambo is the research director at the same institute.

The intrigue surrounding the manufacture and distribution of coronavirus vaccines has tested the resolve of transnational organisations such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

BRICS grew out of the increasing prominence of some emerging markets. However, we can trace its inspiration partly from the spirit of the celebrated Asian-African Conference of Bandung, held in that Indonesian city in 1955. The conference was a highlight of solidarity among countries of the developing world, standing apart from the Cold War tussle between the US-led capitalist bloc and the socialist bloc led by the Soviet Union.

In addition, Bandung was a rallying cry for the end of colonialism — where it still lingered. The Communiqué of the Conference acknowledged that "many countries in Asia and Africa have not yet been able to develop their educational, scientific and technical institutions". Thus, it exhorted countries in Asia and Africa which are more fortunately placed in this respect [to] give facilities for the admission of students and trainees from such countries to their institutions.

More than half a century after Bandung, Brazil, Russia, India and China, in forming BRIC before South Africa's inclusion, argued that "emerging and developing economies must have greater voice and representation in international financial institutions, whose heads and executives should be appointed through an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process".

The common thread between Bandung and BRICS is the emphasis on the interests and welfare of the developing regions of the world. The inaugural 2009 meeting of the BRIC countries coincided with the economic crises that caused incomparable economic destabilisation and even retardation in the developing world. Naturally, BRICS countries are supposed to soften the economic blow that developing countries suffer whenever there is a global crisis of immense magnitude.

Today, another crisis, in the form of Covid-19, is wreaking economic havoc the world over and, predictably, the developing world is suffering incomparable damage.

The coronavirus has been widely politicised. During his presidency, Donald Trump tried to force racial undertones on the pandemic, directed at China. Furthermore, the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines have exposed the fissures of global politics and the selfishness of some powers with the financial muscle to manufacture and hoard vaccines, with cursory regard to the developing world.

Naturally, one would expect that influential players of the developing world such as the BRICS members would play a cardinal role in promoting and sustaining the welfare of the developing world. It is heartening that South Africa and India have called for a patent waiver for intellectual property rights protection for Covid-19 vaccines. The US has said that it favours such a measure.

Among the BRICS countries, India is now suffering the most staggering mortalities from Covid-19. The Indian government resorted to limiting its exports of "vaccines from its giant manufacturing hubs, to meet some of the country's more urgent needs". Instead of summoning a concerted effort from BRICS, the coronavirus pandemic and attendant distribution of vaccines have fragmented this group of countries.

For strange reasons, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completely turned his back on BRICS in favour of the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) popularly seen as Asia's Nato. Instead of cooperating with fellow BRICS countries on vaccine roll-outs, India is using its vaccines to counter Chinese vaccines in Asia. Ironically, India is currently getting more assistance from China than the QUAD grouping.

Many players, especially Russia's detractors, look askance at Russia's vaccine — Sputnik V. Even Brazil has voiced misgivings. Brazil's Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa), responsible for approval and regulation of pharmaceutical products, declined to approve the Russian vaccine, saying it doubts its safety and efficacy and that Russia "lacks vaccine experience and was defensive in its responses to the agency". This is despite the fact that Sputnik V has been deemed relatively safe and has been authorised in more than 60 countries.

There has not been synergy among these influential players of the developing world, and this is likely to have enduring effects. China seems to have recovered from the fallout, being the only major global economy to register positive economic growth in 2020. On the other hand, South Africa, a key BRICS member, appears less interested in vaccines from fellow BRICS countries. It urgently approved the emergency use of vaccines from the Global North while taking its sweet time to do the same for those from the Global South, namely Russian and Chinese vaccines.

The discord within BRICS' approach and reactions to health matters in general and Covid-19 specifically, comes as a surprise to those closely following this important forum. On 11 July 2020, BRICS ministers of health met in Beijing to devise ways to improve health conditions of these five countries.

They specifically discussed "better access to affordable, high-quality medicines in order to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals", and also discussed the importance of technology transfer between BRICS countries and other developing nations "to stimulate their capacity to produce medicines at affordable prices".

In the final analysis, how BRICS chooses to respond to Covid-19 either unilaterally or collectively will show how firm the much-vaunted unity of the countries involved is. In another scenario, a lack of synergy, which eschews a multilateral approach among BRICS, might be justified as a demonstration of national sovereignty. This line of argument, however, will add fuel to the perception that BRICS is unravelling at the time it is needed most to handle the health crisis of the century.

BRICS countries must go beyond waiving the intellectual property demand within the World Trade Organization, but lead G20 countries towards a post-pandemic economic plan for developing countries. DM

CACS will hold a webinar on 8 June 2021 on BRICS' Vaccines Response involving scholars from Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa.

Ist BRICS Employment Working Group (EWG) Meeting amongst BRICS Countries (Первая встреча Рабочей группы по занятости среди стран БРИКС) / India, May, 2021
Keywords: top_level_meeting, social_issues, cooperation

Shri Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Labour and Employment chaired the 1st BRICS Employment Working Group (EWG) Meeting held on 11-12 May 2021 in Sushma Swaraj Bhawan, New Delhi in virtual format. India has assumed BRICS Presidency this year. The prime agenda for the discussions were Promoting Social Security Agreements amongst BRICS Nations, Formalization of labour markets, Participation of women in labour force and Gig and platform workers – Role in labour market.

Apart from representatives of member nations i.e Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the representatives of International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Social Security Agency (ISSA) also made valuable interventions and suggestions on the agenda issues. The Indian delegations were represented by Mrs. Anuradha Prasad, Special Secretary, Shri R.K Gupta, Joint Secretary, Shri Ajay Tewari, JS & DGLW, Ms. Kalpana Rajsinghot, Joint Secretary and Shri Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Director from Ministry of Labour and Employment.

On the issue of Social Security Agreement (SSA), the Member Nations resolved to enter into dialogue and discussion with each other and take it forward towards signing of the agreements, while the ISSA and ILO on their part, expressed willingness to provide technical support in facilitating conclusion of such agreements. Member Nations also converged on devising multilateral framework for the same on a later stage. Social Security Agreement would help the international workers to port their benefit to their home countries thereby preventing loss of their hard earned money. Further they will be exempted from contributing both in home as well as host countries.

On the issue of formalization of labour market, Member Nations discussed various initiatives taken by them towards formalization of jobs and how Covid-19 has enhanced informalization risk.

On participation of women in the labour force, the member countries resolved to promote participation of women in remunerative, productive and decent work and to extend social security cover to the women workers engaged in informal sector. Impact of Covid-19 on participation of women in labour force was also discussed.

On the issue of Gig and Platform workers and their role in labour market, the member nations discussed how the proliferation of Digital Labour Platforms is transforming the labour processes in the world of work. Challenges faced by them and various measures being taken by member nations including extension of social protection system were also discussed.

The discussion took place in an extremely candid atmosphere and in seamless manner, where the Member Nations and International Organizations shared not only their initiatives and best practices, but also their concerns and challenges.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
FinMin, NDB to hold seminar on importance of social infra financing, digital tech use (Министерство Финансов и НБР проведут семинар о важности финансирования социальной инфраструктуры и использования цифровых технологий) / India, May, 2021
Keywords: economic_challenges, ndb, social_issues

New Delhi, May 11 (PTI) The Finance Ministry and New Development Bank (NDB) will organise a seminar on the importance of ''Social Infrastructure Financing and use of Digital Technologies''. The seminar, as part of the economic and financial cooperation agenda under the Indian BRICS chairship 2021, is being organised in the run-up to the 13th BRICS Summit to be held later this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of investing in social infrastructure and underpinned the importance of leveraging digital technologies in advanced and emerging economies, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

"The challenges faced, are common to all, especially to the BRICS nations. There is a great potential in building sustainable mechanism to chart the way forward and share the common benefits associated with social, economic and digital development," it said.

This seminar, to be held on May 13, will engage high-level participants from both the public and private sector and focus on the key issues surrounding social infrastructure financing and the use of Digital Technologies in the 21st century, it said.

The inaugural address will be made by Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth, followed by Marcos Troyjo, president NDB.

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)-led NDB was set up in 2014 with the objective of mobilising resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects for the grouping and other emerging economies.

Headquartered in Shanghai, China, NDB was operationalised in 2015 and has so far approved 18 projects in India worth USD 6,924 million. PTI DP BAL BAL

The hedge asset for BRICS stock markets: Bitcoin, gold, or VIX (Хедж-актив для фондовых рынков БРИКС: биткойн, золото или VIX.) / Lebanon, May, 2021
Keywords: research, economic_challenges

We compare the weak/strong hedging abilities of three alternative assets, namely Bitcoin, gold, and US VIX futures, against the downside movements in BRICS stock market indices. Results from the cross‐quantilogram approach indicate that Bitcoin and gold are weak hedges. Analysis from the recursive sampling shows that each of Bitcoin, gold, and VIX futures has a time‐varying hedging role in some BRICS countries, which has been shaped by the COVID‐19 outbreak. Results from the conditional diversification benefits show appealing roles for the three alternative assets for investors in BRICS stock markets. However, gold appears to have higher and more stable diversification benefits in China, especially during the COVID‐19 outbreak. Conversely, VIX futures offer higher diversification benefits in Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa during the abrupt of the COVID‐19 outbreak.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
India's public spending on healthcare lowest in BRICS nations; tech can improve access: DEA Secy (Государственные расходы Индии на здравоохранение самые низкие среди стран БРИКС; технология может улучшить доступ: Секретарь Департамента экономики) / India, May, 2021
Keywords: social_issues, quotation, expert_opinion, economic_challenges

India's public expenditure on health is the lowest among the BRICS nations, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) Secretary Ajay Seth said stressing that technology can play a great role in improving access to healthcare.

BRICS is the grouping of five major emerging countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - which together represent about 42 per cent of the population, 23 per cent of GDP, 30 per cent of the territory, and 18 per cent of the global trade.

While making an opening remark at a virtual seminar jointly organised by the finance ministry and the New Development Bank (NDB) on the topic 'Social Infrastructure Financing and use of Digital Technologies', Seth on Thursday noted that this pandemic has caused a setback in the journey of sustainable development goals.

Observing that resources are always limited, he said, "Question then arises is whether the focus is on access or focus is on quality... there is a wide variation in life expectancy and the public expenditure that happens on health as well as on education." With regard to education, he said, three BRICS countries spend 4-4.5 per cent of GDP, while two countries -- Brazil and South Africa -- spend about 6 per cent of their GDP.

"Health again, India's public expenditure is the least among the BRICS countries. Here again a more nuanced approach to financing as well as the best way of delivery will have to be adopted," he said adding that technology can help in easing the delivery.

Telemedicine, diagnostic interpretation are a big area where access problems can be mitigated to a large extent by using technology, he said.

Technology should be such that it does not lead to further digital divide but where the poor should have access first, he said.

Seth added that "we have to build technology that helps at the bottom of the pyramid first before the people at the top of the pyramid." Speaking at the seminar, eminent economist Jeffrey D Sachs, who is also director (Center for Sustainable Development) at Columbia University, said this is time for major investment scale-up and this is the way China achieved the most remarkable sustained growth over four decades through upfront large-scale investments.

"I think this is what development finance is all about in the coming years," Sachs said.

He suggested that NDB can help to bring about universal access to healthcare services through digital access.

Russia offered coronavirus vaccine to all UN partners, says PM (Россия предложила вакцину от коронавируса всем партнерам ООН, заявил премьер-министр) / Russia, May, 2021
Keywords: covid-19, quotation

MOSCOW, May 14. /TASS/. Russia, the first country to develop a coronavirus vaccine, offered its inoculation to all partners in the United Nations, the G20 and other associations, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said during his meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Moscow on Friday.

According to Prime Minister Mishustin, the pandemic reaffirmed "the high importance of jointly coordinated actions of all UN member states."

He reiterated that Russia was the first to create and register a coronavirus vaccine.

"We have offered it to all our partners in the UN, the G20, BRICS and the SCO. We sought to set up constructive cooperation in order to ensure mass vaccination," Mishustin stressed.

To date, Russia has registered four coronavirus vaccines: Sputnik V, Sputnik Light, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac.

World of Work
Cybersecurity in BRICS countries is subject of online meeting (Кибербезопасность в странах БРИКС - тема онлайн-встречи) / Brazil, May, 2021
Keywords: digital, national_security, cooperation

In order to discuss the main characteristics of digital transformation and cybersecurity infrastructure in the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Fundação Getulio Vargas' Rio de Janeiro Law School will hold a webinar called "Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity in the BRICS Countries" on May 14. The meeting will be broadcast on FGV's YouTube channel, starting at 10 am.

The webinar will bring together academics and CyberBRICS Fellows, as well as special guests, to analyze prospects for digital transformation and the BRICS countries' role in promoting alternative ways of addressing their challenges. These specialists will present the latest information on BRICS countries' digital policies. The debate's moderator will be Luca Belli, the coordinator of the FGV Rio de Janeiro Law School's Center for Technology and Society and the director of the CyberBRICS Project.

The event will also feature the director of the International Telecommunication Union's regional office for the Americas, Bruno Ramos; the commissioner of South Africa's Information Regulator, Sizwe Snail; the director of the LINK Center at Wits University, Lucienne Abrahams; and Huawei cybersecurity advisor Colm Murphy. CyberBRICS Fellows Larissa Magalhães, Smriti Parsheera, Senka Hadzic, Wei Wang and Anya Orlova will also take part in the discussions.

The webinar will be held in English, without simultaneous interpretation. To sign up free of charge, go to.
Potential for cooperation in the dissemination of renewable energy and natural gas among BRICS countries (Потенциал сотрудничества в области распространения возобновляемых источников энергии и природного газа среди стран БРИКС) / Brazil, May, 2021
Keywords: cooperation, energy

Abstract:The global energy system is structured around fossil fuels, leading to high emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Initiatives for decarbonisation and global warming mitigation have focused on restructuring countries' energy grids and necessarily include policies that support the dissemination of cleaner energy sources. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) have markedly different energy systems, socioeconomic structures and institutional frameworks, suggesting distinct energy transition trends for each country. Nonetheless, the group shares common goals around sustainable development, seeking opportunities for cooperation and complementarities in the energy field. This Policy Research Brief presents the main policies for the dissemination of renewable energy sources and natural gas in BRICS countries and analyses initiatives and opportunities for energy cooperation.
Fudan University workshop discusses Brazilian role in BRICS (На семинаре Университета Фудань обсуждается роль Бразилии в БРИКС) / Macao, May, 2021
Keywords: cooperation, expert_opinion

Fudan University in the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai is holding today a workshop for young people to discuss the part Brazil plays in the bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRICS), the university says.

The workshop will be held in the Fudan University Center for BRICS Studies with a view to promoting academic research and instructing young people, the university announced in writing last week.

Fudan University Institute of International Studies Professor He Ping will preside over the workshop, and a senior researcher in BRICS and Latin American studies at the university, Wan Yu, will give a talk, the announcement says.

The workshop starts Fudan University Think-Tank Week, which is meant to promote exchanges and academic best practices, the university says.

Analysis of income inequality and environmental pollution in BRICS using fresh asymmetric approach (Анализ неравенства доходов и загрязнения окружающей среды в странах БРИКС с использованием свежего асимметричного подхода) / China, May, 2021
Keywords: research, ecology, economic_challenges

With rapid economic growth, BRICS is facing enormous burdens of carbon emission and severe issues of income inequality. However, behind this economic success, the BRICS economies also face few thoughtful challenges to improve environmental quality by catching up the sustainable development goals. Consequently, the existing empirical research is concerned with the dynamic links between income inequality and CO2 emissions by using the novel nonlinear ARDL approach, but small attention has been paid to the BRICS in literature. Therefore, we observed that a negative and positive change in income inequality has positive effect on CO2 emissions in Russia and South Africa in the long run, although a positive change in income inequality has positive effects on CO2 emissions in Brazil, Russia, and China, while a negative change in income inequality has negative effect on CO2 emissions in India, Brazil, and Russia in the short run. Hence, the findings value specific attention from policymakers in BRICS economies.
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