Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 22.2018
2018.05.28 — 2018.06.03
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Four issues to watch at the upcoming BRICS Summit in Johannesburg (Четыре вопроса для наблюдения на предстоящем саммите БРИКС в Йоханнесбурге) / Brazil, June, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, summit

The 10th BRICS Summit, set to take place in Johannesburg next month, will not generate as much buzz as in 2011, when all members of the grouping grew at enviable rates, or in 2014, when the BRICS controversially closed ranks behind Russia after growing tensions between Moscow and the West in the aftermath of the Crimea crisis. And yet, those who believe the meeting will be shaped by nostalgic memories of past glories are profoundly mistaken. "Overall, the last decade saw a steady increase in the depth and breath of BRICS cooperation, which consolidated and strengthened the role of BRICS as a unique and important global governance institution", Alissa Wang of the University of Toronto's BRICS Research Group recently wrote. Largely seen as an oddity of little consequence, the outfit remains one of the most misunderstood and underestimated structures in mainstream foreign policy analyses.

Among other topics that will emerge in the coming weeks, there are four dynamics to watch at the upcoming summit:

1) BRICS governments will depict the grouping as a reliable pillar of global order

First, the BRICS Summit Declaration will seek to contrast recent US policies vis-à-vis global rules and norms and project the grouping as the guardians of order. The Chinese government, in particular, in exuding optimism. Donald Trump's unpredictable foreign policy, most recently visible in the realms of nuclear proliferation and trade, dramatically reduce the extent of global scrutiny China faces these days, be it for its mercantilistic trade policies or domestic challenges. Quite remarkably, Xi Jinping has so far won the battle of narratives against Trump, and the Chinese leader is by many regarded as a global stabilizer and defender of global rules and norms, while Trump is seen as a source of risk. As Thorsten Benner recently commented on Angela Merkel's trip to Beijing, her "preference would be to work in tandem with US on pushing for greater Chinese openness. But as Merkel heads to Beijing, she has no other choice but to hedge against worst of Trump's excesses." A very similar dynamic occurs with other BRICS countries, who have misgivings about Chinese trade practices, but who are too dependent to strongly make their case more forcefully — and who are even more worried about what the United States will do to the global trading system.

2) Focus on intra-BRICS cooperation and internal trade imbalances

Yet common concern about US policy and dependence on China is not the only thing that binds the BRICS. The grouping's major achievement, the New Development Bank (NDB), is finally operating and may soon accept additional members to increase the institution's capacity. The Bank has approved more than US$ 5 billion in financing for infrastructure projects, including the first non-sovereign loan to Petrobras, Brazil's oil firm. The BRICS's National Security Advisors meeting now ranks as one of the most important venues to discuss geopolitical challenges in Asia. Countries will seek to reduce non-tariff barriers amongst themselves and seek to further promote so-called "people-to-people" ties, which improved markedly over the past decade, but which remain well below what they could be.

For South Africa and Brazil in particular, the summit is a crucial moment to address misgivings about trade imbalances. As Tebogo Khaas wrote on a South African news website recently,

(...) South Africa's role in Brics can best be described as an act of unrequited economic and political benevolence to (...) China. Our participation in Brics seems to primarily be to lend credence to the association and enable access by China (....) to Africa's commodities – including votes at the UN. However, it otherwise prostrates Africa as a docile consumer market for (....) Chinese goods and services.

Such comments, paradoxically, reinforce why the BRICS grouping is so important for South Africa. Without membership, South Africa's trade relationship to China would be exactly the same, but it would lack the privileged access to China's political leadership it enjoys throughout the year during ministerial and presidential meetings. Both South Africa and Brazil can be expected to bring up the issue with Xi Jinping.

3) President Ramaphosa's first major summit

The summit will also be a unique opportunity for South Africa's new President Cyril Ramaphosa to tell the international community how he seeks to turn around his country's fortunes. Ravaged by a never-ending string of corruption scandals, South Africa under Jacob Zuma had gone from global hopeful with lots of potential to utter disappointment in the eyes of most international observers. Yet the summit also matters for domestic reasons. The gathering in South Africa, which includes global heavy-weights such as Russia's Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping, will be a unique opportunity for Ramaphosa to look statesmanlike — far from trivial considering that Zuma's successor faces an election in 2019 and will have little time to convince South Africans that he deserves a full term.

4) Brazil is preparing for the BRICS presidency in 2019

In the weeks before last year's BRICS Summit in Xiamen, political instability in Brazil was so high that Temer's mere presence at the summit could be regarded as a success — particularly after the canceled his trip to Hamburg for the G20 Summit, only to change his mind at the last minute. This year again, a diminished Temer will represent Brazil, limping to the finish line of his lackluster term. This strongly limits Brazil's capacity to shape debates at the meeting. And yet, Ramaphosa's performance at the Summit will be closely followed by Brazilian diplomats. After all, it will be up to the winner of this year's presidential contest in Brazil to host the 11th BRICS Summit, scheduled for October 2019. Contrary to the South African president, whoever succeeds Temer will have a full four-year mandate, and can thus benefit even more from hosting the BRICS countries' presidents, aside from the leaders of the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur, who will be invited to join the second half of the meeting (generally called 'regional outreach'). If prepared properly, it could be quite an impressive start on the foreign policy front for Brazil's next president.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018 (Отрывок из выступления и ответов на вопросы Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова на Международном научно-экспертном форуме «Примаковские чтения», Москва, 30 мая 2018 года) / Russia, May, 2018
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech

Mr Dynkin,

Colleagues and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point.

Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia's leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov's name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy.

Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the "liberal world order" and the advent of the post-Western era, "hot peace" and the "new cold war". The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title "Risks of an unstable world order' they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words "unstable" and "order".

Apparently, the world system is being tested for strength. Opposing trends are clashing. First of all, there is globalisation about which we have already talked for a long time. It facilitated a new round of economic and technological development and enhanced mutual dependence and the need for joint approaches in order to cope together with the challenges of the time. The other objective feature of the modern world is the consolidation of polycentric origins and civilisational diversity that is based on national and cultural identity and sovereignty. Today, these two processes are developing into unsound competition, the rivalry between the old and new centres of economic development and related political influence. Importantly, the division lines pass not only between countries but also inside states that claim to be the most successful. The rights of citizens to their own historical identity are being suppressed for the sake of false political correctness. Democracies are falling hostage to minority groups that are rejecting the interests of the majority. The technological revolution is changing the traditional structures of societies. The previous capitalistic model of constantly expanding prosperity is failing to fulfill its promises.

The scale of constructive international cooperation is being reduced against the backdrop of these deepening divides. Unilateral actions that destroy universally recognised rules are becoming a habit and are devaluating collective agreements. As President Vladimir Putin said at the 2018 SPIEF, "playing without rules is becoming the rule." Force is being instrumentalised in different ways, including the economic and information dimensions. We are witnessing not just the threat of using force (which incidentally is banned by the UN Charter) but the direct and totally unjustified use of force for the sake of momentary, opportunistic interests under blatantly far-fetched and ridiculous pretexts. There has been no end to the practice of outside interference in the affairs of independent states, calls to replace legitimate governments and attempts to influence domestic processes in other states. Traditions of interstate relations, the culture of diplomatic dialogue and the search for compromise are being replaced with the desire to crush one's opponent and prove one's supremacy by exerting brazen pressure on "friends and foes."

When trust is undermined and established norms and rules are discarded, then the risks of uncontrolled escalation increase. And modern technologies reduce the psychological threshold for the use of weapons of mass destruction. War is portrayed as a computer game, as a video on a computer screen. There is a nascent illusion that the force scenario can be retained under local "kinetic action." Strategies are being adopted to radically increase the role of nuclear weapons; nuclear weapons complexes are being improved, and plans are being made for space and cyberspace. All this can have fatal consequences for the whole planet. Recall the apocalyptic predictions of the 1980s about "nuclear winter." Fortunately, it did not come. However, the "Arab spring" came, which also exacerbated the problem of WMDs through a series of tragic events. I mean the US withdrawal from the JCPOA on the Iran nuclear programme with a view to pursuing total confrontation with Tehran, as well as many staged incidents involving the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government of Syria in keeping with the West's line of regime change in Damascus.

It is regrettable that the unconcealed exploitation of the UN for the sake of achieving narrow geopolitical goals just artificially exacerbates the already critical situation in the field of WMD proliferation and strategic stability.

In this day and age we should be well past comparing the size of red buttons, again testing the limits of each other's determination, bringing the world closer to a dangerous point.

It is obvious that major powers possessing arsenals of nuclear weapons and means of their delivery bear a special responsibility for maintaining global strategic stability. That is why President of Russia Vladimir Putin in his Address to the Federal Assembly once again urged our partners to sit down at the negotiating table and to reflect together on an updated and forward-looking system of international security and sustainable development of civilization.

We are ready for honest and mutually respectful work with all those who sincerely believe not only in the balance of power, but in coordinated multilateral policy based on common interests and international law, a common peaceful future, and development and prosperity for all mankind. It is these approaches that will allow for the fullest realisation of the sovereign priorities of all countries and peoples participating in such cooperation, without departing from their essence.

Attempts to artificially exclude, brazenly circumvent or push someone to the periphery of the process, and resolve all issues in a narrow group of states, are obviously unproductive, and in the long run, they are self-defeating. The history of world politics has a lot of such examples. One of the most instructive is connected with the war of 1853-1856, which, as we know, marked the final collapse of the so-called Vienna system in Europe. The Russian Empire then lost in the Crimean campaign and was pushed back to the margins of European politics, as it seemed to the winners. These negative outcomes for our country were overcome quite quickly, mainly thanks to Chancellor Alexander Gorchakov. But the European balance was seriously disrupted without Russia, which in many ways marked the beginning of destructive trends on the continent that led to the First World War.

Looking at the past, we must not lose sight of the future. Experts in strategic forecasting who are present in this room today will agree with me that for all the technological advances, for all the improvement of analytical methods, we have not yet found a crystal ball that would allow us to see exactly what awaits us in the future. And honestly, it is a good thing. The future is being built now. We form it with our expectations, our plans, ideas, and, most importantly, our daily efforts to make them a reality.

We do not have other prescriptions for how to achieve long-term, sustainable solutions to the most acute contemporary international crises, apart from painstaking work based on multilateral approaches and international law, and involving all interested parties, especially parties to a conflict. Whether it is the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula or the JCPOA, the internal conflict in Ukraine or the war on terrorism in Syria, we are again and again convinced that ultimatums and the pressure of force imposed from outside, including through coercion, are unacceptable and doomed to failure. Attempts to wildly raise the stakes, like westerns and television series about star wars, are also doomed to failure. Perhaps conducting your affairs like this works in business, but in modern international relations, escalation for the sake of de-escalation generates very serious risks.

It is extremely difficult to search for compromises and mutually acceptable solutions, to form a common understanding, and to cultivate green shoots of trust, especially where the land is smashed with shells and drenched in human blood. Success is by no means guaranteed. But there is no other way if we really want to achieve lasting settlement of conflicts and a just democratic world order.

To be confident and independent in today's complicated, contradictory and rapidly changing world, one must be not only firm and strong but also open to cooperation with others, to anything new that can help to cope successfully with modern challenges. Even the most advanced countries cannot do that acting on their own. Russian foreign policy priorities, alongside ensuring national sovereignty, security and development, include facilitating the steady, sustainable progress of the country for the benefit of raising the living standards of the population. We are addressing this task by establishing pragmatic and mutually beneficial cooperation, economic integration with our allies and partners by aligning large-scale innovative projects, creating broad cooperation spaces, modern infrastructure, digital communications and transport corridors.

Such joint work is based on a shared vision of international processes, principles of interstate communication and world community organisation – on a firm legal foundation, in the interests of all its members, with respect for their sovereignty and key national concerns. These approaches are shared by our Eurasian allies, members of the CSTO, EAEU, CIS, members of such new formats as the SCO and BRICS.

A special example of that is the comprehensive strategic partnership of Russia and China, as well as the Russian-Indian strategic partnership, and cooperation with ASEAN nations. Russia's relations with Japan and South Korea have also intensified considerably lately. This fits in well with the concept of "Russia's pivot to the east" cherished by political scientists, even though it is natural for our country, with its vast expanses and unique geopolitical position, to be involved in the development of one the world's most dynamic regions.

It was Yevgeny Primakov who first suggested the concept of multipolarity. He saw the first seed of it in building up the RIC triangle, which would allow to create an objective, not confrontational, counterbalance to western domination. And today, after RIC gave birth to BRICS, and when "BRICS plus" counterbalances the G7 countries in the G20 and encourages the adoption of generally acceptable approaches to the global economy, finances, and, potentially, to global politics, this monumental legacy of Primakov's thought is now fully revealing itself.

Russia remains open to mutually beneficial cooperation with everyone, including our European and American partners. This was discussed at the recent St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Experience shows that we have many common interests both in the economy and in global politics. The main thing is to come to agreement in an honest way, based on mutual respect and equity.

Thank you for your time. I am ready to answer your questions.

Question: One of the panel sessions at the Primakov Readings was called "New Bipolarity: Myth or Reality." Three years ago, in our forecast of the future world order made jointly with the Atlantic Council, bipolarity was one of the possible scenarios, which we assessed as not being a good prospect. Time has elapsed and recent events, especially the inclusion of Russia, China and Iran on sanctions lists, in my view, lay stones in the foundation of a new bipolarity with, say, Russia, China and Iran on one side, and the United States and its NATO allies on the other. What do you think of this scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: I don't think it is best for the whole of humankind, and for the members of such a set-up. I finished my introductory remarks with a reference to the G20 experience, which was established a long time ago but only began to gather for summit meetings in 2010. Until that time, it was operating on the ministry and expert level. All the participants of that process agreed that core issues should be addressed and compromises should be sought, primarily on global economic and financial problems, within the G20 framework. There was an understanding that those compromises will further be translated into international legal language within the World Bank and IMF. Of course, they do not always manage to come to agreement, however, it is still much better than having no mechanism of this kind, since it has all those protagonists you mentioned. True, Iran is not represented there, but it is clear that BRICS members, in particular Russia, China and India, reflect the interests of those nations whose potential is not well represented in global structures.

As time went on, foreign policy issues began to appear on the G20 agenda. This year, when the G20 gathered in Argentina, it happened again. I think, the "politicisation" of the G20 agenda will be gaining momentum, whereas, of course, the priority attention will be given to the economy and finances. Such politicisation of the G20 (in a good sense of the word) will largely compensate the expectations of those who would like to directly take part in the UNSC decision-making but does not have a chance. It is a complicated problem, but to put it briefly, I see a way out of many problems through an agreement that the G20 can look for compromises without excessive noise typical of discussions at the UN Security Council and General Assembly, while other members of the world community could subsequently join the worked-out agreements without much loss of face. This should not be taken as disrespect towards non-G20 nations. I am sure that the overwhelming majority of those nations will give a sigh of relief when they learn that certain agreements have been reached at the G20.

Abstract from briefing by Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Artyom Kozhin, Moscow, June 1, 2018 (Отрывок из брифинга заместителя Директора Департамента информации и печати МИД России А.А.Кожина, Москва, 1 июня 2018 года) / Russia, June, 2018
Keywords: mofa, top_level_meeting, foreign_ministers_meeting

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting

On June 4, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting in Pretoria.

The meeting will focus on a broad range of the most urgent issues of maintaining international peace and stability, supporting the world economy and coordinating BRICS cooperation in the difficult conditions of global political turbulence. The ministers will conduct an in-depth exchange of opinions on the situation in hot spots and common tasks of countering new challenges and threats, primarily, in fighting international terrorism and ensuring international information security. They will pay special attention to the preparations for the 10th anniversary BRICS summit on July 25-27 in Johannesburg.

One of Russia's foreign policy priorities is to deepen BRICS strategic partnership. In the past few years, the association of five large states with emerging economies and developing nations has turned from a "hobby club" into a full-fledged mechanism of versatile strategic partnership. Every year, the leaders of the association hold two summits – the main one, and a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 session, and about 100 official events, including some 20 at the ministerial level. There is a broad network of industry-specific cooperation between the BRICS countries – their business circles, scientists and other representatives of civil society.

The five nations are committed to promoting indivisible security and international stability, using collective methods of settling crises by political and diplomatic means, and practicing multilateralism. They reject armed interventions, unilateral economic measures of coercion, protectionism and dishonest competition. The BRICS countries jointly support upholding the foundations of a multilateral trade system and the WTO's role as the only universal venue for drafting rules of global trade.

The BRICS countries are jointly searching for new sources of economic growth. They played a major role in promoting the IMF reform. They established a New Development Bank and a Contingent Reserve Arrangement, which are designed to facilitate the upgrading of the global system of management and financial security. The five nations are advocating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris climate agreement.

The BRICS countries are focusing on consolidating and diversifying mechanisms of multi-industry cooperation, and an innovative search for new areas of partnership. Being open to the outside world, BRICS is consistently expanding cooperation with interested countries and integration associations.

Abstract from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions during a meeting with students and professors of Academy of Public Administration under the President of Belarus, Minsk, May 29, 2018 (Отрывок из выступления и ответов на вопросы Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова в ходе встречи со слушателями и профессорско-преподавательским составом Академии управления при Президенте Республики Беларусь, Минск, 29 мая 2018 года) / Russia, May, 2018
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech, mofa

Mr Palchik,

Colleagues, friends,

Thank you for the opportunity to make a speech at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Belarus, one of the leading educational and research institutions in your country. We know about the significance that President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko personally attaches to it, regarding it as a true foundry of highly professional and initiative promising staff worthy of the highest posts. In Russia, we also give special attention to preparing the so-called "social lifts" and to finding the most talented and active young people loyal to their country.

I would like to congratulate Rector Gennady Palchik on his appointment to this responsible post, just a week ago, I believe. I am convinced that his experience will steer the Academy to success in its work and in addressing the large-scale tasks that were set before it.

We also hope that cooperation between the Academy and the educational institutions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia – the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the Diplomatic Academy – will continue. For many years, they have maintained constructive ties that mutually enrich their students and professors and help cement friendly ties between our allied states.

My meetings with Belarusian youth are already becoming a good tradition, which testifies to a high level of trust and mutual understanding between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. We are reliable allies and strategic partners. Our relations are truly comprehensive; something that I once again made sure of today during an hour-long conversation with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and in-depth talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus with Minister Vladimir Makei.

We are closely cooperating within the Union State, and our clear joint priority is to strengthen it. The concrete methods of enhancing its efficiency have been formalised in a new document, the Priority Guidelines for Union State Development in 2018−2022. We expect this ambitious document to be approved at the next meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State. The guidelines cover the entire range of bilateral cooperation issues, from the creation of a common legal space, including the coordinated mutual adjustment of our laws, to economic, humanitarian and other exchanges. We also closely interact in other multilateral organisations, primarily the EAEU, the CSTO, the CIS and, of course, the UN, the OSCE and recently the SCO, where Belarus received observer status two and a half years ago, which means that it can participate in many practical areas of SCO operations, in particular, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).

Our diplomatic services are contributing to the strengthening of the Russian-Belarusian alliance and strategic partnership. Our interaction in international affairs is based on the biannual Programmes of Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions. The latest programme was adopted for 2018−2019 at the joint meeting of the Collegiums of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Belarus held in November 2017. Although we are already working to implement this programme, it will be submitted for approval to our presidents at the next meeting of the Supreme State Council. We use these programme provisions to coordinate our positions on critically important current issues and to take practical action to implement our coordinated decisions. Evidence of our trust-based dialogue is the regular meetings, which are held annually, as well as the annual exchanges of visits by the foreign ministers of Russia and Belarus.

This foreign policy coordination is especially important in the current conditions. The global situation remains complicated and does not appear to be improving. Deep changes are ongoing in the world order, and in the process the Western countries, which dominated global development for centuries, are ceding their positions due to the rise and growth of new influential international players, including in Asia and Latin America. These countries, with their growing economies and strong financial means, are becoming aware of their ability to exert political influence on global processes. Of course, abandoning the world order where the West set the tune for the past four or five centuries is very painful for our Western partners. But it is an objective process that you cannot do anything about, and so we must accept it as a fact of life and join this inevitable natural process.

We must begin to respect the fact that people in different countries want to live their own way according to their traditions and choose their own development models that depend on their identity, history and values. In the current situation, we often derive from the fact that once-popular ultra-liberal values are not necessarily applicable universally, as they used to be presented until recently. For example, if you take purchasing power parity, then China is already on top in the world, economically, while it is not at all committed to the principles of liberal economic development. It combines market mechanisms with government regulation. Therefore, looking at China's successes, as well as at India and many other countries we define as emerging economies, all these values require a rethinking.

Complicated processes are underway in the European Union. The economic weight of Europe, its specific and relative weight in the world economy is decreasing due to the processes I have been talking about. Controversial processes are unfolding in the EU. There are varying perspectives on where to go now; one way is to create the united states of Europe that orthodox Marxists had dreamed of, to establish a single budget, to have one finance minister and many other things typical of a centralised state, as France seems to lean towards. On the other hand, there are many countries in the EU that do not want to lose their national identity, their distinct image, history or traditions. We, in any case, are watching this with great attention, because the EU remains, despite the restrictions, limitations, and half the trade compared to a few years ago – still remains Russia's largest trade partner, if we take the EU as an association. We are certainly interested in the EU remaining a cohesive, strong, and united group based on the genuine national interests of all the peoples that are part of this association, and a predictable independent foreign policy partner. Although it does not seem to be free to show that independence very much; we can talk about this in more detail in the question and answer session.

Regardless of whether the EU moves in one direction or whether it will have an independent future, a polycentric and multipolar world order is an objective reality. There is no escaping this rather slow process that continues to develop. New types of associations based on a balance of interests, rather than on bending to the will of various leader countries, are becoming more influential in the world. I am talking about the SCO that I mentioned, and BRICS. The G20 discusses more and more key issues on which global development depends. The BRICS states and their supporters draft consensus-based agreements with western G7 on an equal footing. I believe this format is very promising because no one can dictate anything to the others in the G20 format. Nor is it possible to present any ultimatums, and the concerned parties have to come to terms. Indeed, they have to come to terms in line with a balance of interests and without the "either/or" logic. The latter implies that any specific country must accept its partner's demands or face possible sanctions.

While watching the logic of foreign-policy ultimatums, we get the impression that someone might profit by creating chaos in various parts of the world in the hope that such chaos will end up being controlled by its creators. We can see the consequences of this approach in the Middle East and North Africa, in Iraq, Libya, and a similar attempt in the Syrian Arab Republic, which was thwarted. This region is not the only testing site for such geopolitical engineering. NATO's eastward expansion is an established fact. This expansion continues even though Soviet leaders received solemn assurances that this would not happen. This expansion has already dismantled the European security system and created new demarcation lines on the continent. We are particularly alarmed by NATO's heightened military activity and its expanding military infrastructure in direct proximity to the borders of our states.

Of course, we have responded appropriately to this. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko have repeatedly noted this. Russia and Belarus aim to implement the principle of equal and indivisible security, proclaimed in 1990 by the leaders of the OSCE countries at their summit. Today, our Western partners do not want to make this principle legally binding or translate it into reality.

We continue to advocate the creation of a common peaceful and prosperous economic and humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. We call for abandoning zero sum games when our neighbours or any other countries are faced with a false choice between joining our side or the other side. This fallacious logic has provoked a deep crisis in Ukraine, splitting Ukrainian society and leading to bloody internal strife and an economic crisis.

It is clear that the conflict in Ukraine can be only settled politically through voluntary and full compliance with a vital document that was coordinated barely a hundred metres from where we are meeting today in February 2015, following nearly 17-hour-long talks between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany. There is no alternative to this document, yet we do not see any desire on the part of the Kiev authorities to implement its part of the commitments (I can speak in greater detail about this during the question and answer session). I would like to mention the so-called law on the reintegration of Donbass, which stipulates the use of the army to "restore order" in the territory of the self-proclaimed republics, which would derail the Minsk Agreements. The same goes for the notorious Law on Education, which infringes on minority language rights of the Russian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Polish speakers. We are deeply concerned about the Ukrainian authorities' conniving indifference to the sway of nationalist and neo-Nazi sentiments.

We urge the Normandy format countries, primarily Germany and France, to put pressure on the Ukrainian side to encourage our neighbours to start implementing in full and as soon as possible the commitments they assumed in Minsk three years ago. A special role in this belongs to Washington due to its strong influence on the developments in Ukraine, in which the United States often intervenes.

We were surprised by the Europeans' hasty surrender to US dictate when they sacrificed their trade and economic ties with Russia. The Americans are not sustaining any damage from this. Russian-US trade has been growing sustainably all these years, though not rapidly, whereas many European countries have sustained great damage, losing many jobs and major investments. On the other hand, our falling trade with the majority of European countries has bounced back over the past 18 months. We are doing our best to promote this trend. In particular, we discussed this during the recent meetings of President of Russia Vladimir Putin with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and President of France Emmanuel Macron.

We hope that the EU will muster the political will to abandon policy of the lowest common denominator with regard to Russia. They do have the principle of solidarity, but it stipulates consensus approaches. A consensus is like meeting each other halfway between extreme positions. As of now, their policy towards Russia is dictated by the Russophobic minority in the EU who are abusing the solidarity principle to maintain the anti-Russia sentiments in the EU.

We see how London played a particularly negative role, literally, sweet-talking most of the EU countries with the Skripal case scam. It accused Russia, baselessly and indiscriminately, when the investigation had not even begun yet, and is not completed still, and then persuaded all the EU countries, still without presenting the facts, to join in the expulsion of diplomats, promising that the facts will be presented later. But later it turns out that all these facts have collapsed like a house of cards.

I have already said that some of our European partners have recently demonstrated not just interest, but even a readiness to return to common sense; it was said at the high-level talks I mentioned earlier, and during Bulgarian President Rumen Radev's visit to the Russian Federation. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also reiterated that European security issues cannot be solved without Russia. The most important thing now is to finally complement the right words and approaches with practical action so that we all are able to focus on building a common constructive space.

Russia, like Belarus, is open to honest, equitable cooperation with all who are willing to work on this basis. Today, the energetic development of various integration processes is becoming a sign of the times. We are pleased that Russia and Belarus are in synch with this global trend.

Together with Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, our countries are engaged in setting up the Eurasian Economic Union. It has achieved serious success over the last three years – there is a common market, freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour, and coordinated and unified policies in key sectors of the economy. Thanks to close cooperation, the EAEU member countries are now on a path of stable economic growth. We have an extensive agenda and plans to advance integration through 2025.

The EAEU members have a common understanding of the need to strengthen the association's external ties. In 2016, we entered into a FTA with Vietnam, an agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China and a temporary FTA with Iran. Negotiations on preferential agreements with Israel, Serbia, and Singapore are up and running. Similar consultations will soon start on the preparation of negotiations with Egypt, India, with the countries of South America, and the African Union. All these moves are the necessary prerequisites to realising President Vladimir Putin's initiative to establish the Greater Eurasia partnership from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, primarily by combining the potential of the EAEU member countries, the SCO and ASEAN, while also leaving the door open for EU members because this is about our common, vast continent. Moreover, all these integration associations never take unilateral decisions before relevant discussions on global platforms. They do not try to impose their approaches on the rest of the world. We are interested in the EU joining these processes as well.

The first contacts between the EAEU Commission and the European Commission have already taken place. Although they were not at the highest level, and focused on the issues related to technical regulations and phytosanitary standards, nevertheless, it is a practical dialogue which we support and consider it important to begin contacts at the highest political level in the future.

Friends, it is obvious that the world is at the crossroads. To counterbalance the confrontational course, both Russia and Belarus are working on the harmonisation and democratisation of interstate communication and strengthening of its legal multilateral foundation. We will continue to work on this proactively. This was confirmed again by President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the 2018 St Petersburg International Economic Forum. We will promote the positive agenda aimed at uniting all countries, rather than isolation and disengagement. We are going to work with our allies, and the Republic of Belarus is our main ally and a strategic partner. I am sure that we will boost the traditionally close and effective foreign political coordination in the interests of our countries and peoples.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
NDB approves $200m loan for Durban container berth project (НБР одобрил кредит в размере 200 млн долларов на проект контейнерного причала в Дурбане) / South Africa, May, 2018
Keywords: investments, ndb
South Africa

JOHANNESBURG - Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has been elected chairperson of the board of governors of the New Development Bank (NDB), which has approved a $200million (R2.5bn) loan for the Durban container terminal berth reconstruction project. The 14th meeting of the NDB board of directors held in Shanghai in China yesterday also decided that the next annual meeting of the bank's board of governors would be held in South Africa next year.

The Durban container terminal berth reconstruction project is aimed at helping transport parastatal Transnet to enhance capacity of its port in Durban.

This is being done through the rehabilitation of its container terminal berths and the upgrading of port infrastructure to provide additional slots for larger vessels.

This was one of six projects from the five member countries worth a total of $1.6bn that were approved yesterday by the NDB, the multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014. The six projects approved increased the total value of the bank's portfolio to more than $5.1bn.

The bank is mandated to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries.

The NDB yesterday also signed a memorandum of understanding on general co-operation with the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

BRICS development bank to issue $780 million in yuan-denominated bonds (Банк развития БРИКС выпустит 780 млн. долл. США в облигациях, выраженных в юанях) / South Africa, May, 2018
Keywords: ndb
South Africa

SHANGHAI - The New Development Bank (NDB), set up by the BRICS group of major emerging economies, said on Monday it plans to raise 5 billion yuan ($782 million) through a yuan-denominated bond issue this year.

Leslie Maasdorp, the NDB's chief financial officer, told reporters on the sidelines of the bank's annual meeting in Shanghai that the issue would be part of a 10 billion yuan bond programme approved by the NDB's board.

"Our next issue is going to be 5 billion renminbi," he said.

"We have to just go through a series of regulatory approvals, we've already appointed underwriters ... It's going to be a matter of a few months, it will be during the course of 2018."

The bulk of the proceeds will go towards projects in China and the bank will carry out another yuan-denominated bond issue within the next two years, he said.

Headquartered in Shanghai, the NDB is seen as the first major achievement of the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - since they got together in 2009 to press for a bigger say in the global financial order created by Western powers after World War Two.

In 2016, it completed the sale of a five-year, 3 billion yuan bond which was the first yuan-denominated green bond sold in mainland China by a multinational financial institution at the time.

However, plans to issue bonds in currencies belonging to its other member countries have been delayed, the NDB's president, K.V. Kamath, said.

Kamath told Reuters in March last year that the NDB planned to raise up to $500 million via rupee-denominated masala bonds by the second half of 2017.

"We did not proceed with other issues because we thought it appropriate to get our international credit rating exercise done before we approach the markets," he said, adding that they expect to receive the rating by July.

"The moment the rating exercise gets completed we will probably go into the other countries' markets." The bank has already received an AAA investment rating in China.

The NDB also announced that it had approved six new projects that take its loan portfolio to more than $5.1 billion.

The schemes include an environmental protection project being carried out by Brazil's Petrobras, and a rural road construction and upgrade programme in India.

It said the approvals meant that it now finances 21 projects in its member countries.
China-led development bank drives tech push among BRICS nations (Управляемый из Китая банк развития стимулирует развитие технологий среди стран БРИКС) / Australia, May, 2018
Keywords: ndb, expert_opinion
Author: Michael Smith

When the China-led New Development Bank (NDB) opened its headquarters in Shanghai three years ago, the organisation requested 2000 car parks. The local government would allow them only 600. In the end, only one staff member wanted a spot for an imported car.

The rest of the 100-plus staff used shared bicycles, the metro system or a local car-sharing service called Didi (China's Uber) to get to work. For the policy bank's chief executive it was a wake-up call about how technological change would dominate the policy bank's investment opportunities in the world's developing economies.

Senior ministers and bankers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are holding two days of meetings in Shanghai this week to plot out the next phase of investment for the NDB – one of the new China-led infrastructure banks that are challenging the dominance of Western institutions like the World Bank.

The talk this week is focused on technology, a major source of tension between Washington and Beijing as Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a rally call for the country's high-tech companies to take on the rest of the world.

In a carefully choreographed series of forums, senior ministers from the BRIC nations and global banks talked up the importance of technological change without touching on the more sensitive issues such as global trade tensions or growing concern that China is choking poor African nations with debt they can never repay.

China's Finance Minister Liu Kun said the bank had an important role to "promote the flow of new technology to better assist emerging markets and developing economies".

"The technology revolution gives the private sector more opportunity to participate in infrastructure investment. The government needs to change its role to enhance co-operation with the private sector," Mr Liu said.

The NDB, launched in 2015, last year approved 15 investment projects with loans totalling more than $US3.5 billion ($4.6 billion). This week its board approved six new projects, taking its loan book to $US5.1 billion.

The New Development Bank was established by the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – in 2015. It was the second of two new policy banks backed by Beijing that are an alternative to traditional lenders like the World Bank and indirectly linked to China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Australia is a member of another policy bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The NDB funds projects such as water supply, irrigation, green energy projects and energy conservation, laying down fibre in villages and is currently scaling up operations in South Africa to "help expand the bank's footprint in the continent".

NDB chief Kundapur Vaman Kamath said the growing appetite for local currency financing was an example of the importance of the role the bloc of five emerging countries could play in global development. US protectionism has helped open the door for funding opportunities despite Washington's concerns that some projects are being used as a tool by Beijing to increase its influence.

"We are trying to stand on our own feet in a world which sometimes appears it is swaying in all directions," Mr Kamath said when asked by The Australian Financial Review about the bank's shifting role in the face of US protectionism. "Two years ago we were the only ones talking about local currency financing. Volatility is making countries seek funding on terms they are more comfortable with." The bank earlier confirmed it was planning to raise 5 billion yuan ($1 billion) through a yuan-denominated bond issue this year.

The China-led bank's focus on technology investment came as Mr Xi used a speech on Monday to call for scientists to transform China into a global technology leader. Mr Xi is staring down efforts by US President Donald Trump over Beijing's Made in China 2025 program, which is aimed at making it the top player in robotics, software, aerospace and data – threatening US domination in the global tech race.

World Bank Group managing director Yang Shaolin told the summit there was room for the two policy banks to work together in a world where the current level of official development assistance was $US140 billion, well short of the $US4 trillion a year needed.
NDB and Government of China Sign Loan Agreement for Chongqing Small Cities Sustainable Development Project (НБР и правительство Китая подписали соглашение о займе для проекта устойчивого развития города Чунцин) / China, May, 2018
Keywords: ndb, concluded_agreements, sustainable_development, social_issues

On 28 May 2018, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Government of the People's Republic of China signed Loan Agreement for Chongqing Small Cities Sustainable Development Project for an amount aggregating to USD 300 mln. The Loan Agreement was signed by Mr. Liu Kun, the Minister of Finance of the People's Republic of China and Mr. K. V. Kamath, the NDB President in Shanghai during the Opening Ceremony of the Bank's Third Annual Meeting.

The Project Agreement for the Project was signed by Mr. Wu Cunrong, the Executive Vice-Mayor of Chongqing Municipality, and Mr. Xian Zhu, NDB Vice President and COO.

Under the framework of the Project, the Bank will provide a loan for supporting sustainable infrastructure development of seven small cities in Chongqing Municipality, through an integrated sustainable urban infrastructure development scheme consisting of sub-projects for urban infrastructure, transport, ecological restoration and capacity building, with the objective of improving the living conditions of the local residents and supporting sustainable economic development.

The Project is in a close alignment with the NDB's mandate of supporting sustainable infrastructure development and will be critical to solve the development issues of the seven small cities.

Background Information

The New Development Bank is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014. The Bank is mandated to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.

New Development Bank and Development Bank of Southern Africa Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Establish Framework for Cooperation (Новый банк развития и Банк развития Южной Африки подписали меморандум о взаимопонимании для создания рамок сотрудничества) / China, May, 2018
Keywords: concluded_agreements, ndb

On 28 May 2018, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) signed Memorandum of Understanding on General Cooperation. The Memorandum was signed in Shanghai by Mr. K. V. Kamath, the NDB President and Mr. Patrick Dlamini, Chief Executive Officer of DBSA.

The objective of the Memorandum is to formalize a framework of cooperation between the NDB and DBSA and to promote initiatives that foster cooperation in areas of common interest in accordance with respective mandates and strategies.

The Memorandum outlines the main areas and forms of cooperation between the NDB and DBSA, including but not limited to:

  • Operational Cooperation
  • Treasury Management Cooperation
  • Exchange of Experience and Knowledge Sharing

"I am pleased to sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the NDB and DBSA. Together, we will work to explore opportunities for investing in and co-financing projects and further strengthening the impact and quality of our products and services," said Mr. K. V. Kamath. "We believe that partnerships with key national and global institutions are important for us," added Mr. K. V. Kamath.

"The DBSA looks forward to partnering with the NDB. This forms part of our strategy to form partnerships with, and leverage the strengths of multilateral development finance institutions from across the globe in pursuit of our development mandate in Africa," said Mr. Patrick Dlamini.

Background Information

New Development Bank

The New Development Bank is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014. The Bank is mandated to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.

Development Bank of Southern Africa

The Development Bank of Southern Africa is one of the leading development financial institutions on the continent. We offer an integrated value chain which includes e.g. project consulting, project preparation, deal syndication, finance, implementation and maintenance solutions for socio-economic infrastructure developments in (South) Africa. Our areas of focus include Education, Energy, Health, Housing, ICT, Transport and Water.

New Development Bank and State Bank of India Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Establish Partnership (Новый банк развития и Государственный банк Индии подписали меморандум о взаимопонимании по созданию партнерства) / China, May, 2018
Keywords: ndb, concluded_agreements

On 28 May 2018, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the State Bank of India (SBI) signed Memorandum of Understanding to promote and establish general cooperation. The Memorandum was signed in Shanghai by Mr. K. V. Kamath, the NDB President and Mr. Rajnish Kumar, the Chairman of SBI.

The Memorandum provides a framework for cooperation in a number of areas, including loan services, settlement agency business, cash management, personal finance and others.

According to the Memorandum, both Participants are willing to establish a long-term, stable, and mutually beneficial partnership by optimizing their resources and professional advantages.

"The New Development Bank is looking forward to drawing on our advantages and joining efforts with the State Bank of India to develop infrastructure projects and explore other opportunities for cooperation," said Mr. K. V. Kamath. "NDB strives to be closer to the needs our member countries and to respond quickly and flexibly. We believe that partnerships with key national and global institutions are important for us in order to provide appropriate products and services," added Mr. K.V. Kamath.

"It is indeed a proud moment for SBI to sign MoU with NDB, which will provide a framework to strengthen cooperation and collaboration between the two institutions. With this MoU and enhanced partnership, we shall work together in areas of mutual interest and promote the developmental goals of BRICS countries. We look forward to fully exploring the opportunities that this new relationship with NDB will provide in the areas that are of immediate importance to BRICS nations," said Mr. Rajnish Kumar.

Background Information

New Development Bank

The New Development Bank is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014. The Bank is mandated to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.

State Bank of India

State Bank of India (SBI) is the largest bank in India in terms of assets, deposits, branches, customers and employees. As on March 31, 2018, the bank has a deposit base of Rs.27,063 Bln with advances of Rs. 20,483 Bln. SBI has the largest network of 22,414 branches in India and ATM network of 59,541. SBI is present in 37 countries with 198 offices. SBI has 30.05 mln mobile banking users and 47.9 mln internet banking customers. SBI has the highest number of followers on Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin and Pinterest. Bank tops the list of followers on Facebook and Youtube across all banks in the world.

NDB Third Annual Meeting unveils key updates on technology-backed development (Третье ежегодное собрание НБР обнародовало ключевые обновления по технологическому развитию) / China, May, 2018
Keywords: ndb, investments, top_level_meeting, concluded_agreements

New appointments, new projects and emphasis on technology among other key announcements

The New Development Bank (NDB) held its Third Annual Meeting in Shanghai on May 28-29, welcoming high-level delegates including government ministers, senior figures from multilateral development institutions and business leaders from the BRICS member nations. The event included seminars and high-level meetings focused on the definitive measures the NDB is taking to drive sustainable development in emerging markets based on innovation and disruptive technology. The NDB also announced key updates from management and shared insights on how new-age innovation will impact the work of the NDB in close collaboration with other multilateral development institutions.

The two-day event held in Shanghai's Lujiazui financial district included the participation of Mr. Marcello de Moura Estevão Filho, Secretary for International Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Brazil; Mr. Sergei Storchak, Deputy Minister of Finance, Russia; Mr. M. M. Kutty, Special Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, India; Mr. Kun Liu, Minister of Finance, China; and Mr. Nhlanhla Nene, Minister of Finance, South Africa. Hundreds of representatives of civil society organizations, media, academia, government and business from the BRICS nations also attended.

During the meetings of the Board of Governors (BoG) and the Board of Directors (BoD), their members reviewed the progress of the Bank and elaborated on plans to support the expansion of the NDB's business scope in line with the Bank's mandate.

Board Meetings Announcements

  • Mr. Nhlanhla Nene was elected as the Chairman of the BoG, and will serve in this position until the end of the next BoG Annual Meeting. It was also decided that the next Annual Meeting of the Bank's BoG will be held in South Africa in 2019.
  • During the Meeting, the BoG approved the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended December 31, 2017 and also approved the Condensed Unaudited Financial Statements for the NDB Project Preparation Fund for the year ended December 31, 2017.
  • During the 14th BoD Meeting, the Board discussed the Bank's work, including project pipelines in the member countries of the NDB.
  • The BoD approved six projects from all five member countries of the NDB with loans aggregating USD 1.6 billion. It was highlighted that in 2018 the Bank has significantly strengthened its project portfolio, and the total amount of approvals in 2018 has reached USD 1.7 billion. As of now, the total amount of the Bank's portfolio has reached over USD 5.1 billion.

"The biggest economic opportunity today is that we can invest in a new generation of smart, sustainable technologies to meet our infrastructure requirements. We will leverage these transformations and promote knowledge flows to support appropriate and effective solutions in our member countries," Mr. K.V. Kamath, President of NDB, said at the Opening Ceremony of the Third Annual Meeting. "By doing so, we will contribute to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. As we do so, we at the NDB will continue to listen, to learn, and to innovate."

In the opening seminar titled "Development Financing in a Changing Global Environment", participants addressed the ongoing technological advances that will affect our future and the operating environment for development institutions. The finance ministers of the BRICS nations gave their high-level insights, reflecting on how multilateral development institutions could adapt to the emerging economic realities including technological advances such as artificial intelligence and block chain and also the operating environment for development institutions.

The second seminar titled "Innovative Approaches for Mobilising Finance for Sustainable Infrastructure Development" considered the role of development institutions in supporting innovation and sustainable infrastructure development during the fourth industrial revolution. The panelists shared their views on lending models, including local currency financing and other alternative models for raising funds, and how to attract private sector and other institutional lenders.

In the third seminar titled "The Social Aspects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Digital Economy", prominent representatives of academia, civil society organisations and social leaders from the BRICS nations addressed the impact of new technological trends. It was noted that while tremendous economic opportunities will be created, some countries and social groups will require the special attention and support of multilateral development institutions to avoid being left behind in a fast-changing global economic landscape.

Background Information

The New Development Bank is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014. The Bank is mandated to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.
NDB board of governors and board of directors meetings held in Shanghai, China (Состоялся совет управляющих и совет директоров НБР в Шанхае, Китай) / China, May, 2018
Keywords: ndb, top_level_meeting, investments

On 28 May 2018, the 3rd Annual Meeting of the NDB Board of Governors (BoG) and the 14th Meeting of the NDB Board of Directors (BoD) were held in Shanghai, China. At the Meetings, members of the Boards noted the progress of the Bank and expansion of its business scope and provided guidance for its future.

The 3rd Annual Meeting of the NDB BoG was chaired by Mr. Kun Liu, Governor of the NDB, and Minister of Finance of the People's Republic of China.

Mr. Nhlanhla Nene was elected as the Chairman of the BoG, and will serve in this position until the end of the next BoG Annual Meeting. It was also decided that the next Annual Meeting of the Bank's BoG will be held in South Africa in 2019.

During the Meeting, the BoG approved the Audited Financial Statements for the year ended December 31, 2017 and also approved the Condensed Unaudited Financial Statements for the NDB Project Preparation Fund for the year ended December 31, 2017.

During the 14th BoD Meeting, the Board discussed the Bank's work, including project pipelines in the member countries of the NDB.

The BoD approved six projects from all five member countries of the NDB with loans aggregating USD 1.6 billion. It was highlighted that in 2018 the Bank has significantly strengthened its project portfolio, and the total amount of approvals in 2018 has reached USD 1.7 billion.

With the six projects approved today, the total amount of the Bank's portfolio has reached over USD 5.1 billion.

  • Petrobras Environmental Protection Project (Brazil)
The project is aimed at helping leading Brazilian oil and gas company, Petroleo Brasileiro S.A, or Petrobras, to improve the company's environmental footprint and to comply with new environmental regulatory requirements, through the upgrading of the infrastructure of two existing refineries with the objective of reducing harmful emissions and preventing water and soil contamination. The loan amount for the environmental protection project is USD 200 million.

  • Development of Water Supply and Sanitation Systems Project (Russia)
The project is aimed at helping Russia's mother river, the Volga, combat water pollution problems, through the modernization and construction of integrated water supply and sanitation systems with the objective of reducing ecological damage and increasing the health security of residents in the five participating cities. The loan amount for the Development of Water Supply and Sanitation Systems Project is USD 320 million.

  • Small Historic Cities Development Project (Russia)
The main objective of the project is to support the sustainable socio-economic development of nine competitively selected historic cities of national significance, through tourism infrastructure development with a focus on the preservation of cultural heritage and development of urban infrastructure. The loan amount for the Small Historic Cities Development Project is USD 220 million.

  • Bihar Rural Roads Project (India)
The project is aimed at enhancing local connectivity and improving the state's transportation infrastructure through the construction and upgrading of rural roads with a total length of 4,000 km, spread across 26 districts in the state, and benefiting approximately 3,400 places of habitation. The loan amount for the Bihar Rural Roads Project is USD 350 million.

  • Chongqing Small Cities Sustainable Development Project (China)
Under the framework of the project, the NDB will support sustainable infrastructure development in seven small cities in Chongqing Municipality, through an integrated sustainable urban infrastructure development scheme, consisting of sub-projects for urban infrastructure and ecological restoration. The objective of the project is to improve the living conditions of local residents and support sustainable economic development. The loan amount for the Chongqing Small Cities Sustainable Development Project is USD 300 million.

  • Durban Container Terminal Berth Reconstruction Project (South Africa)
The project is aimed at helping the South African state-owned transportation company, Transnet, to enhance the capacity of its port in Durban, through the rehabilitating of its container terminal berths that are currently operating beyond their original design and the upgrading of port infrastructure to provide additional slots for larger vessels. The loan amount for the Durban Container Terminal Berth Reconstruction Project is USD 200 million.

The BoD also reviewed Independent Audited Financial Statements for the period ended March 31, 2018.

Background Information

The New Development Bank is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014. The Bank is mandated to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.
OPINION: Active role by business in BRICS will promote investment (МНЕНИЕ: Активная роль бизнеса в БРИКС будет способствовать инвестициям) / South Africa, June, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, investments
South Africa
Author: Sello Mashao Rasethaba

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed four special envoys to woo international investors to South Africa.

The president also intends to hold an investment conference in October. The success of these envoys depends on the support and participation of South African business at the most senior level in the working groups of the BRICS Business Council and B20 task forces of the Group of twenty (G20). The BRICS Business Council has nine working groups in infrastructure, manufacturing, financial services, energy and green economy, skills development, agribusiness, digital economy and deregulation.

The main objective of these working groups is to facilitate interaction and co-operation among the business people in BRICS countries, with a view to better understand existing market opportunities, build synergies and promote intra-BRICS direct investments to ensure industrial development and job creation.

But South African business deprives itself from interacting with their counterparts in BRICS through their lack of participation in the working groups.

Participants from other BRICS countries include Captain Xu Lirong, the chairperson of the China Ocean Shipping Company; Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of Russia's sovereign wealth fund with reserved capital of $10billion (R125.82bn) under management, (the Russian Direct Investment Fund); Tata Steel's managing director, TV Narendran from India; and Brazil's Murilo Ferreira, the chief executive of Vale, which boasts of being No1 in global production of iron ore, pellets and nickel, to name but a few.

On the other hand, B20 task forces include Digital Economy & Industry 4.0, employment and education, energy, resource efficiency and sustainability, sustainable food system, trade and investment, integrity and compliance, SMEs development and financing growth and infrastructure.


One of the topics we dealt with in the recent B20 meeting of the Trade and Investment Task Force in Paris how do we "accelerate a multilateral framework initiative on investment facilitation".

The brief of the special envoys on investments is to meet with potential investors, to inform them of the advantages of investing in South Africa and alert them to the many diverse opportunities that exist here.

In one of his speeches, Ramaphosa said South Africa was concentrating on the types of investment that would not only create employment, but add value to the natural resources that the country had in abundance, and "will create shared value, producing sustainable financial gains for investors and broader benefits for their employees, suppliers, communities and other stakeholders".

As the special envoys on investments scour the globe they will join the unco-ordinated glut comprising National Treasury officials in Davos, diplomats from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) in most world capitals, Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) investor roadshow professionals, provincial and municipal officials visiting "sister cities" and IMC's Brand South Africa.

Are our ministers and bureaucrats equal to the task as outlined in the State of the Nation address? Have they changed in their programmes and ways of working and actions to match the vibrant and call for action of "Thuma Mina?"

The "glut" is better illustrated in the 2016/2017 annual report of the National Treasury, Dirco and the dti.

According to the report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) affords South Africa an opportunity to position the country as an attractive investment destination to international investors.

Public-private engagements between the government, business and civil society enable South Africa to set the narrative on policy deliberations related to economic and social issues.

The South African delegation to WEF meetings is led by either the president or deputy president, with the Treasury as the co-ordinating department. The Presidency mandated the Treasury in August 2016 to lead with the logistical co-ordination through the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) then chaired by the finance minister. Apparently, the IMC is now chaired by the minister for Dirco.

The Treasury also states in its annual report that it ensures effective representation of South Africa's position in discussions and negotiations during meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors (also called "the finance track") of the G20; and continued to work in close co-operation with the SA Reserve Bank and other relevant stakeholders, particularly the Presidency and Dirco.

According to the 2016/17 Dirco Annual Report, Dirco continues to accelerate economic diplomacy through diligent work done at South Africa's missions abroad, contributing to the growing of the country's regional, continental and global trade and investment, resulting in the total potential foreign direct investment (FDI) of R50232bn, particularly in the energy and chemicals sectors among other achievements.

The 2016/17 annual report of the dti lists South Africa's sub-programmes:

Investment Promotion facilitates the increase in the quality and quantity of FDI, domestic and outward investment by providing investment attraction, targeted lead generation and recruitment support.

Investment and Interdepartmental Clearing House promotes and facilitates investment, and provides support services to Investment Promotion and Interdepartmental Clearing House South Africa. This sub-programme also provides a specialist advisory service, and fast-tracks, unblocks and reduces red tape for investors.

Investment support and after-care provides specialist advisory services through research, information marketing, after-care and policy advocacy to facilitate investment, and retain and expand existing investment.

I believe that in preparation for the investment conference, the four investments envoys must go beyond consulting with various foreign chambers of commerce like the American Chamber of Commerce, who are likely not to have the personal contacts at the level where decisions are taken or with relevant to investors like Pretoria-born Elon Musk and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

South African business must take advantage of the upcoming July BRICS meetings in Durban and Johannesburg, including the October 2018 B20 meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

South African Business is missing opportunities to rub shoulders with their counterparts in BRICS.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, writes in his book, My Vision that, "With each day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion or starve. It is no different for the human race. Whether you consider yourself a gazelle or a lion, you simply have to run faster than others to survive." The investment envoys have to run faster than others to survive in the global race for investments.

Private sector

The South African government through the Treasury, dti, Dirco and the Presidency spends a fortune of taxpayers' money on the G20 efforts, but the participation of the private sector is minimal, unlike the private sector of other G20 countries, which take advantage of opportunities offered by BRICS and the B20.

The task of luring investments to South Africa does not lie on the shoulders of Ramaphosa alone, but on all South Africans.

Ramaphosa has indicated that he wants to "encourage corporates not only to expand their operations, but also to persuade their counterparts across the world to invest in the South African economy", he also want to "cultivate a huge cohort of investment envoys that understand the economy, that can see the opportunities and that can direct potential investors to where they can find assistance".

If we do not co-ordinate all these efforts, South Africa also runs the risk of giving mixed messages that may lead to investor no-confidence.

Remember, we are competing with other countries in our efforts to woo investors.

The task to convince investors to believe in South Africa and bring the much-needed jobs to our country that may lead to increased trade with the world is not the job of the investment envoys alone, but equally of ministers of state and the civil servants that work for our government.

Participation of business in BRICS and the B20 has increased over the years, save for South Africa, which had minimal participation. There were +300 business people in the B20 in Australia in 2014 and this was doubled at B20 Turkey in 2015, while B20 China only had +500 in 2016 and B20 Germany increased the number of business representatives to +800 in 2017. B20 Argentina boasts that by the time the summit takes place in Buenos Aires in October this year, it will have +1200 members, including +1000 companies that employ more than 35million people.

Is this not a fertile ground for the presidential investment envoys to mine those opportunities?

The participation of business in BRICS and the B20 will be bolstered by the Investment Envoys as they interact with investors face to face and promote Ramaphosa's initiative to raise R1trillion in new investments over five years.

Most importantly, all parties who promote investments must read from the same script and say the same thing in communicating the need to reverse the economic meltdown in South Africa.

Unless all of us embrace and practically adjust our way of doing things we will end up with what Sheik Maktoum said: "We in the Arab world cannot realise our ambitions, complete huge projects and generate millions of job opportunities if individuals and communities are subdued this way. When this happens, the community will simply not co-operate and will not be creative. This is the end of a leadership based on fear, and its side-effects go even deeper and further."

Sello Mashao Rasethaba is a council member of the South African BRICS Business Council, chairperson of the African Entrepreneurs Council and the Black Business Council. Rasethaba also serves in the B20 Trade and Investment Task Force and is a member of the B20 High Level International Business Advocacy Caucus.
World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
WATCH: First Brics football tournament ahead of World Cup (Видео: первый футбольный турнир БРИКС в преддверии Чемпионата Мира) / South Africa, June, 2018
Keywords: social_issues
South Africa

THE Embassy of the Russian Federation in partnership with the SABC is hosting a Brics football tournament at Urban Soccer Five, Hatfield ahead of the 2018 Fifa World Cup scheduled to take place in Russia from June 14 to July 15.

SABC employees and retired football legends on behalf of the South African Football Association are representing SA.

The Russian, Chinese, Brazilian and Indian embassies will also lock horns with each other during the 15 friendly matches as the day progresses.

Alexander Kulyaev, press officer for the Russian Embassy in SA said the event was important as they would be hosting the World Cup in two weeks time.

"It is the first football tournament of the Brics countries in Pretoria.

"For the first time we decided to gather up together and do some sport event and for us it is obviously important because we will be hosting the World Cup in two weeks," he said.

"There is also the Brics summit happening from the 25th until the 27th of July where all heads of state of the five countries are meeting, so it is an important event and we decided to celebrate with a sport event which brought people together."
BRICS Academic Forum proposes new socio-economic solutions (Академический форум БРИКС предлагает новые социально-экономические решения) / South Africa, June, 2018
Keywords: social_issues, Think_Tank_Council
South Africa

Is the BRICS Think Tanks Council (BTTC) serving its purpose as a reservoir of ideas for BRICS leaders? This was the challenge set by Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, at the opening of the 10th BRICS Academic Forum.

The Forum, which brings together top academia from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) to propose actionable solutions to some of the developing world's most pressing socio-economic challenges, took place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg between 28 and 31 May.

South Africa, which holds the BRICS Chairship in 2018, set the agenda for this year's Forum, choosing to focus on the theme of Envisioning inclusive development through a socially responsive economy.

"South Africa is not a poor country, but an unjust one and it's up to us right those injustices," commented Professor Ari Sitas, Chairman of the South African BRICS Think Tank.

Gender Inequality

The theme of injustice was particularly evident in the first panel which focused on gender and inequality in BRICS countries.

As Gao Hao, from the China delegation pointed out, inclusivity is beneficial not just for women but for the economy as well. "Research shows that if gender equality and women's empowerment are realised in most countries, the global GDP bonus will reach 28 trillion dollars," she said.

However, the obstacles to gender equality are significant. In Brazil, for example, women dedicate a high number of weekly hours to unpaid domestic work and care, reducing the number of hours they are able to invest in paid labour, explained Joana Mostafa from the Brazilian delegation.

She said that a scheme to empower women which has seen considerable success in Brazil is the Bolsa Familia Conditional Cash Transfer programme, which allows for cash transfers to be sent directly to the Mother of the family. The result said Mostafa is that 48% of Bolsa women feel more financially independent and 38% feel more respected by their partners.

"As a way of responding to some of these challenges, we propose the establishment of a Forum on Women's Inclusion. This Forum will help identify the obstacles to inclusivity in the BRICS domain," said Professor Sitas.

Universal Health Coverage

Another highlight was the discussion around how universal health coverage (UHC) can be achieved in the BRICS countries. It began by addressing the elephant in the room, which is that the developing world still has a long way to go in terms of ending epidemics such as AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria by 2030.

Aquina Thulare, from the South African delegation, pointed out, for example, that of the 911 million instances of TB globally, 423 million happen in BRICS countries.

"We haven't looked at the real causes of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB)," Thulare said, maintaining that if BRICS countries continue to accept the drugs foisted on them by large pharmaceutical companies as solutions to the TB epidemic, all that we will achieve is people who are resistant to drugs currently used to fight MDR-TB.

André de Mello e Souza from the Brazilian delegation agreed, adding that global pharmaceutical companies do not favour the BRICS manufacturing environment.

As a practical way of driving change, Thulare suggested that together BRICS countries develop a holistic knowledge sharing platform for crowd collaboration and to promote innovation. The platform would also then help to attract funding for popular ideas gaining traction.

With this in mind the BTTC, is proposing a vaccine research platform to respond to both communicable and non-communicable research challenges.

Strengthening Education and Science

An important question was posed by Russia during the discussion around leveraging the collective strengths of the BRICS nations in the education, scientific and productive sectors. Leonid Grigoryev of the Russian delegation said it's critical to ask whether we are producing innovations or importing them.

This was taken a step further by Thaiane Oliveira from Brazil who pointed out that while the combined scientific research outputs from BRICS countries was 1382, only 288 of these were open access.

She therefore suggested that BRICS countries might need to invest in more open access platforms to improve the visibility of their scientific research.

The greater need for building collaborations and synergies in the cognitive sciences was emphasised by Varun Sahni from the Indian delegation who pointed out that challenges such as climate change and water scarcity cannot be solved by science and technology alone.

"In response to these challenges, the BTTC will propose a series of initiatives, such as the creation of a BRICS Astrophysics and Space Research Scientific Committee; and a joint R&D Research Platform," noted Professor Sitas.

Promoting Energy Research

In order to limit temperature increases to 2°C, investment in low-carbon power generation and energy efficiency would need to increase by three to seven times, according to the International Energy Agency.

This was the statistic with which Jaya Josie of the South African delegation set the scene of current challenges to the uptake of green energy in BRICS. More innovative financing mechanisms are needed, he commented.

Aparajit Pandey, from the Indian delegation, argued that international banking regulations suppress financial flows of funding for climate change. Ultimately, he believes that BRICS countries must push for reform in global financial institutions.

To begin leveraging change, the SABTT recommends launching a BRICS Energy Research Platform to provide key information for strategic planning of activities of governmental structures, local authorities and enterprises of the BRICS countries.

"In the end a multitude of entities were proposed – centres, institutes, networks, platforms, programmes, hubs and committees, as well as a forum to monitor the implementation of the agreements within BRICS in order to identify urgent areas of necessary intervention," concluded Professor Sitas.

The BTTC will be submitting its full list of 20 recommendations along with those discussed during other panels at the Forum for the BRICS leader's consideration.

At Brics think tank, scholars get drunk on their own rhetoric (Участники встречи ученых БРИКС упиваются своей собственной риторикой) / South Africa, May, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, social_issues, Think_Tank_Council
South Africa

Naomi Klein remarked that a think tank is a group of people paid to think by the people who control the tanks. Here in Johannesburg, one of South Africa's highest-profile intellectual vehicles appears to be a victim of drunken driving by scholars from whom we otherwise expect much stronger political navigation skills.

In the central business district of Sandton, a large gathering of state-funded intellectuals (staying at the five-star Intercontinental Hotel) is conferencing in heart-warmingly hedonistic style, replete with national Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) songs and dances. The Brics Academic Forum and SA Brics Think Tankmeeting, winding up on May 31, must be South African scholars' most expensive event of the year, in spite of the theme Envisioning Inclusive Development through a Socially Responsive Economy.

The mandate from Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor's opening speech was framed with unabashed talk-left ideology, regardless of obvious walk-right realities. She asked academics to "develop a collaborative set of interventions that advances the agenda of the bloc. The Brics formation is one that is based on a progressive view of how the world should develop; and the world is in need of progressive ideas, of ideas that come from issues of social justice and inclusion."

Advancing that agenda actually entails avoidance of major class contradictions within and between the Brics, and between the Brics and Africa, especially host South Africa's rampant corporate and state corruption. The point, according to Brics facilitator Anil Sooklal, deputy director-general of Pretoria's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), is state-business-intellectual "synergy":

"We found that the Think Tank and Academic Forum is working in one compartment, and our business [sector] was working in another compartment, and government in another compartment. So we took the initiative to bring them all together."

But, as the gathering this week illustrates, being embedded within a state-corporate power and funding system — at a time the National Research Foundation is cutting back drastically on scholars' research subsidies — risks transmission of the worst disease intellectuals can catch: failure of analytical nerve.

For the Brics Academic Forum is occurring in a Johannesburg neighbourhood where, regular PricewaterhouseCoopers studies show, "eight out of ten senior managers commit economic crime", within a country that PwC regularly rates as having the world's most corrupt bourgeoisie.

Brics-from-above rots from the public-private head

Two months from now, Brics political rulers Michel Temer (Brazil), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Narendra Modi (India) and Xi Jinping (China) will join host president Cyril Ramaphosa, also at the Sandton Convention Centre. Each of their governments exudes an overwhelming stench of malfeasance.

Last November, to take just one example, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' "Paradise Papers" revealed secretive tax haven activities by these presidents or their close associates. While Temer and Putin may be most profoundly exposed, Ramaphosa himself has been implicated by investigative journalists in massive illicit financial flows via mining houses Lonmin and Shandukawhich he owned, and cellphone giant MTN which he chaired.

The local Brics Business Council will convene simultaneously in late July, led by controversial "Fourth Industrial Revolution" proponent Iqbal Survé, who succeeded disgraced Eskom boss Brian Molefe as Council head last year. Survé's Independent newspaper chain carries non-stop cheery news about the Brics, especially his Council leadership.Three of the four other Council members are Transnet's Siyabonga Gama, Aspen Pharmaceutical's Stavros Nicolaou and Mediterranean Shipping Company's Sello Rasethaba. All acquired prolific wealth amidst very serious charges of tender fraud (Survé, Gama and Rasethaba), price fixing (Nicolaou), Gupta-denialism (Gama), spying on anti-corruption whistle-blowers (Gama), and even sexual harassment in the course of Brics-related travel duties (Rasethaba).

The Business Council was founded in March 2013, when the Brics heads-of-state summit came to Durban. As its enthusiastic chair, Molefe pronounced, "Our overarching goal as the SA Brics Business Council is, therefore, to bring tangible projects to fruition more quickly and to strengthen the interface between the governments and private sectors of the Brics economies."

Before losing his job running Eskom in 2016 due to the Gupta brothers' bribery scandals, in which he became one of the country's reviled officials, Molefe was chief executive of Transnet. During the 2013 Brics summit, he signed a high-profile $5 billion loan from the China Development Bank to pay for Durban port improvements and new locomotives.

Yet, as investigative journalists at amaBhungane reported, "Transnet bought seven of the world's most expensive port cranes because its Chinese state-owned supplier [Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries] inflated the price to pay off the Guptas," and then the South China Rail supplier of locomotives gave 21% kickbacks to the Guptas worth more than $400-million.

This rancid state-corporate nexus can be termed "Brics from above". In contrast, there are four active networks we might call "Brics from the middle". For although many (not all) intellectuals in Sandton this week seek ideological pro-Brics synergy with the big boys, the Brics Academic Forum members actually fit rather more comfortably within the upward-gazing Brics Trade Union Forum, Brics Youth and a 'Civil Brics' network driven by NGOs.

All retain a generally positive attitude about promoting the Brics bloc. None dare mention the specific stains of corruption spreading all around them. And all were told by Dirco in no uncertain terms that their messaging must be provided in the form of polite policy 'asks,' spelled out at least a month before the Brics summit. That way their ideas can be integrated into the formal agenda, with no distracting counter-summits or protests in late July to compete for the media's and society's attention. (Those are left to traditional brics-from-below gatherings which since 2013 in Durban have offered constructive critique, and which in 2018 will be hosted by the United Front–Johannesburg under the slogan Break the Brics.)

Against mental colonialism

To be sure, unbridled pro-Brics dishonesty is simply impossible in this extreme context, and some of the intellectuals gathered in Sandton are often critical of existing regimes. SA Brics Think Tank chair Ari Sitas, a University of Cape Town sociologist, even cited a Russian interview with Brazilian philosopher-lawyer Roberto Mangabeira Unger:

"Our whole tendency is to accept the general blueprint of the market economy imported from the North Atlantic world and then to compromise it or qualify it with elements of state capitalism, political authoritarianism and compensatory social democracy – that is what we do. It is a set of compromises, qualifications and evasions, rather than strong national projects. We lack these projects."

Unger continued with an autocritique that should make the Sandton set squirm:

"Not only we have political and plutocratic elites that subordinate national interests to the self-serving objectives, but in the midst of all our bluster about national self-searching we are all tainted by mental colonialism. What is shocking to see in these countries is that the intelligentsia and the political elites are to a very large extent servile, they are submissive to the intellectual fashions and alternatives that are imported from the Academy of the North Atlantic countries."

For a while, at least prior to 2015, such fashions included the idea that a united Brics would offer a genuine challenge to imperial power. But by mid-2017 when the Chinese hosted similar gatherings of academics and civil society, there were such intense geopolitical and economic conflicts between Beijing and New Delhi that Modi nearly boycotted the Brics heads-of-state summit, as he had done the Belt & Road Initiative conference four months' earlier.

Perhaps serving as a precedent for the Sandton meeting, a Quanzhou seminar of Brics intellectuals last August, at the time tensions were hottest, "paid little attention to the ongoing India-China military stand-off" on the Bhutan border, remarked Observer Research Foundation chairperson Sudheendra Kulkarni: "Obviously, the Chinese hosts did not want a divisive bilateral issue to get any kind of focus in the midst of deliberations at a Brics seminar."

Reflecting servility to local power, many of South Africa's state-funded intellectuals and commentators remain pro-Brics, albeit in often schizophrenic ways. At the extreme end of this spectrum, the most actively 'anti-imperialist' voices are those of Gayton McKenzie – whose Brics chapter in the book Kill Zuma by Any Means Necessary last December loyally provided the Zuma narrative – as well as Black First Land First and Black Opinion ezine.

According to these (generally pro-Gupta) analysts, Cyril Ramaphosa is a Western-oriented saboteur of Brics in the same way that current Brazilian president Temer arranged a coup and prison sentence, respectively, against his two predecessors from the Workers Party, Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and Lula da Silva in 2018. The Mail & Guardian recently quoted an unnamed Dirco official, suggesting that Ramaphosa "is warming up to the West, almost recalibrating our relations to focus on the West because those are his friends, at the expense of Brics … It's almost like Zuma had put all his eggs in that [Brics] basket."

A similar tale was spun by Zuma himself in 2017, in a weirdly personalised way: "I was poisoned and almost died just because South Africa joined Brics under my leadership." (There is no hard evidence for this, only gossip about a link to an alleged CIA agent.)

This conspiratorial crew have Sandton scholarly allies when they assert that the Brics are actively undermining Washington's power over global finance and geopolitics. The Brics Academic Forum program profiled an abstract by University of Zululand historian Maxwell Shamase claiming:

"Brics calls for the democratisation of the interstate system and opposes Western and US dominance of global governance … Most scholars do indeed agree that Brics have rejected the dominant political economy paradigms of the liberal order, including a market-oriented regulatory system, fiscal austerity and comprehensive liberalisation of trade."

(Sadly, it turns out that the confident words above were not originally Shamase's, they were borrowed verbatim without attribution from a Delhi think thank, the Observer Research Foundation. But this was not an instance of South-South solidaristic resonance: they were actually penned in 2015 by idealistic Finnish PhD student Marko Juutinen and his colleague Jyrki Käkönen. And yet, as it became increasingly obvious that Brics did not actually reject the dominant neoliberal world order, Juutinen reversed himself last September: "The Brics on one hand seek to promote some form of pluralism in the international arena, and on the other do not seem to offer an alternative."

Residual anti-imperial fantasy

In another example of dubious Sandton scholarship, one of South Africa's most insightful tech analysts, Rasagan Maharajh from Tshwane University of Technology, has gone on record advocatinga Brics alternative to the Western-controlled internet, albeit with not a single mention of Beijing's extreme surveillance, censorship, active net repression and official Orwellian 'social credit' attempts at citizens' behaviour modification – the latter carried out by Tencent, in which the Sandton scholars have made large investments (as have all of us with JSE pension portfolios, via Naspers).

In the same spirit, regarding climate change, Maharajh wrote in the Brics Academic Review (a new journal launched in Sandton this week), "the Brics are resolute in their efforts to continue to meet this commitment [to the Paris Climate Accord]… and have all indicated plans to moderate their own developmental expansions and curb their respective emissions."

Maharajh must be excluding from consideration the extreme carbon-addicted features of South Africa's National Development Plan.

In his Brics Academic Review contribution, even the progressive economist Seeraj Mohamed spreads the fairy dust:"Brics countries should continue to push for reform that gives increased voice, democracy and accountability to the International Financial Institutions."

In reality, the Brics have been doing exactly the opposite. The December 2015 Brics countries' increase in IMF voting shares (China up by 37%, Brazil 23%, India 11% and Russia 8%) occurred at the expense of Nigeria and Venezuela, which both lost 41% of their votes, and even South Africa lost 21%, with a dozen more in between. (The five Brics IMF directors joined the West's in endorsing a second term for managing director Christine Lagarde, reaffirmed the day after she was convicted of negligence in a €400-million corruption prosecution at her prior job as French finance minister.)

It is important to cite the likes of Maharajh and Mohamed here —because they are usually very sensible, comradely analysts (i.e., they're among the best thinkers, not the most hackish), which suggests that because of their urgency to promote the Brics, those in the academic consultancy zone twist and turn from interpreting what is in reality a "sub-imperial" relationship with the West into an anti-imperial fantasy.
Minister Naledi Pandor on tackling barriers to education access (Министр Наледи Пандор о борьбе с препятствиями для доступа к образованию) / South Africa, May, 2018
Keywords: social_issues, speech
South Africa

CNBC Africa's Rofhiwa is in attendance of 10th BRICS Academic Forum in what is known as Africa's richest square mile, Sandton. This year's theme centres on inclusive development in the BRICS countries. Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor opened the sessions at the Academic Forum and is with Rofhiwa at the moment.
Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on media arrangements for the 10th BRICS summit (Министр Номвула Мокониане о медиа-мероприятиях для 10-го саммита БРИКС) / South Africa, May, 2018
Keywords: media, summit
South Africa

The Minister of Communications, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane is pleased to announce the media developments of South Africa's hosting of the 10th Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit to be hosted at the Sandton International Convention Centre from 25-27 July 2018.

The BRICS approach is informed by the need to deepen, broaden and intensify relations within the grouping and among the individual countries for more sustainable, equitable and mutually beneficial development. This approach takes into consideration each member's growth, development and poverty objectives to ensure relations are built on the respective country's economic strengths and to avoid competition where possible.

The bloc offers a unique opportunity for BRICS countries to extend and advance their cooperation in ways that meaningfully promote their economic development agendas as well as that of other developing countries.

South Africa assumed the rotational Chairship of BRICS from 1 January to 31 December 2018. The 2018 Summit will be a seminal milestone for BRICS cooperation, as it represents a decade of BRICS cooperation at the highest diplomatic level.

This Summit is held under the theme "BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution".

The theme is reflective of the core priorities of each one of the BRICS members, notably to strive towards the creation of an inclusive society and global partnerships that will bring prosperity to all humankind.

The theme is intended to align and ensure strategic continuity with the approved themes for South Africa's Chairship of both the South African Development Community (SADC) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

Plans are underway to ensure the successful hosting of the Summit. South Africa has made headway on media coordination and members of the media are now invited to apply to be accredited for the 10th BRICS Summit.

Media interested in covering the summit should use the link below to complete the online registration form.

In aligning with the customs regulations, journalists using passports as identification should note that the Passports should be valid for at least 30 days beyond the expected date of departure to South Africa.

The passports must have at least two (2) unused pages when presented for endorsements.

Yellow fever vaccination certificates will be required from the following:

  • Guests over one year of age who come from yellow fever endemic regions or
  • Guests who have passed through such regions
  • Quarantine may be imposed as per the health regulations
All journalists who require a visa to enter South Africa must obtain it from the nearest South African Embassy/High Commissions in each country.

The closing date for the 10th BRICS Summit Media Accreditation is Monday, 22 June 2018.

For more information on the Summit, please visit:

Members of the public are encouraged to follow the BRICS conversation by using the #BRICS2018

BRICS countries pulling up their socks for the upcoming UN high level meeting on TB at the 71st World Health Assembly (Страны БРИКС засучили рукава перед предстоящим совещанием высокого уровня ООН по туберкулезу на 71-й сессии Всемирной ассамблеи здравоохранения) / Belgium, June, 2018
Keywords: social_issues, UN, expert_opinion

Tuberculosis (TB) has killed far too many people around the world for many decades, and to this day continues to take millions of lives. The global response to this tragic disease has been disappointing and not very coherent, so far, but the upcoming UN meeting on TB to be held on the 26th of September 2018 in New York is seen by the BRICS countries as an opportunity for heads of state and other leaders to rise to the occasion and take bold action against TB. With strong leadership from the BRICS, these countries have, in principle at least, what it takes to lead the charge against a disease that is taking precious lives and weakening economies. The question is: will they do so, especially in this all-important year for the battle against TB?

As many in the TB community have already said, 2018 is a "Now or Never" moment for the fight against TB. If global leaders fail to do something substantial about this tragic disease after the UN HL meeting on TB, chances are that it will keep getting worse.

It breaks my heart to see so many people all over the world suffering from TB. Personally, I did not think that the disease was such a huge problem until 2009, when someone close to me told me that she had been diagnosed with TB. It was a difficult moment, and I have since gained an interest in the fight against the disease, because like many other diseases, it can lead to poverty as well as place a host of economic and social burdens on patients and their families.

The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) face a huge TB burden themselves: together they account for 46% of all incident cases of TB and 40% of all TB-related mortality. India alone has about 27 percent of the estimated global cases of TB, as well as a quarter of drug-resistant TB patients. Many of these TB patients or victims are young adults in their most productive years. With all that in mind, and as a South African citizen myself, I am really counting on the BRICS countries to take decisive action that stops the disease in its stride.

On the 23rd of May 2018, I attended a BRICS health ministers panel discussion at the WHA in Geneva. At the event, BRICS countries came together to reflect on the upcoming UN high level meeting on TB. The health minister of South Africa, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, chaired the meeting, with other key participants being Mao Qunan, DG of Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, China; Gilberto Occhi, Minister of Health Brazil; Veronika Skvortsova, Minister of Health, the Russian Federation; J.P Nadda, Minister of Health, India; and of course Dr Tedros, a rather well-known gentleman by now I presume.

Dr Motsoaledi presided over the meeting, as the current president of BRICS. He stressed that the problem of TB is now beyond the ministers of health as there are many political, economic and social determinants of the disease. Hence, it is important for heads of state to attend the UN high level meeting on TB in person, he emphasized. He believes that with issues requiring a higher authority, involving heads of state could be a more efficient way of finding solutions and reflecting on the decisions that the UN high level meeting needs to make. This, I believe, is the kind of action that the BRICS countries could advocate as a global community to high level policy-makers, however, it remains unclear how they are going to mobilize heads of state to attend this meeting. The fact that the TB and NCD High-Level meetings follow each other closely in September, in New York, could be both an asset and a disadvantage. I can only hope they succeed, because as we all know, poor health in one part of the world has the risk of affecting us all, especially in this age of globalization.

Dr Motsoaledi also highlighted the need for countries to commit to spending 0.1% of their gross domestic product on TB research and development (i.e. one the five asks for heads of state, see below), and argued that current methods of approaching things must change if one is to hope for better outcomes.

Finally, he presented "the five asks" (see Project Syndicate for similar "TB asks" by Ditiu (Stop TB) & Sidibé (UNAIDS)) agreed upon by the BRICS, which heads of state should work towards:

  • Reach all people by closing the gaps on TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention
  • Transform the TB response to be equitable, rights-based and people-centered
  • Accelerate development of essential new tools to end TB
  • Invest the funds necessary to end TB
  • Commit to decisive and accountable global leadership, including regular UN reporting and review
Dr Tedros, adding to this, emphasised the need for everyone to work together. Indeed, he stated that joint productive effort could lead to significant change, particularly in developing countries. Dr Tedros also insisted that the BRICS countries should be role models in the fight against TB, and highlighted the importance of working with the private sector to advance R&D.

China has committed to providing medical assistance and emergency medical aid to Belt and Road partners, in addition to providing support with regards to the management of major infectious diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. So there might be many TB related synergies too with the Belt & Road Initiative in the years to come.

India is certainly a key actor now in the global TB battle. The country is advocating for TB treatment to be seen as right. In March, during the 2018 Delhi End TB Summit, PM Modi set the bar high, as he called for all partners, public and private and the civil society, to work together towards ending TB in the world. The belief is that if India can be successful in ending TB, then globally the chances of eradicating the disease will also improve. As you probably recall, Modi committed to ending TB in India by 2025, 5 years ahead of (SDG) schedule. Let's hope India can pull it off. Modi's pledge certainly has injected new momentum in the global fight against TB.

I could tell from this side event that the BRICS countries are doing their best to assist each other, and also help other countries, and this makes me believe the world at large should not lose hope or give up the fight against TB. It is expected that at the UN high level meeting, the new and innovative strategies for combatting TB will be produced, and with the BRICS countries receiving technical input from other countries with better TB prevention & treatment results, they can really become inspirations for other countries within their continents which also have high burdens of the disease. One of the main challenges remains the identification of people who have been infected with the disease, particularly among populations who do not use conventional health services, for a variety of reasons.

With the 10th BRICS meeting scheduled for July, in Johannesburg (SA), maybe we could even see a breakthrough in agreeing on a BRICS action plan, before the UN high level meeting kicks off in September. In a previous (2017) BRICS meeting, the BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration specifically mentioned the need to improve the surveillance of TB and also agreed to set up a TB research network. If these action plans are indeed implemented, plus some others, BRICS countries could indeed take the lead on TB in the years to come.

As already mentioned above, it's certainly now or never. But even if the UN HL meeting outcome were a bit disappointing, or not the breakthrough hoped for by the TB community, not all hope is lost.

You never know; if per chance some nasty multi-resistant form of TB were to hit Mr Trump, that might also be a "game changer" in the global battle against TB ! : )

The BRICS nations have common goals that require more coordination (У стран БРИКС есть общие цели, требующие большей координации) / Russia, May, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, speech

"There is quite a bit of difference of opinion regarding the sustainable development of the BRICS countries: they are all very different, plus under the UN agreement, all countries themselves determine their own path of development," said chief advisor to the Head of the Analytical Center Leonid Grigoriev speaking at a round table titled BRICS in the Changing World: Expert View.

May 28-31 Johannesburg will be hosting the 10th anniversary BRICS Academic Forum. The expert community conference traditionally is held before the annual BRICS summit, which this year will also be taking place in Johannesburg on July 25-27. Experts meet before the summit to come up with joint recommendations on how to develop and improve BRICS. It was these recommendations that were discussed at the round table.

Commenting on the priorities for the BRICS nations given the ever more complicated situation on the international stage, Mr. Grigoriev noted that when we talk about the differences between these countries, it is not just the differences between their geopolitical interests that are being discussed and that are often at cross-purposes like those of India and China or South Africa, which bills itself as the ambassador for the entire Africa and backs this agenda. The thing is that the BRICS countries are at different stages of economic development, thus, South Africa and India are at the industrial stage (and India also has a vibrant services sector), while China, Brazil and Russia are making the transition to a post-industrial economy.

"The BRICS countries have different development levels, different problems but at the same time they all need infrastructure and investments realy bad," Mr. Grigoriev believes. The expert is of the opinion that the main goal now is to understand how these nations can join forces to use the existing opportunities in education and innovation. This requires more coordination in investment, trade and education policies. In the future, closer ties should be promoted between research organizations. It is important to bring back people that got an education in Europe and some BRICS countries do not have the requisite conditions for that, but Russia does. The problem of inequality also needs addressing.

A video recording of the event can be found on the website of Russia Today.

Globalisation and the celebration of unique cultures work together within BRICS (Глобализация и празднование уникальных культур, трудящихся вместе в БРИКС) / India, May, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, global_governance, social_issues, speech
Author: Samir Saran

The BRICS today is a manifestation of a post ideology world — a world that can coalesce on principles, not necessarily based on political theologies.

It is my honour to be here and share this dais with you all, my esteemed colleagues — Dr. Ivan Oliveira from Brazil, Professor Georgy Toloraya from Russia, Ms. Dong Weihua from China and lastly of course Professor Ari Sitas who is the host and leading the South Africa team. Thank you, Professor, and a thank you to your excellent team. Please accept our congratulations and gratitude for your exceptional hospitality and for the curation of an excellent agenda for this forum.

We've already had a great start to the academic forum — thank you Minister Pandor for your insightful opening address touching on key issues that will shape the world and our common futures over the next three decades.

Personally, I am delighted to be back in South Africa. For many of us in India, travelling to South Africa is like a journey home. Our modern history was scripted by a noble soul who found his calling on this soil. It was in South Africa where the most significant modern Indian project was born and visualised by the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

We are at an important juncture in world history, in African history and certainly in the brief BRICS journey. We are now entering the second decade of BRICS and the next decade could see the grouping play a decisive and compelling role — a constructive role in a world characterised by disruptions and despondency that looks ever more parochial and partisan and seeks new energy and leadership if it is to continue to work together, grow together and prosper together. South Africa is a perfect venue for us, academics from the BRICS countries to commit ourselves to offer ideas for our political, business and civil society leaders to consider.

We are at an important juncture in world history, in African history and certainly in the brief BRICS journey. We are now entering the second decade of BRICS and the next decade could see the grouping play a decisive and compelling role — a constructive role in a world characterised by disruptions and despondency that looks ever more parochial and partisan and seeks new energy and leadership if it is to continue to work together, grow together and prosper together.

South Africa is turning a new chapter. Its institutions have valiantly defended democracy and these institutions and associated laws have allowed the country to tide over some of its most difficult moments. I'm a big believer in President Cyril Ramaphosa and I'm a part of "Ramaphoria". This is a special moment for this very special nation and we are all with you.

I believe the blueprint for Africa may well be scripted by this new administration and I am also convinced that this new administration will infuse greater energy into South Africa's international engagement not only in this forum but also in forums such as IBSA. It is evident that South Africa is important to the world and the world is important for South Africa. The next ten years may well see South Africa take a leadership role in ideas, innovation and sustainable development — not only for its own communities and people, but also by creating a template for the entire continent.

The South African leadership of BRICS therefore comes at an appropriate time. The world is struggling with democracy and South Africa has shown us how democracy can be preserved, how peaceful transition of power can be achieved, how bitter political contests can use democratic means to discover resolution. As such, in a world where pluralism is being threatened, South Africa is a shining beacon for this continent and much of the world.

As South Africa moves to version 2.0 and renews its journey, economic and political, the second decade of BRICS will deeply benefit from this. In the 90's South Africa promised the world a new charter for itself and a vision for a New Africa. It has more than delivered — yet, as with all our nations, there remains more to be done.

As South Africa moves to version 2.0 and renews its journey, economic and political, the second decade of BRICS will deeply benefit from this.

Even as we discuss issues on health, gender, social protection, security, education and research, economics and finance, and energy and resources, each of these themes are and will be implicated by three overarching global realities that are shaping communities, politics and societies.

The first reality is that of identity - and imbedded in this identity debate are issues around nationalism, race, ethnicity. Technology has spawned digital communities that are shaping and challenging traditions and indeed our interactions with the "other" and with ourselves. Globalisation itself has disrupted notions of who we are. We are today all global citizens with unfettered exposure to our surroundings — near and far. Yet, we are increasingly seeking old anchors in uncertain times.

The BRICS project in many ways can help us un-clutter the identity challenge. While this group adopts an increasingly outward looking approach, the collective remains deeply cognisant of its own individual cultural and historical moorings. Globalisation and the celebration of unique cultures and diversity work together within BRICS. It is not necessary for global citizenship and local cultures to be in contest — rather they can work well together and serve the larger common purpose.

Yet, as we seek globalisation, we must ensure it is a version that leaves no person behind. We must seek globalisation that serves diversity and unique perspectives that make this world richer. We must seek technologies that serve humankind and are not designed only to further wealth and prosperity for a few. We must seek global institutions that serve people and not just those who fund them and create them.

As we seek globalisation, we must ensure it is a version that leaves no person behind. We must seek globalisation that serves diversity and unique perspectives that make this world richer. We must seek technologies that serve humankind and are not designed only to further wealth and prosperity for a few.

21st Century identity challenges are shaped by the residues of the past and are further compounded by today's complexities — issues pertaining to technology, financial access and intellectual property.

For instance, with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we experience a reconfiguration of traditional social and economic classes. The farm, factory and office are no longer the nodal point of economic activity and human interaction. As the importance of traditional workspaces erode, we have seen a regression to social, political, and religious beliefs of yore. The future of the work space, and work, then, will implicate our imaginations of our selves.

The BRICS community and the BRICS academic forum with their inherent diversity should provide a new template that is better able to address the challenge of identity in this digital age.

The second is the challenge of inequality. While the world has rightly focused on the undeniably important challenge of poverty eradication — it has not done enough on devising policies to respond to growing inequality. This single factor is implicating political and social stability all over the world. Inclusivity is not only about lifting individuals out of poverty but also about providing the same opportunities to all. The contours of inequality today are complex — there is inequality around access to resources, infrastructure, health and education. There is inequality around political agency. There are deeply embedded biases that prevent women leadership of political, social and economic spheres. There is inequality that still lingers from racial divides and colonial legacies.

The BRICS community and the BRICS academic forum with their inherent diversity should provide a new template that is better able to address the challenge of identity in this digital age.

The BRICS academics gathered here must take leadership in developing ideas and solutions that serve the purpose of equality and equity. We have an opportunity to be propositional and assume thought leadership on this most important risk and opportunity of our times.

Which brings me to the last challenge, that of ideology. The BRICS project of the next decade must take into account the ideological challenges arising from identity and inequality. How do we move from the development of women to women led development? How do we move from affordable housing to housing that affords basic dignity for all? How do we move from education for all to economic agency and upward mobility to all? How do we create financial models of investments that do not prey on people and countries? How do we invest in technologies that serve aspirations of all rather than scavenge data from people?

One of the pitched debates today is on the management of data. If data is to drive economic growth in the future, then data inequality must also be addressed. While the rich may be able to safeguard their data, the poor cannot afford the same luxury. Further, most of our data is housed outside of our borders, across the Atlantic. The question then is, how do we ensure the fair use of data and confer its ownership and benefits to the owners themselves. Perhaps the BRICS can provide a model for the rest of the world — it is replete with alternate solutions. Take for example the Aadhaar platform of India, the Chinese BAT framework, the Russian comparative advantage in mathematics and cryptography, the South African experimentation with financial inclusion and technology and, of course, Brazil, which pioneered the Bolsa Familia program of social inclusivity. These all offer templates that are non-Atlantic and more importantly templates catering to a whole new class of people. In our own experiments we have a treasure trove of successes and failures and we must share and then together shape a new ethic of digital growth devoid from the 20th century dogmas around socialism or capitalism, market or command economy. We must work with ideas and solutions that serve us and we must devise a new template for a digital world that makes ideas richer and ideologies weaker.

The BRICS project of the next decade must take into account the ideological challenges arising from identity and inequality.

The last decade of contemporary history has seen a vigorous renewal of ideology — from religious to economic to ethnic beliefs and cultural ecosystems. We have seen how each of them have had a significant impact on political systems and political outcomes. The digital revolution and social movements based on hashtags are creating new mobilisations that are challenging the normative order of the past, the implication of which are still unknown.

The BRICS today is a manifestation of a post ideology world — a world that can coalesce on principles, not necessarily based on political theologies. The Russian democratic system, the Chinese socialism based on new characteristics, the Indian model of political and economic choice, the South African experience and the Brazilian politics are all shaped by different histories and experiences. As an academic community it is important for us to catalogue and map these diversities of systems and to tease out and define the principles that have allowed us to work together.

The plurilateral BRICS club is proof that ideas can trump ideology. BRICS is an ideas project and the academic community must be in the driver's seat of the ideation process. We can't let our today restrict us from visualising a fairer and better tomorrow. Progress will not happen by chance — rather it will require the world's collective efforts. Let us commit to this today at the summit of BRICS academics and with this spirit engage in informed debates and exchanges this week among this wonderful BRICS family.
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