Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 01.2023
2023.01.02 — 2023.01.08
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
India's got the BRICS blues (У Индии грусть о БРИКС) / India, January, 2023
Keywords: expert_opinion

Being an acolyte of the US-led "rules-based order," India faces the specter of isolation as Lula takes over as Brazil's president and the center of gravity in BRICS is poised to shift to the left of center

Brazilian President Lula da Silva with Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan after his swearing-in. Photo: Xinhua/Liu Bin The Brazilian news agency reported that Lula da Silva's inauguration as the new president on January 1 for a historic third term amidst a carnival-like backdrop was attended by over five dozen foreign delegations, composed of heads of government, vice-presidents, foreign ministers, special envoys and representatives of international organizations. It was the largest event with high-level international figures in Brazil since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) leaders flocked to Brasilia — the vice-presidents of China and Russia and the foreign minister of South Africa. The solitary exception was India. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar prioritized a tour of the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus and Austria.

India's "under-representation" probably was due to the close equations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jair Bolsonaro, who served as the 38th President of Brazil from 2019 until 2022, whom Lula defeated. For some strange reason, the Modi government invested heavily in Bolsonaro by inviting him as the chief guest at India's Republic Day in January 2020.

It was a controversial decision, given Bolsonaro's obnoxious record on misogyny and homophobia, and his perversion for targeting the indigenous people. In a scandalous incident, he once told an opposition politician Maria do Rosario during a debate in Parliament, "I wouldn't rape you because you're not worthy of it."

Later, he explained that he wouldn't rape her because she was "ugly". Bolsonaro's misogyny surged when he once remarked "I have five children. Four are men, and then in a moment of weakness the fifth came out a girl." Again, his homophobic views got the better of him when he threatened that "if I see two men kissing each other on the street, I'll beat them up."

Indeed, it remains a mystery what attracted the Indian ruling elite to Bolsonaro, and ex-military officer. Maybe, his "strong man" image and fascist ideology?

Be that as it may, ignoring Lula's historic return to power in Brazil is incomprehensible. It is not only that he's, arguably, the most charismatic statesman from a developing country, but he is certain to steer the BRICS to a higher destiny during his four-year term.

Lula's return comes at a juncture when the BRICS is going from introvert to extrovert and its greater global ambition raises hopes across the wide expanses of the Global South of material changes in the global economic system. The ongoing polarization between the West and the Rest over Ukraine issue accentuates the trend.

The hallmark of China's BRICS chairmanship in 2022 has been the launching of the extended BRICS+ meeting at the level of foreign ministers. China also has plans to open up the possibility of developing countries joining the core BRICS grouping. In fact, Algeria, Argentina and Iran have already applied to join BRICS, while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have announced their interest in becoming the group's members.

Looking ahead, the vitality in the BRICS trajectory will largely depend on the success of the BRICS+ enterprise. While an inert, introvert BRICS has neither global capacity nor global mission, a stronger, more inclusive and open BRICS has the potential to become the basis for a new system of global governance. This is the crux of the matter.

To be sure, the BRICS association needs to overcome its mounting internal contradictions. On the one hand, a fundamental transformation of the globalization process has begun (and this process is only gaining momentum) and there are calls for the basic principles and mechanisms which bring the BRICS countries together to undergo reform. On the other hand, this is also an inflection point as multipolarity gains traction and all global multilateral organizations are faced with the loss of their status as universal platforms for overseeing the global rules of the game.

India faces an acute problem of self-identification, since it notionally advocates the transformation of global mechanisms imposed by developed countries but also happens to be a votary of the so-called "rules-based order," which is a metaphor for the political ideology of the US as the dominant state and "lone superpower" in the 1990s.

Indeed, the difficulties of the BRICS were also caused by internal reasons. BRICS became internally highly heterogeneous and the main reason for this is India's unwillingness to work with China as leaders of economic growth. To be sure, the aggravation of contradictions between China and India has led to a slowdown in active work in the BRICS.

Enter Brazil. The victory of Bolsonaro in 2018 would also have been a moment of risk for the BRICS, as the new elites in power in Brasilia made no secret of their desire to place their main stake on rapprochement with the US. Surely, India saw in Bolsonaro a "natural ally" within the BRICS, which largely explains the high honor Modi bestowed on him on 2020 Republic Day.

Bolsonaro, like Modi, felt no commitment to the idea of uniting the Global South under the banner of reshaping the world order. Both preferred pragmatic, technocratic areas as the BRICS agenda that are objectively beneficial to them (eg., technological cooperation, the fight against organized crime, digitalization, the Development Bank and so on) although this resulted in an atrophy of the raison d'être of the BRICS agenda.

But, as luck would have it, Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 US election led to a cooling of enthusiasm on the part of Bolsonaro and the Brazilian elites regarding the prospects for rapprochement with the US. The apple of discord was Bolsonaro's policy toward the Amazon River.

Bolsonaro worried about the inclusion of environmental issues in the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) agenda and he discarded his previously restrained approach to the BRICS, recognizing its importance as a tool to counter isolation in the event of worsening relations with the US and the EU.

Suffice it to say that Lula's return is happening at a defining moment. In his first remarks after assuming power on Sunday, Lula vowed a drastic change of course to rescue his nation plagued by hunger, poverty and racism.

Lula made clear his main focus would be on ending hunger and narrowing rampant inequality. He also said he aims to improve the rights of women, and attack racism and Brazil's legacy of slavery. Lula declared that social conscience will be "the hallmark of our government."

Unsurprisingly, India feels uneasy that the center of gravity in BRICS is poised to shift to the left of center. Equally, India will find it difficult to maintain its role as a regional leader with the entry of Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia into the portals of BRICS. Being an acolyte of the US-led "rules-based order," India faces the specter of isolation.

Beijing, whose approaches to diplomacy and international politics are known for their strategic vision for the long term, is biding its time. Lula told Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan who participated in the ceremony in Brasilia as Xi Jinping's special representative, that he looked forward to visiting Beijing "to further deepen bilateral practical cooperation in various fields, enhance friendship between peoples, and lift Brazil-China relations to a new level."

MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India's ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. The views are personal.
                BRICS and Realignment in the Middle East (БРИКС и перестройка на Ближнем Востоке) / Jordan, January, 2023
                Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

                The contrast of the BRICS summit in June with the meeting of G-7 leaders held only a day prior, served as a foretaste of geopolitical competition to come. It won speculation over whether a new geopolitical bloc, even an international order, might finally be finding form.

                The summit came ahead of news that several MENA states are expected to be soon welcomed into BRICS. Regardless of whether BRICS lives up to its potential, this news is further indication that the region's relationship with the West is heading into a wintry chapter as regimes seek to profit from new opportunities in a multipolar world.

                Indeed, the competition and conflict redefining geopolitics has also questioned whether realignments are afoot in the Middle East. Developments like regional interest in BRICS and OPEC+ oil cuts suggest that popular belief in MENA neutrality, in what plausibly seems to be a new cold war, merits consideration and even revision.

                BRICS: A New Geopolitical Bloc?

                Global economic power has been reclaimed in the 21st century. The establishment of BRICS in 2006 is a testament to this seismic shift on the world stage. The organisation is membered by industrialised developing countries with emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

                Representing 23% of the global economy, 18% of global trade, and a combined gross domestic product akin to that of the US, BRICS possesses immense economic power. When the first summit was held, the organisation's initial goals were modest and focused on investment. But amid the shifting tides of geopolitics, and the concentrated and accruing economic power of BRICS, it bears the hallmarks of a new geopolitical bloc.

                Representing 23% of the global economy, 18% of global trade, and a combined gross domestic product akin to that of the US, BRICS possesses immense economic power.

                In reality, the potential of BRICS rests on the dazzling rise of China's economy. China's GDP is more than double that of the other four BRICS members: almost $18 trillion compared with Brazil ($1.6 trillion), Russia ($1.8 trillion), India ($3.2 trillion) and South Africa ($400 billion). Without China, the organisation would fade into irrelevance; with China, its economic clout, and so potential to exercise geopolitical power, is vast.

                As observed in Forbes: "If intra-BRICS commodity trade were to be settled in a commodity-linked basket of currencies among members as well as willing non-members, it would constitute an effective end to the petrodollar, a key pillar of the G7-led global financial system." The strong resistance of the Russian ruble to Western sanctions - reaping reward from global energy prices – has boosted confidence in this aspiration.

                In reality, the potential of BRICS rests on the dazzling rise of China's economy. China's GDP is more than double that of the other four BRICS members

                President Putin even proposed at the recent BRICS summit the creation of an "international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries" to counterweight US hegemony in the IMF. The desire to create an economic order removed from the US-led dominated one has gained impetus as Russia and its allies have been disturbed by the velocity of Western-sanctions, from which they seek permanent protection and relief.

                At the outset of war this year, intra-BRICS trade suddenly won significant sway over oil geopolitics through Western-sanctioned Russian crude oil exports being snapped up by the likes of China, India and Brazil. These purchases have offered welcome relief to the Russian economy and its military expenditures, softening the bite of Western sanctions (including the recently announced policy of capping prices on Russia's oil exports).

                The attendance of President Putin at its virtual summit in June was a jarring reminder to the West of how its mood of anger and reproach not shared universally; for most governments, ethical concerns about Russia's violence do not eclipse the strategic value of Moscow's energy and economic deals (hence why Western aims to blackball Russia on the world stage yields only limited success).

                intra-BRICS trade suddenly won significant sway over oil geopolitics through Western-sanctioned Russian crude oil exports being snapped up by the likes of China, India and Brazil

                By opting to remove Russia from the international economic system, the process of deglobalisation – hastened by the Covid-19 pandemic – assumed new intensity; with its promise of straining geopolitical tensions even further, BRICS is another symptom of this global trend. The consolidation of the organisation could define two dominant blocks in geopolitics, although many countries will resist this simplified division in preference for the strategic rewards of neutrality.

                In which case, the symbiosis between the main economies – the US, China, the EU, but so too emerging ones like Brazil and India – which has been a major determinant of stability in world politics for decades, could falter with competition. Moreover, the deepening rift between G-7 countries and BRICS questions how, for example, cooperative climate action might be possible going forward? It foreshadows a fraught future for multilateralism. But such views are based on the idea that BRICS will decisively shift from an economic club into a coherent political organisation. There is some scepticism over whether BRICS members have the ability to reach a level of cohesion which would permit united political action.

                BRICS has little to show for itself apart from the New Development Bank, established to offer an alternative to the World Bank for emerging economies.

                A decade ago, a panel at the Wilson Centre strongly agreed that the differences between the group – namely, trajectories of economic growth and ideological principles – far outweighed commonalities. Anti-Westernism alone is an insufficient ingredient to build and sustain cohesion amongst diverse actors. It is also true that since its birth, BRICS has little to show for itself apart from the New Development Bank, established to offer an alternative to the World Bank for emerging economies.

                The institutionalisation of BRICS remains therefore weak. Nonetheless, news of its expansive ambitions makes such criticisms now seem tenuous. As BRICS members hunt for a credible alternative to the US-led global order with increasing zeal, the organisation could demonstrate in the coming years that it counts for much more than an empty acronym.

                BRICS, the Middle East, and the West

                With war in Ukraine squeezing and shaping world politics, competition between the West and its rivals gained definition. In this context, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – has naturally sought to build up the organisation's membership.

                MENA countries have been among those touted as potential members in the near future. The president of the BRICS International Forum announced that he expects Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to join the group "very soon". BRICS has caught the interest of other MENA countries who might follow suit; in November came news that Algeria had officially applied to join the organisation. The organisation, which has called up speculation as to whether it might qualify as a new geopolitical bloc, seeks to recruit "node" countries of strategic location and economic power.

                If BRICS members wish to present the organisation as a credible alternative to the US-led economic order, it needs to co-opt as much of the world economy as possible. The inclusion of the three countries would represent an important win for BRICS and further address the lop-sided distribution of economic power between the West and the Rest: Saudi Arabia with its vast energy reserves, Turkey through its location and economic growth, and the UAE as a global centre of commerce and finance (the inclusion of key commercial and logistical centres within the group would offer more control over world trade).

                The organisation, which has called up speculation as to whether it might qualify as a new geopolitical bloc, seeks to recruit "node" countries of strategic location and economic power.

                In particular, bringing in oil-producing states, like Saudi Arabia, into the fold would consolidate BRICS's control over global oil production itself – whose value in geopolitics has been laid bare this year since Russia invaded Ukraine. From a regional perspective, the incentives for joining BRICS are building and the interest expressed by Saudi Arabia, amongst others, has come as little surprise.

                Many in the region likely deem it short-sighted to avoid the potential benefits which BRICS, taut with economic/political power and potential, might afford them; in a world retreating to multipolarity, MENA regimes are united in their desire to exploit and exhaust new opportunities. BRICS membership from a regional perspective, therefore, presents a tantalising prospect.

                Despite its vast wealth and intimate security relations with the US, Saudi Arabia seeks to grow interactions with China and other emerging economies, given the demands of its restless economy in transformation. But economic interests are only part of the appeal; strategic considerations of geopolitics play a decisive role too. States like Saudi Arabia are presently reassessing who exactly are and are not their allies.

                The cooperation of China and other BRICS members, like Russia and India, represent a welcome antidote for MENA countries to their fussy relations with the West. Indeed, it was symbolic that news of Saudi Arabia's interest in membership of the BRICS group arrived just ahead of President Biden's visit to the Middle East in July.

                This economic and geopolitical logic is also shared by Turkey and Egypt; however, although the West may regard the accession of countries like Egypt to BRICS as evidence of strategic realignment, some argue that it is more plausible to see it as a natural continuation of foreign policies defined by the principle of balanced international relations. At the same time, suggestions that BRICS represents an attempt to refashion the 1956 Non-Aligned Movement, whose members sought to minimise the Cold War's interruptions behind a shield of neutrality, ignores its membership's antipathy to the West.

                BRICS seeks to develop and define a credible alternative to the US-led global economy – and particularly the US dollar. With the economic isolation of Russia, MENA regimes have been reminded of the heavy consequences when states fall foul of Washington, and the appeal of an alternative. Western sanctions have stifled many regimes in contemporary history, like those of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. A new economic system out of the thumb of the West would enable MENA regimes in order to indulge their strategic whims with less consequence.

                Middle Eastern Realignment in a Multipolar Order?

                Moscow's efforts to marshal diplomatic support for its invasion of Ukraine might seem to undercut claims of geopolitical reshuffle in the region; despite some hesitation, a U.N. resolution condemning Russia in March was supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt.

                But this incidence of the region rhetorically aligning with the West has proved anomalous in 2022, a year which has been defined more by tension than cooperation. This condemnation has not translated into support for Western sanctions. Like much of the non-Western world, MENA states are not moved by and even deeply suspicious of Western efforts to preserve a rule-based order.

                High-minded Western words about ideas of democracy and freedom are far less appealing to MENA autocracies than the respectful and predictable indifference of Russia and China; the anti-Westernism which courses through the region is shared by its regimes too, ever indignant at the meddling in and criticism of their internal affairs by Western countries.

                In Washington today, there is considerable animus towards Riyadh since it took a collective decision with its OPEC counterparts to raise global oil prices by announcing its largest supply cut in years – coolly rebuffing the pleas by the Biden administration.

                The Biden's administration's resolve to renew democracy worldwide is a continually raw reminder to MENA leaders of their ideological friction with the West. This reality was encapsulated in recent months in Western fury about Qatar's hosting of the World Cup (which, ironically, may be regarded as the best World Cup tournament ever after such a dazzling final).

                The controversy surrounding OPEC has led to the further perishing of US-Saudi Arabia relations. In Washington today, there is considerable animus towards Riyadh since it took a collective decision with its OPEC counterparts to raise global oil prices by announcing its largest supply cut in years – coolly rebuffing the pleas by the Biden administration. Consequently, there is now a growing and plausible view in the US that Saudi Arabia is no longer an ally given its decision to blunt the punitive action of the West against Russia.

                As the shadows of competition are thrown further across the Middle East, policy makers on both sides of the geopolitical division are carefully observing the initial reactions of regional regimes when taking stock of their friends and adversaries "It's clear that OPEC+ is aligning with Russia" retorted a wounded White House when the decision was taken in October, directing the criticism at its long-standing ally in the Gulf.

                Suggestions that Saudi Arabia may be sidling up to Russia on a political footing has been treated with scorn by commentators, whose main criticism is that this position is too binary. "The Saudis weren't thinking about Ukraine – like many people in Asia and Africa, they don't think in absolute terms of being pro- or anti-Russian," wrote Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

                The desire to engage more with organisations like BRICS, so the argument proceeds, does not amount to a rejection of the West but represents the desire of Riyadh (and Cairo, Ankara, and Algiers) to strategically plant its feet on both sides of the geopolitical divide. By doing so, MENA states seek to maximise the benefits of geopolitical competition, minimise its consequences, and evade its constraints.

                There is a popular perception that every time the US does not get its way in the Middle East, Washington vainly misreads this as a snub; that the US fails to understand that decisions and policies can occur with little consideration of it. And there is some truth to this view. However, the divergences between the US and MENA states on vital issues in US foreign policy are stacking up.

                Whatever the intentions, the action of MENA countries in OPEC+ is not neutral; on the contrary, they have adopted a policy supportive of Russia on the defining geopolitical issue of 2022

                Whatever the intentions, the action of MENA countries in OPEC+ is not neutral; on the contrary, they have adopted a policy supportive of Russia on the defining geopolitical issue of 2022. And on other key divisions of contemporary geopolitics – like sovereignty in Taiwan – Arab governments have embraced Beijing's position. Now with tacit support for Russia through OPEC in the Gulf, in addition to support for China's repression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the Middle East is sharply opposed to the US and wider West on the essential geopolitical issues of today and tomorrow.

                Only this month, President Xi was honoured by Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, serving as further evidence to some that MENA states are eyeing alternatives to the "liberal world order," regarding China's authoritarianism as a more natural ally given their own politics. Saudi officials insisted that the generous reception of Xi is perfectly suitable for a state as powerful as China; yet its timing brimmed with geopolitical symbolism and was credibly seen as a rebuke to the US given its contrast with the wintry welcome which met Biden in July.

                New Friends and Foes

                A feeling of change hangs over MENA geopolitics as wider international dynamics evolve. Many commentators and scholars have been rightly dismissing simplistic readings of this change which talk of the emergence of well-defined boundaries and blocs; they remind audiences of the banal but important fact that geopolitics resists crude simplifications (whose consequences in policy making were painfully present and predictable in the Cold War of the last century).

                there is a growing and tangible dislocation between the region and the West.

                Despite this wisdom, there is also a risk that such commentary becomes too focused on teasing out nuance while failing to see the woods from the trees. Whether shown by news of BRICS pulling new membership from the Middle East, or by Gulf leaders humiliating President Biden over oil production, there is a growing and tangible dislocation between the region and the West.

                Talk of neutrality and the need to avoid simplifications may prevail for the time being in policy chatter, but the sense of striking geopolitical shift – even realignment – in the Middle East is gathering credibility. For as the geopolitical crises of the 21st century continue to fall thick and fast, the West and their supposed allies from the region are likely to repeatedly find themselves on opposing sides of the geopolitical divide.

                The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.
                              Putin Ignores South Africa in New Year Messages to BRICS Leaders (Путин проигнорировал Южную Африку в новогоднем послании лидерам БРИКС) / Ghana, January, 2023
                              Keywords: quotation, vladimir_putin

                              Could it be due to lack of space in the ecosystem that South Africa was categorically ignored, in the New Year greetings from Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin, to members of the bloc known as BRICS. Without mentioning South Africa, it has possible implications and interpretations.

                              By general description, BRICS is a union consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The five have been forging relations together and now working to end rules-based order in the unipolar system.

                              In an official post on the Kremlin administration website in late December, South Africa was surprisingly not mentioned, but the other three nations were.

                              Addressing the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Putin expressed satisfaction with the fact that, during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, Moscow and Brasilia extensively cooperated at international platforms, especially within BRICS, and successfully advanced the friendly bilateral relationship.

                              In messages to President of the Republic of India Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, the President of Russia stressed that in 2022, Russia and India marked the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic relations and, relying on positive traditions of friendship and mutual respect, the countries continue to develop their specially privileged strategic partnership, carry out large-scale trade and economic projects.

                              In addition, both Russia and India closely cooperate on energy, military technology and other areas and further coordinate efforts in addressing important matters of regional and global agendas.

                              "I am confident that India's recently started SCO and G20 presidencies will open new opportunities for building multi-dimensional Russia-India cooperation for the benefit of our peoples, in the interests of strengthening stability and security in Asia and the entire world," Putin stressed in his message.

                              In sincere greetings for the New Year and the upcoming Spring Festival to President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping, Putin referred to strengthening the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China. The mutual partnership demonstrates rapid progress and resistance to external challenges as both continue to maintain a meaningful political dialogue.

                              Putin was upbeat on a number of points. Bilateral trade is breaking records. Major trans-border infrastructure projects have been completed, including the construction of road and railway bridges across the Amur River. The years of physical fitness and sports exchanges contributed substantially to contact between the people of our countries.

                              "Through joint efforts, we will be able to take bilateral cooperation even higher for the benefit of the Russian and Chinese nations and in the interests of strengthening regional and global stability and security," he stressed.

                              Putin expressed confidence that they will work together to enhance multi-dimensional cooperation further and continue their coordinated work on a bilateral basis and within the framework of BRICS.

                              In 2023, South Africa will hold the rotating presidency of BRICS, implying that South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a lot more at hand, especially with the current global geopolitical changes.

                              He will also work towards consolidating the growing support underway for a few countries that have applied to join BRICS. It is also pushing for the emerging multipolar world.

                              It is, however, speculated that the organization's membership might expand to about 15, but that largely depends on certain necessary conditions and the collective decision of the group.

                              Historically, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China.

                              Then later, Brazil joined and finally, South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The acronym BRICS is derived from the members' names in English. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 42 per cent of the world's population.

                                            Brazil's Lula da Silva vows to strengthen BRICS (Лула да Силва из Бразилии обещает усилить БРИКС) / Russia, January, 2023
                                            Keywords: quotation, lula_da_silva

                                            Brazilian President considers it necessary to "break through the isolation in which the country has been in recent years"

                                            RIO DE JANEIRO, January 1. /TASS/. Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who took office as Brazil's president on Sunday, has vowed to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the BRICS association (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

                                            "Our leading role will be embodied in the resumption of South American integration on the basis of Mercosur (South America's common market - TASS), and on the basis of revitalizing the Union of South American Nations and other sovereign institutions in our region. We will be able to build an active and productive dialogue with the United States, the EU, China, Asian countries and other global players. We will be strengthening BRICS and cooperation with African countries in order to end the isolation where our country has been in recent years," Lula da Silva said in his inaugural address. "Brazil must become the master of its own destiny."

                                            He recalled that most of the equatorial rainforests of the Amazon basin were located on the territory of his country. Lula da Silva stressed that the future government intended to discuss issues on the environmental agenda based on national interests and on an equal footing with developed Western countries.

                                            On Sunday, Brasilia saw the presidential inauguration ceremony. According to the organizers the event gathered 65 foreign delegations, including 17 at the level of the head of state. The Russian delegation is led by the speaker of the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Valentina Matviyenko. Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan arrived from Beijing.

                                                          South Africa to chair BRICS this year (ЮАР возглавит БРИКС в этом году) / South Africa, January, 2023
                                                          Keywords: chairmanship
                                                          South Africa

                                                          Johannesburg - After successfully joining BRICS in February 2011, this year will see South Africa chair the grouping during its high-level meetings, conferences and summits which are planned for this year, according to

                                                          According to the media outlet, the chairmanship will continue its work on sustainable development in the areas of economy, environment, and social reform.

                                                          "The country has already held the BRICS chairmanship in 2018, at which time its work was positively acknowledged by the partners.

                                                          "BRICS foreign ministers, meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, expressed full support for South Africa to chair the bloc in 2023 and hold the XV summit," added the outlet.

                                                          Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor said that South Africa will emphasise specific BRICS co-operation that is in one way or another consonant with the priorities of South Africa and Africa as a whole and aims to improve the world situation.
                                                          "BRICS high-level meetings are planned, as well as ministerial meetings and numerous other events," Pandor said.

                                                          Meanwhile, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) said last year that it had been the 10th year the BRICS Tax Authorities had met and the first year in which regional and international organisations had participated in the BRICS conversation.

                                                          "The highlight of the Heads of Tax Authorities meeting was the endorsement to launch the first issue of the BRICS Tax Best Practices compilation, a collection of insightful administration case studies from BRICS Tax Authorities."

                                                          "The case studies showcase some of the BRICS members' best practices in the Co-operative Compliance Programme of CONFIA, the New Tax Debt Management Strategy, the Effective Use of AEOI Data–CRS Tool, Faceless Tax Administration, AIS and Updating of Returns, Smart Individual Income Tax (IIT) Reconciliation, Tax Awareness Month, Co-ordination of Tax and Customs Pricing for Imported Goods, as well as Taxpayer Compliance Evaluation and Monitoring," said a Sars statement.

                                                          Sars also highlighted that South Africa will assume the chairmanship of BRICS at the beginning of 2023 and will subsequently host the BRICS Tax Meetings in 2023.

                                                          Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said international co-operation was crucial to enabling Sars to deliver on its mandate.

                                                          "Working with and through stakeholders to improve the tax system is implicit in our strategic direction. We endeavour to have effective and beneficial partnerships with all stakeholders, both local and international, in the tax ecosystem that deliver maximum benefits for the taxpayers and traders, the government and the public. We leverage each other's strengths to resolve tax administration challenges and improve voluntary tax compliance," said Kieswetter.
                                                                        China and SA relations show great growth after 25 years of diplomatic ties (Отношения Китая и ЮАР демонстрируют значительный рост после 25 лет дипломатических отношений) / South Africa, January, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: political_issues, cooperation
                                                                        South Africa

                                                                        Johannesburg – Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and the People's Republic of China, which came into effect on January 1, 1998, according to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

                                                                        In a statement, the department said that throughout this period, the two countries have deepened their wide-ranging bilateral relations, which have been elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership and underpinned by a new 10-year strategic programme of co-operation (2020–2029).

                                                                        "Regular interaction between South Africa and China takes place at various official levels and includes exchanges of state visits and high-level engagements; co-operation across different government ministries, Parliament, business entities; and people-to-people connections. These engagements are a testimony to the great importance attached by both sides to the historic political and economic ties. South Africa and China enjoy vibrant economic relations, and China is by far South Africa's largest global trading partner," said the department.

                                                                        They added that bilateral trade grew exponentially over the years, increasing from less than R1 billion in 1998 to the current levels of R544bn in 2021, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

                                                                        "South Africa is also China's No 1 trading partner in Africa. More importantly, the mutually beneficial relationship supports South Africa's foreign policy objectives towards the achievement of its domestic development imperatives as well as promotes the broader socio-economic development goals of the African continent," read the statement.
                                                                        The department said that this collaboration goes beyond bilateral relations and includes regional and multilateral co-operation to advance the agenda of the global south.

                                                                        The department pointed out that this year South Africa will be hosting the 15th BRICS Summit as the chair, having taken over from China as chair of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa business communities last year.

                                                                        "Furthermore, the two countries remain committed to close co-operation and partnership within the context of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC), which drives joint continental development initiatives.

                                                                        "As part of the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations, Minister (Naledi) Pandor and the foreign minister of China have exchanged letters of congratulations to reaffirm the well-established relations," said the department.

                                                                        It also said that both countries were keen to explore further areas of collaboration for the mutual benefit, economic growth and prosperity of their respective nations and have planned several activities throughout the year in South Africa and China to celebrate this milestone.
                                                                                      Investment and Finance
                                                                                      Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                      Sberbank Analyst's Editorial Delves Into the 'Tremendous Potential' of a BRICS Reserve Currency Fueling De-Dollarization (Редакционная статья аналитика Сбербанка рассказывает об «огромном потенциале» резервной валюты БРИКС, способствующей дедолларизации) / USA, January, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: economic_challenges, research

                                                                                      During the last month, Russia's ruble has dropped 16.48% against the U.S. dollar as energy and commodity prices have slowed over the last few weeks. Russia's central bank revealed two weeks ago that it is further distancing itself from U.S. dollar dependence by purchasing the Chinese yuan on foreign exchange markets. Roughly around the same time, on Dec. 21, 2022, Sberbank executive and Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) member, Yaroslav Lissovolik, published an opinion article that talks about exploring the pathway toward a new BRICS reserve currency.

                                                                                      Russia's Central Bank Seeks to Reduce Dependency on US Dollar with Purchase of Chinese Yuan

                                                                                      At the end of July, News reported on the BRICS nations' plan to craft a new reserve currency after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the plan amid the BRICS Summit in June. While the subject was topical at the time, people stopped discussing the BRICS reserve currency for a while. A few months later, in October 2022, the author of the best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki, discussed the subject and noted that the U.S. dollar is "toast." Over the last 30 days, energy prices and commodities have subsided in value, but some economists expect a $200-per-barrel run-up in oil prices at some point in 2023.

                                                                                      BRICS stands for the association comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. A paper published in the International Journal of Innovation and Economic Development, titled "The BRICS nations and their priorities," states that the five nations have a combined nominal GDP of $16.039 trillion. While energy and commodity values have dropped, Russia's ruble has dropped against the greenback as well. Statistics show that the ruble has lost 16.48% against the U.S. dollar in 30 days, but five-day metrics show the ruble is up 1.72%. Year-to-date statistics show the Russian currency has increased 5.37% over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, at the end of December 2022, Reuters reported that Russia will be making Chinese yuan purchases on the currency market in 2023. Reporter Elena Fabrichnaya said Moscow's move was cited by two sources and it opens a "new front in an accelerating de-dollarization drive designed to reduce its dependency on Western finance."

                                                                                      Sberbank Analyst Discusses Possibility of a BRICS Reserve Currency Complementing National Currencies

                                                                                      The previous day, on Dec. 21, 2022, Yaroslav Lissovolik, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and head of the analytical department at Sberbank, published a blog post titled "Exploring the Pathways," discussing the proposed BRICS reserve currency. Lissovolik said the "BRICS reserve currency has taken on particular significance in recent months" following Russian president Putin's remarks at the BRICS Summit. The analyst detailed that there's also been recent legislation and debates concerning the "expediency of creating a new reserve currency."

                                                                                      Lissovolik cited the most recent discussion about the BRICS reserve currency at the Eighth BRICS Parliamentary Forum. At the event, Federation Assembly Speaker Valentina Matvienko suggested that BRICS legislators start to move forward on concrete measures that bolster the countries' economies. Matvienko singled out specific initiatives, including the new international reserve currency and developing better settlement procedures within the BRICS nations. Lissovolik's blog post also compared the new BRICS reserve currency idea to the 2018 Valdai Club concept of the R5 currency, a name that signifies the letter "R" for the five currencies: the real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, and rand.

                                                                                      Lissovolik detailed that a new BRICS reserve currency won't be created to replace the national reserve currencies used by each of the nations, but rather to "complement these national currencies." The Sberbank analyst said a brand new reserve currency could have a "transformational effect on the international financial system," as he believes there's a "notable shortage of reserve currencies" in the global economy.

                                                                                      "Importantly, the scope for employing the new reserve currency in the world economy is sizeable given the tremendous potential for de-dollarization," Lissovolik's blog post concludes. "The new BRICS reserve currency can act in concert with the stronger role performed by BRICS national currencies to take on a greater share of the total pie of currency transactions in the world economy."
                                                                                                    World of Work
                                                                                                    SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                                                    Board Composition in National Sport Federations: An Examination of BRICS Countries (Состав правления в национальных спортивных федерациях: исследование стран БРИКС) / Australia, January, 2023
                                                                                                    Keywords: research

                                                                                                    This study examined board composition in national sport federations (NSF) in the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). BRICS is a significant geopolitical group with a strong history and interest in sport, yet there has been relatively limited sport governance research in this context. Specifically, this study measured levels of board diversity (occupational and gender) and board size in the NSFs – factors that are widely considered to impact board effectiveness. Data were collected on 184 NSFs across the five countries from online sources. The results showed that across the BRICS countries NSF directors largely come from athletic backgrounds (45.1% of total), except for China where bureaucrats prevail (61.9%). Men dominate NSF board positions, from a high of 92.1% in India to 68.4% in South Africa. Board size ranged from 20.4 in India, to 14.2 in South Africa. This study brings sport governance research to new frontiers by generating insight into board composition in contexts that are under-researched and culturally diverse.

                                                                                                                  The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the connectedness of the BRICS's term structure (Влияние вспышки COVID-19 на связанность временной структуры БРИКС) / Spain, January, 2023
                                                                                                                  Keywords: research, covid-19


                                                                                                                  This study aims to examine the impact of the different waves of the COVID-19 pandemic on the connectedness of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) term structure of interest rates and its components (level, slope and curvature). For that purpose, this research applies the time-varying parameter vector autoregression (TVP-VAR) approach in order to assess the direction of spillovers among countries and factors and measure their contribution to the connectedness system. Our results show that the total connectedness measure changes over time, and the level and curvature components show connectedness that persists longer than the slope component, both in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brazil and South Africa would appear as net transmitters of shocks, whereas China and India are net receivers. Finally, the most significant differences in the net dynamic connectedness between transmitters and receivers were focused on before and during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Some additional impacts were observed during the last waves of the coronavirus pandemic. To our best knowledge, this is the first study on the connectedness between the yield curves of the BRICS economies and the COVID-19 crisis uncertainty according to the coronavirus MCI, by decomposing the yield curve into its factors (level, slope, and curvature).


                                                                                                                  In finance theory, one of the fundamental principles is the diversification of investments to reduce or mitigate the total risk of portfolios. This principle implies that investment portfolios should be composed of assets from different sectors and countries with weak or low correlations in order to try to eliminate or reduce portfolio risk as much as possible. In this sense, one of the roles of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in financial markets is the potential diversification and asset allocation benefit that the stock markets of these economies could bring to international portfolios (Bhar and Nikolova, 2009; Mensi et al., 2017b).

                                                                                                                  However, the phenomenon of globalisation has led to increased interlinkages, interdependence and interconnectedness of countries and global markets, which has been particularly noticeable during periods of economic crisis (Zaremba et al., 2019; Spierdijk and Umar, 2014), and especially damaging to emerging markets (Kenourgios et al., 2011; Syriopoulos et al., 2015). Moreover, this increase in interlinkages could lead to an increase in correlations between markets and economies, implying that the benefits of asset diversification could dissipate.

                                                                                                                  This fact has attracted the interest of researchers and academics, and in recent years, a growing number of studies have examined the interdependences and spillover effects surrounding past episodes of global economic turbulence (global financial crisis and European sovereign debt crisis) in the BRICS. The bulk of the literature has focused on spillover effects between the BRICS and developed markets, finding mixed evidence on the degree of dependence and spillover effects between countries (see, e.g., Aloui et al., 2011; Kenourgios et al., 2011; Dimitriou et al., 2013; Zhang et al., 2013; Syriopoulos et al., 2015; Bhuyan et al., 2016; Mensi et al., 2016, 2017a, 2017b; Bekaert and Harvey, 2017). Only a few studies investigate spillovers and dynamic effects among BRICS economies (see e.g., Kasman, 2009; Panda and Thiripalraju, 2018; Shi, 2021) and find that China and Russia play a dominant role in cross-market spillovers. These studies also highlight that BRICS economies, despite belonging to the same group of countries, have different market structures (Kasman, 2009), and are more independent from each other (Panda and Thiripalraju, 2018).

                                                                                                                  The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has dramatically affected all sectors and economies worldwide and represents an unprecedented global crisis episode with destructive economic damage never seen before, more harmful than the 2007–2008 global financial crisis (Goodell, 2020). The damaging effects of the pandemic are especially high in emerging countries, as these economies have weaker institutional and legal environments and higher levels of financial and social risks (Bretas and Alon, 2020; Hevia and Neumeyer, 2020). Among these countries, the BRICS represent the core of emerging countries, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on them is of particular interest because they account for a large share of the world's gross domestic product and population (Bretas and Alon, 2020).

                                                                                                                  All these prior reasons favour the study of the interdependence of BRICS countries, and, in the current context, the COVID-19 pandemic crisis provides a unique scenario of structural breakdown to investigate the impact and spillovers among BRICS and the abrupt changes in spillovers, which is the motivation of this study, while adding to the knowledge and better understanding of the connectedness among BRICS countries. This research is also motivated by the demand from investors and financial market participants for assets with better returns and risk profiles during systemic crises such as the COVID-19 one. Although the bulk of the effects of the pandemic crisis on economic systems are yet to come, it is a fact that emerging markets will find it more difficult to overcome the crisis, as the response of these economies to the COVID-19 outbreak is limited across the board, not only at the health level, but also at the social, economic, and political levels.

                                                                                                                  Therefore, there are several reasons why the BRICS countries were selected for this study. First, the BRICS countries have experienced rapid economic growth over the past two decades but, individually, some of the countries exert very different dynamics, with China showing the highest growth rates, while the lowest ratios are those of South Africa. Secondly, such growth must be taken into account, as it presents important opportunities in the development trajectory of their financial markets. For instance, the stock markets of these economies are a potential source of diversification and provides asset allocation benefits for international portfolios. Third, globalisation, although it could have a negative effect on asset diversification benefits, is seen as having a positive effect on economic growth in developing countries and could serve as a growth differentiator for these countries. Fourth, BRICS countries are very important globally in terms of population, as half of the world's population lives in these countries, and the size of their markets represents the majority of emerging economies. These countries are also implementing policies and creating agreements to build strong economic ties among themselves and also with other major industrialised nations of the world.

                                                                                                                  In this context, recent studies have focused on emerging markets to analyse the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in different settings and frameworks (e.g., Gubareva et al., 2020; Haroon and Rizvi, 2020a; Topcu and Serkan, 2020; Xu and Lien, 2021). While most of these studies focus on stock or foreign exchange markets, few papers concentrate on sovereign debt markets, from which the term structure of interest rates (TSIR) is extracted, which in turn can be used to analyse economic forecasting. The TSIR is a credible and reliable indicator of an economic downturn, and several authors have highlighted this role (e.g., Plakandaras et al., 2017a, 2017b; Plakandaras et al., 2019; Gupta et al., 2020a; Caldeira et al., 2020). Regarding the principal components of the TSIR (level, slope and curvature), according to Umar et al. (2018), among many others, any change in the level factor causes a parallel shift in the yield curve and is associated with the long-end of the yield curve. The slope factor can be seen as a short-term factor and an increase in it would amplify short-term rates more than long-term rates. The curvature factor can be interpreted as the medium-term factor, including flexibility to capture most of the varying shapes that the term structure of interest rates may exhibit. Thus, with this work we aim to fill this gap and investigate the connectedness between the yield curves of BRICS economies and uncertainty around the COVID-19 crisis. To the best of our knowledge, this effect has not been studied in previous empirical literature.

                                                                                                                  To investigate the BRICS bond market integration and the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on their interdependencies, we employ a two-step procedure. First, we decompose the yield curve into its Nelson and Siegel (1987) factors, level, slope, and curvature of each country. Second, we apply the time-varying parameter vector autoregression (TVP-VAR) methodology based on the dynamic connectedness framework of Diebold and Yilmaz (2009, 2012, 2014) proposed by Antonakakis and Gabauer (2017). This approach is useful in our context because bond market integration differs according to bond maturity and exhibits large co-movements in periods of turbulence with high uncertainty and high levels of volatility (Gabauer et al., 2020). Moreover, the TVP-VAR approach is appropriate for short data series, which is our case for a sample series around the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. This methodology was used by Antonakakis et al. (2018), Gabauer and Gupta (2018) and Antonakakis et al. (2020), Gabauer et al. (2020), Bouri et al. (2021), and Adekoya and Oliyide (2020), among others, and concluded that this approach overcomes the limitations of the Diebold and Yilmaz (2009, 2012, 2014) connectedness framework.

                                                                                                                  Briefly, we find interesting results in line with the previous literature, as the dynamic connectedness measure varies over time, being higher before and during the first wave of the pandemic. In addition, slight increases are observed in waves two and three of the coronavirus outbreak. On the other hand, the TSIR of Brazil and South Africa would appear as a net transmitter of shocks, while India and China would appear as net receivers. Finally, the main differences between countries were observed before and during the first wave of the pandemic, and these differences faded in the following waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have intensified again during the most recent waves.

                                                                                                                  This study is expected to provide new insights and contribute to the existing literature in several aspects. First, by exploring the role of BRICS countries and their interrelationships during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Second, in contrast to prior studies, this research incorporates the coronavirus MCI to analyse the connectedness of the BRICS region. Third, this study is unique in analysing the bond market integration of BRICS countries during the COVID-19 crisis and applying the TVP-VAR methodology to examine the bond market connectedness.

                                                                                                                  The remainder of this paper is organised as follows. Section "Literature review" presents the literature review. Section "Data and methodology" describes the study data and the methodology used in this research. Section "Results" shows the most relevant empirical results. Finally, section "Conclusions and implications" presents the most important concluding remarks.

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