Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 41.2023
2023.10.09 — 2023.10.15
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS+ and Symbolic Endorsement to the Global South (БРИКС+ и символическое одобрение глобального Юга) / Russia, October, 2023
Keywords: brics+, expert_opinion

BRICS+ in a snapshot

August 2023 marks an important period in the history of 21st Century Geopolitics. A grouping that was formed out of a forecasted analysis by a Goldman Sachs Economist in 2001 is now turning the tide towards creating a reformed multilateralism and a better realpolitik. Little did he know that this groping will be officially formed in 2009 representing a combined population of 3.5 bn out of the current world population of around 8.3 bn. The concept of the developed countries sitting in closed rooms and ideating on the vision of a global world order has become a footnote in history. Some ambassadors termed this setting as akin to apartheid. 15th BRICS Summit 2023 in Johannesburg titled 'BRICS and Africa- Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism' had provided not only a stage for the BRICS countries but also for certain unheard economies that have time and again shown the capabilities of mattering in international relations. Today, Prominent global south countries are showing pathways in reforming multilateralism, advocating better sustainability policies, and expressing their avid interest in reforming Global Governance in the form of the United Nations. BRICS' first phase of expansion through inducting six new members has shown that the grouping that first expanded in 2009 through South Africa is not a locked moment in foreign affairs. The admissions of new members show how BRICS is not a group that deals with global affairs in closed rooms without hearing the voices from outside. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are the new members of the BRICS+ formulation. Pre BRICS+ represented 42% of the global population, 29% of the global GDP (around $27.6 trillion), and 18% of the global trade. So, even before expansion, 1/3rd of the growth and development of the world was coming from the global south. BRICS+ makes up 46% of the global population, 37% of the global GDP, and 25% of the global trade. BRICS+ will also help in increasing the share of global exports from 20.2% to 25.1%. Even before BRICS+, from 2008 to 2017, BRICS countries grew at an average rate of 8%, while the much developed north had an average growth rate of 1-2%. It is not overselling to say that BRICS+ only sharpens the axe to make the world hear what the global south has to offer. BRICS+ is also a geopolitical strike in bargaining a better deal for global energy security. BRICS+ now has 5 countries that come under the top 10 oil producers, with Saudi Arabia, Russia, UAE, Brazil, and Iran placed at 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 9th position respectively. Out of this cohort, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and UAE account for around 30% of the share in the Global oil economy. If we count the whole grouping, BRICS+ would make up 43% of the global oil production, thus embarking on the journey of being the global energy powerhouse. The impact that BRICS+ will create is going to outweigh the impact that G7 is currently creating. The global GDP share of G7 countries is 30.31%, while that of BRICS is 31.67%. Even within BRICS, both China and India come at the 1st and 3rd spot in terms of GDP ($ PPP), with only the USA in between. Let us not also forget that the BRICS grouping has a history of just 15 years as compared to more than 4 decades of the setting up of G7.

India's Geopolitical stratagem

There are other areas through which BRICS+ can be assessed. BRICS expansion is termed by certain scholars as a chance to smear the developed countries by presenting a global grievance redressal mechanism against the West. Moreover, the expansion seems like a geopolitical win for China to spearhead its anti-west rhetoric. However, at the outset, all the six countries have cooperative ties with the West, and as former foreign secretary Shyam Saran remarks, it cannot be turned into an anti-western lobby. Other contributors consider BRICS+ as a signpost of declining Western dominance.

India's proven ability time and again to be a voice of the global south has rippled across BRICS too. The inclusion of Egypt and Ethiopia is a healthy sign for Africa, a gesture similar to India's ambitions at the G20 2023 in New Delhi by inducting the African Union and making the global forum G21. India has another advantage in seeing the expansion from the lens of UNSC. Majority of the countries in the G7 support India's candidature to the permanent seat at the UNSC, and except for China in BRICS, India has the relevant advantage when it comes to reforming the UNSC as BRICS+ can be the platform for India to aspire for equitable goals like reforming UNSC. There was a certain international setting that we inherited as part of the developing world, and that setting now no longer resonates with the vision and aspirations of the world in general and the global south in particular. Global South is challenging the rigid international architecture at which projects of development were financed. India's foreign minister has voiced his opinion in saying that international economic grants have made the global south mere consumers instead of being manufacturers. It is due to these developments that the BRICS financial institution (New Development Bank) has plans to increase the disbursement of local currency to 30% (earlier 22%) in extending loans for development projects. China has its aim at looking at this expansion. China believes that the expansion of BRICS combined with a higher trajectory of trade in local currency will raise the trend towards de-dollarization. However, not all countries have full convertibility in currencies, which makes up for the difficulty in realizing China's aspiration. Even today, global vehicular currencies like USD, AUD, Euro, and British Pound account as the important currencies in international trade, as they form the cohort of being fully convertible. Today, important global south drivers like India are showing better ways of managing development aspirations. Policies such as LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) are aimed at balancing both development and greening at the same time. Aspirations of the developed world failed to take into account essential global governance elements like sustainability, which the global south clearly advocates for. BRICS+ has a clear aim of not becoming another hegemon or a pole, but a platform for 'other countries' that could not create an impact in transnational affairs like climate change, global development, and trade. One would like to question the current situation in which BRICS is aiming to expand. One would like to also ask whether BRICS+ has got 'revisionist' tendencies. And there are others like Jim O'Neill (the economist who coined the term BRIC) who has questioned the selection criteria itself in expansion. Apart from the six countries already inducted, 40 other countries have expressed their interest in joining BRICS. This is an indication that the agenda-setting of the world needs better ideas and better directions, and the toolkits of the former times will not create a better impact in the world now, especially with a more conscious and informed South. One however cannot negate the speed bumps when it comes to expansion. Countries like Argentina are hoping for a better deal in leaning towards this grouping by shifting away from the dollar dominance and skyrocketing inflation. Even internally, the presidential candidates in the run-up to the October 2023 elections in Argentina have different viewpoints on running the economy. Current Economy Minister Sergio Massa has tried to convince the voters that BRICS is the new hope for Argentina, which will also bond away from its dollar past, while Javier Miele is all about the dollar as the hope to save Argentina. Every grouping with tendencies of expansion has a natural problem that is not dealt via silos, as there are economic problems and there are political problems as well. BRICS expansion is not to be considered as a one-off solution to the problems of the global south. Even within the grouping, different political systems ranging from being full democracy to constitutional monarchy will invite certain foreign policy issues, but the intent is to address the grievances that hitherto were left unaddressed in yesteryears. In the next 5 year cycle, the report card of BRICS+ will be much better placed as compared to the last many decades of G7. Several leaders are looking up to countries within the current BRICS grouping to steer the path to a better multilateral world order. India's current G20 presidency was hailed as the lighthouse for the global south to engage and discuss the predicaments currently affecting these economies. Several contributors have termed the expansion running in favor of China and its bold ambitions to further its anti-western agendas. But it is not a cakewalk to tread across diverse political streams and economic motives. Countries like India have time and again come upfront about prioritizing the needs of the global south. The world and particularly the Global South are looking towards India in mitigating the recent geopolitical turbulences. Even United Nations acknowledges this capability that India has to offer. Thus, BRICS+ can be a hopeful situation for India to envisage a rebalanced global order.

                Investment and Finance
                Investment and finance in BRICS
                IMF – World Bank Annual meetings: the emergence of a platform for MDBs (Ежегодные встречи МВФ – Всемирного банка: появление платформы для МБР) / Russia, October, 2023
                Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion

                This year's Annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank focused on ways in which the global economy could mobilize resources more effectively to counter the increasing number of global challenges ranging from climate change to poverty reduction. Along with India's G20 presidency one of the key themes for the Bretton Woods institutions in this area has been the call to increase the effectiveness of multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the regional development banks as a key pillar of world's economy resources available to tackle global challenges. The result was what the World Bank termed as a historic statement from the heads of the multilateral development banks that essentially created a coordination platform among the multilateral/regional development banks. This is a positive step forward for the global community in building a more resilient international financial architecture – further steps along this path will need to target the creation of such a platform for regional integration blocs with a coordinating role for the WTO.

                According to the World Bank, on October 13th, 2023 it has signed an agreement with nine multilateral development banks (MDBs) "to fast-track solutions that can change the lives of people in developing countries"[1]. The agreement in essence creates a coordination platform that includes the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Council of Europe Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the New Development Bank.

                The statement released by the World bank declares that the heads of the MDBs agreed to boost collaboration in five key areas[2]:

                1. Scaling up financing capacity through financial innovations including portfolio guarantees and hybrid capital while stepping up their joint approach to credit rating agencies.
                2. Boosting collective efforts on climate as MDBs implement their joint principles for assessment of Paris Agreement Alignment, and better tracking and reporting of climate outcomes beyond joint climate finance reporting.
                3. Enhancing country-level collaboration to ensure that joint efforts deliver greater impact.
                4. Strengthening co-financing by harmonizing and standardizing our processes and seeking co-financing opportunities for greater speed and reach.
                5. Catalyzing private sector engagement including through joint innovative mechanisms that strengthen the mobilization of private capital.
                The list of MDBs that signed the agreement with the World Bank is global in scope and covers the main regions of the world economy. The creation of such a platform for regional development banks with the coordinating role for the World Bank has been my long-standing call since 2018, with one of the key arguments in favour of this initiative being the greater possibility for co-financing sizeable projects in the developing world. This MDB platform is particularly important for addressing economic challenges that cannot be dealt with exclusively at the national level – most notably environmental/climate change issues. In this vein, I argued in favour of a "syndicated regionalism" paradigm: "what is missing in the current system of global governance is greater coordination among regional arrangements – a system of "syndicated regionalism" (Regionalism Inc.) that would fill the voids in regional economic cooperation. The process of coordination could be institutionalized via greater cooperation among the respective development banks and other institutions"[3].

                Below are some of my papers and articles over the past 5 years with arguments in favour of creating a platform for regional development banks with a coordinating role for the World Bank:








                The building of platforms among regional development institutions could be constructed not only at the global level under the aegis of the World bank, but also within other regional/trans-regional groupings such as the BRICS. Indeed, since 2017 I have called for the creation of such a platform for regional development banks (with the coordinating role of the New Development Bank (NDB)) in which BRICS countries are members[4] – this was part of the BRICS+ concept that included platforms for regional integration blocs and regional financing arrangements in which BRICS are members. The creation of a platform for regional development banks is facilitated by the already significant cooperation undertaken by the NDB with the respective regional development banks with BRICS membership such as the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) and the Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) as well as by the existence of a cooperative platform within NDB for national (rather than regional) development institutions. Furthermore, the fact that NDB is part of the newly created global platform for multilateral development banks further strengthens the rationale and the scope to create such a BRICS+ platform for regional development institutions.

                In the end, what is emerging is precisely the horizontal coordination mechanism among the regional/multilateral development institutions that I advocated since 2018[5]: a platform for regional development banks coordinated by the World Bank comes in addition to the regular coordination meetings of the IMF with regional financing arrangements (RFAs). To complete the formation of the regional coordination mechanisms globally the remaining piece of the puzzle is a platform for regional integration arrangements that would be coordinated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) – something that could strengthen the capabilities of the global community to forge ahead with greater trade liberalization (including via greater openness among regional blocs), while countering protectionist pressures[6]. There may also be scope to create a platform for regional organizations and regional blocs within the G20 – an R20 (regional 20) – that could play a key role in rendering G20 initiatives and anti-crisis stimuli more targeted. So far in 2023, the developments in the world economy clearly point to policy-makers' greater realization of the importance of regionalism – the creation of a global platform for regional development banks as well as the accession of the African Union into the G20 may set the stage for a further rise in prominence of regional institutions and regional blocs in the years to come.







                              Political Events
                              Political events in the public life of BRICS
                              "We are defending our traditions, our culture, and our people". Quotations from Vladimir Putin's speech. («Мы защищаем наши традиции, нашу культуру и наш народ». Цитаты из выступления Владимира Путина.) / Russia, October, 2023
                              Keywords: vladimir_putin, quotation

                              Arvind Gupta: I think the initiative should come from leaders like you and Prime Minister Modi. This will help generate a dialogue amongst the civilisations that will be positive and which might help in fleshing out the principles of international relations that you talked about. So, my question to you is: what do you think about the G20 Declaration and what is your view of the future of the G20?

                              Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to confirm what you said about the Indian and Russian civilisations: this is exactly what I have talked about in my opening remarks. Of course, India is an ancient world civilisation; an enormous and powerful country with huge potential.

                              Russia is also a distinct civilisation. Look, we have over 190 peoples and ethnic groups living in Russia, with over 270 tongues and dialects. Surely that is a civilisation, is it not? India is also an enormous multi-confessional and multi-ethnic country. We need to dialogue between all civilisations – we are not the only civilisations in the world – as well as achieve a balance of interests and ways to maintain this balance.

                              As for the work of the G20, this is, of course, a success of the Indian leadership and of Prime Minister Modi personally. It was a success, and the Indian leadership was able to find and achieve this balance, including in the declaration. Some closed associations do not have much in the way of prospects, and the balance is changing.

                              But what do I attribute the success of the G20 in India to? To the Prime Minister managing to depoliticise the decisions made at the G20; and this is the only correct approach, because the G20 was created as a platform for discussing economic, and not political, issues back in the day. Politicisation of the G20 is a sure path to its self-destruction, and the Indian leadership managed to avoid this, which is certainly a success.

                              As for the fact that some closed associations are flawed, I think it is difficult to refute, because the balance of power is changing. Look, just recently everyone was following what would happen at the G7 meeting with bated breath: the largest world economies were gathering; what were they deciding there, what consequences would there be for the world economy?

                              Even before expanding, the BRICS economies accounted for more than 51 percent of global GDP. So, the G7 economies were smaller. And now, after the admission of additional members to BRICS, the size of the economies of the BRICS member countries has become even larger than that of the G7 members, so the real balance of forces and potentials is very important.

                              In this sense, open platforms are always better, always more promising, and always more valuable, because they create conditions to look for compromises and mutually acceptable solutions. But if we are talking about the results of the work of the G20, I would like to repeat and end my answer to your question here: this is, of course, Prime Minister Modi's success.

                              Vladimir Putin: Next year, yes, Russia will chair BRICS. Of course, we will do our best to take over from South Africa. It will be the first summit after new members joined BRICS. We have 200 BRICS-themed events planned. I am certain during the year, we will make extensive positive efforts to strengthen the organisation that is gaining more and more power and authority – and this will, certainly, benefit the members and the entire international community.

                              BRICS was actually conceived in Russia. Let me remind you how it happened. First, we suggested having a three-party forum for Russia, India and China. We agreed to hold regular meetings. This is how RIC came about, which stands for Russia, India and China. Then Brazil expressed interest in joining these discussions. And we became BRIC. Next was South Africa, hence BRICS.

                              Now, we have reached the point when we are ready to expand the number of members – and we have done so. In my opinion, this fact is very important and indicates that our authority is growing and, most importantly, that countries want to join a format that does not impose any obligations but simply creates conditions for compromise and addressing issues of interest for all the participating countries. We are happy to see it and believe it is a positive process.

                              Dayan Jayatilleka: If I may clarify very briefly, what I am saying is since we are being attacked by imperialism and elements of fascism, and since in history, those were fought and defeated by Communists in China and North Korea, Vietnam, and since the best text about imperialism was written by Lenin, is it the right time to perhaps be less critical of 1917, and restore it to historical status, like the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Chinese Revolution?

                              Vladimir Putin: Less criticism of the events of those years, including in Russia itself, as I understand it?

                              Yes, you are right. You are right in the sense that we need to engage less in criticism, and more in deep – in this case even scientific – analysis of what happened at that time and is happening now. Yes, you are right.

                              The only thing is that you need to give in-depth assessments, including assessments related to ideologisation. Now I will give my own opinion; everyone present here can argue with it. It is also necessary to give correct assessments of the ideologisation of interstate relations and geopolitical interests. Apart from relations between classes, relations within the framework of the so-called class struggle, we did not attach any importance: even after the events of 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were still in the paradigm of class relations and ideological relations and did not notice that there were purely geopolitical interests.

                              Take relations between the West and the People's Republic of China. There was a time when they were trying – and not without success – to pit China against the Soviet Union and Russia, because China was the weakest, it wasn't scary. Now that China has begun to grow, under the leadership of the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping today, its power is increasing almost every day, it is different now, it comes around. And back then, when they tried to use China, they forgot about all the ideological differences, but now they are being revived again. But, in essence, US policy towards China is based on geopolitical fears. The growing power of China is what frightens them, and not the fact that human rights are violated there or the rights of ethnic minorities. Does this really bother anyone? No, it is just a tool to fight China, that's all. The same goes to Russia.

                              But generally, globally, yes, we need to give general, more in-depth assessments. In any case, I agree with you that it is indiscriminate to throw everything that happened under the leadership of the communist parties of that time into the "dustbin of history", which you spoke about, of course; to paint all this with the same brush making no distinctions is inappropriate and even harmful. In this sense, I agree with you.

                              Vladimir Putin: Today, cooperation between Russia and the People's Republic of China is, of course, a very important factor stabilising international affairs. This is first.

                              Second, in order for this influence to grow, we first need to pay attention to maintaining the pace of our economic growth. Economic growth in Russia this year – I cannot remember whether I have said it or not, but I spoke about some aspects, and if I did, I will repeat it – economic growth this year will be somewhere around 2.8, and maybe three percent; I am being careful about how I say it, but closer to three percent. For our economy, for the economic structure that Russia has, this is a good result. We have fully overcome last year's decline and are picking up the pace.

                              In China, as far as I know, growth will be 6.4 percent: this is a very good figure. No matter what anyone says about the slowing growth rate of the Chinese economy, it is all chatter and idle talk, because China ensures these high rates and is in fact a leading driver of the world economy. The same thing is happening in India: the growth there is even higher: 7.6 percent, I believe. Therefore, the countries of the global South are gaining momentum, and our task is to ensure this leadership. This is first.

                              Second is in the field of security. We can see what is happening in Europe. We can see that among the ways the crisis in Ukraine was provoked and created was the irrepressible desire of Western countries, especially the United States, to expand NATO to the borders of the Russian Federation. They do the same in the East, creating various closed military groups. They are stepping on the same rake as they did in Europe. Therefore, it is important for us to respond to this in a timely manner.

                              We will expand our cooperation in the security sphere. At the same time, we do not create any blocs against anyone, but we are forced to react to what is happening around our states.

                              Of course, we will implement the infrastructure development plans related to building the Greater Eurasia and the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as our Chinese friends' plans to develop President Xi's Belt and Road Initiative. As I have said, I find it very promising.

                              And, finally, a lot of cooperation is planned in people-to-people ties: culture, student exchanges, and sports. This is very important for neighbouring countries.

                              We are already implementing fairly large infrastructure projects on a bilateral basis and will continue to do so. I hope that we will discuss all this in the near future during my meeting with President Xi Jinping as part of the forum that the President is holding in Beijing in October.

                              Vladimir Putin: We have never objected or expressed a negative attitude to Ukraine's plans to join the European economic community – never.

                              As for NATO, we have always been against it and this position is founded on the definite and serious grounds, because NATO's expansion right up to our borders is threatening our security. This is a massive challenge to the Russian Federation's security. After all, it is not only a political bloc, it is a military and political bloc, and the approach of its infrastructure is fraught with a grave threat to us.

                              As for any country's economic cooperation, or economic unions, we do not see any military threat to us and therefore do not think we have any right even to discuss this topic. This business concerns Ukraine and the European states alone.

                              In his time, President Yanukovych – without, incidentally, renouncing the association with the EU – just said that it was necessary to study those matters in more detail, because, in his opinion, the terms of the agreement on the association with the EU involved certain grave threats for the Ukrainian economy. And, in fact, if you read the language, he was absolutely right.

                              The agreement stipulated the opening of borders and the creation of absolutely unacceptable conditions for the functioning of the Ukrainian economy and the real economic sector. European goods are more competitive. Opening Ukraine's market to these goods was a disaster for its real sector. Involving Ukraine in the EU's energy structures also deprived it of certain advantages. Therefore, if you just analyse it – simply analyse this matter without any bias – Yanukovych was right. But this was used as a pretext for a coup d'etat. It's absolutely nonsensical, I don't know, just a pretext… It's a real crime!

                              But today, this is no longer relevant, because, in the larger scheme of things, the Ukrainian economy cannot exist without external infusions. Today, everything is different. Today, look, everything is generally balanced over there – on the face of it; the budget is also balanced in Ukraine and the macroeconomic indicators are more or less adjusted. But at what cost? At the cost of monthly multi-billion-dollar infusions.

                              Ukraine receives four or five billion dollars every month through various channels – loans, grants, etc. Just stop this funding and it's the end – everything will collapse in one week's time. Finish! The same concerns the defence system: just imagine if the [weapons] deliveries were discontinued tomorrow – they would have just one week to go until they used up all ammunition.

                              But the West has nearly exhausted its own stocks of ammunition as well. As I said, the United States produces 14,000 155mm shells per month, whereas Ukraine fires up to 5,000 such shells per day. Just compare: 14,000 per month and 5,000 per day. See what I am talking about? Yes, they are trying to boost the output to 75,000 [shells per month] before the end of next year. But it's still a long way off.

                              Europe is in a similar situation, as they say themselves. They said they had supplied everything – armour, ammunition, the lot. "We have done everything for Ukraine." They said this themselves in public (it's not my invention): "We have done everything for this, and now Ukraine has to do its part – let them go into the counter-offensive." And then they add behind the scenes: "At any cost!" Trust me, I know what I am talking about. And so they are doing it, or rather trying to do it – at any cost.

                              This is a matter of Ukraine's demilitarisation. It is still attempting to produce something, but there is little it can do. Even those drones, both airborne and seaborne, all of that happens with the help of Western advisers and intermediaries.

                              Is the EU ready to accept this economy into its fold? Good luck with that! But to sustain the viability of a population that has declined from 41 million at the start of the post-Soviet period to 19.5 million, or even less, today… But still, you have to feed these 19 million people, and this is not so easy. Are the European countries ready to adopt this economy? Let them do it. We have never objected to that – neither before the aggravation of this crisis, nor now.

                              But I have already told you what is going on within the European economy. It would be very noble of them to take up the Ukrainian economy given its current condition. They have certain foundations and procedures for balancing the level of economic development. A colleague from Hungary spoke recently; I do not know how much Hungary receives from these funds. Nothing, naturally, because everything will go to Ukraine and there will be insufficient funding. Nobody will receive anything, nobody.

                              If the level of wellbeing has dropped by 1.5 percent over the past couple of years, it will not just drop to zero, but even lower. Nevertheless, and I do not want to speak sarcastically or exaggerate but this is the reality: if it happens, we will not feel at liberty to counteract this or even speak negatively on this issue.


                              Fyodor Lukyanov: German Unity Day was marked the day before yesterday, and I read in some newspaper that there was a big issue when Gerhard Schroeder came to the celebratory event and all incumbent politicians tried to avoid standing next to him because of his friendship with you. By the way, do you still have friends in Germany?

                              Vladimir Putin: You know, it is not about whether I still have friends in Germany, although I do have friends there, and an increasing number of them even though it might seem strange… As for Mr Schroeder, Germany should be proud to have people like him. He is a true son of his people, for he prirotises the interests of the German people. I assure you, when making any decision or while we were discussing any question with him, he always placed utmost importance on the interests of the German economy and the German state.

                              And what is happening now? In fact, it was with Mr Schroeder that we built Nord Steam 1 and practically began building Nord Stream 2. We began doing it with him. So, they blew up these infrastructure systems, and where is the German economy now? Where is it? So those who are trying to move away from him now should contemplate what he did in the interests of his people and what they are doing today and what results they have achieved.

                              You know what surprises me? I will tell you honestly that I am surprised that such people and such politicians [as Gerhard Schroeder] are still present in Europe, that there are still such people. This is what surprises me, I am sincere now, because the generation of people who were able to defend their national interests seem to have vanished somewhere.

                              Vladimir Putin: As far as the global financial system is concerned, naturally, it is not ideal, balanced and does not meet the interests of most participants in the international community.

                              Look, I have already spoken about this and I will reiterate, at the Russia-Africa Summit, our African colleagues and friends said that the loan burden of the African states is over one trillion US dollars. It is impossible to repay these debts, it will never be done.

                              So, what kind of a global financial system could create such a situation? It is some sort of indemnity. These are not just loans, it goes beyond any normal financial and economic relations. And the contemporary financial system has bred this situation. So, I said as a joke then, that only cowards repay their debts. I warned the audience that it was a joke.

                              But it is not normal when such a situation happens, and something needs to change. The Bretton Woods system was created based on the dollar, but it is gradually falling apart. Because a currency is a derivative of the country's economy which issues that currency.

                              The American economy's share in the global GDP is shrinking, which is also an obvious thing, pure statistics. The share of the BRICS countries, which I also have already spoken about, is increasing in terms of purchasing power parity in relation to that of the G7 countries, especially after accepting new member states. This is a rather significant difference.

                              Yes, the economies of the United States and the Eurozone are built on a foundation of modern technologies and their per capita income is much higher than that of the developing economies. But what is the trend there? Their economies are going into recession and are showing negative results, while in the BRICS countries growth is impressive, even after the attacks launched on the Russian economy. It seems that they were counting on the collapse of our country, the destruction of our economy, and the destruction of Russia.

                              Not only did we overcome all the hardships of the past year, but we also achieved positive results: our economic growth is almost 3 percent, while unemployment stands at 3 percent, and debt levels are shrinking – we have significantly cut our foreign debt. All our companies are able to service all of their debt commitments. Yes, some problems remain, such as unrecoverable revenue and the weakening of the national currency. We see that. Both the Central Bank and the Government are responding to these developments. I am sure that the measures they are taking are correct, and the results will be beneficial.

                              But as far as BRICS is concerned, we not only need to create a single currency, but also build a settlement system and create financial logistics to provide for settlements between our states. We also need to transition to settlements in our national currencies, keeping an eye on them to understand what is actually occurring with them, while taking into account the macroeconomic indices of our economies, exchange rate differences, and inflation processes. It is not an easy situation, but it can be dealt with, and this is what we need to do.

                              Yesterday, we discussed this with our experts, including the possibility of creating a single BRICS currency. Theoretically speaking, yes, it is probable. But in order to begin working on this, we need to achieve a certain parity in the development of the economies of the member states, which is a very distant perspective.

                              As my colleagues told me, in the course of time, the Eurozone transitioned to the common currency, the euro, without thinking about how it would work in countries with a different level of economic development, and problems emerged. Why would we make the same mistake? This issue is not even on the agenda. But we should and we will work to improve the entire financial system, both global finance and financial relations within BRICS.

                              Pierre de Gaulle: Mr President, I am Pierre de Gaulle. I am the Chair of Mouvement International Russophile (MIR) France & Francophonie. And I am a true friend of your country as my family is fighting for the Franco-Russian friendship, and we have got more and more people in France and Europe who have the same belief and the same willingness.

                              I think that the conflict in Ukraine is an ideological conflict, that it is even a conflict of civilisations. Because on one side, you have got the occidental world, which has lost its soul, which has lost everything for ego, for short-term satisfaction, pleasure, and short-term view on everything that is sacred. And history has shown that civilisation cannot survive. On the other side, you have got a multipolar world led by Russia, led by China, India, African countries, Arabic countries and South American countries. Those people, those nations are willing to fight for their own traditional and fundamental values. So, to me, Mr President, this conflict is ideological. That is why I think that it will last and expand. What is your view on this?

                              Vladimir Putin: First of all, I want to say that it is a great honour to be hosting General de Gaulle's grandson here in Russia. (Applause)

                              The incumbent President of France and I briefly touched on some of these issues and I said – again, it is not a secret – that I don't want to give any historical assessment. It was all very complicated, yet, despite the difference in military titles, it is General de Gaulle rather than Marshal Petain who is perceived as a hero in Russia, because the general personified France and its pursuit of freedom, independence, and dignity. Normandie-Nieman pilots are also seen as heroes.

                              Yes, the situation has changed nowadays and the leaders of France today are completely different people. I am not talking about their age, but rather about their view of the role and significance of France, perhaps even its history and future. I am not going to give my opinion as it is none of our business. It is up to the people of France. But I know that there are plenty of people in France with the views you represent, true friends of Russia, and their numbers are growing.

                              Will the situation become further aggravated in light of the general developments ongoing in the world, amidst the ideological confrontation, as you called it? It will never end, obviously. Whatever shape they take, these different movements will, surely, always fight with each other, this is obvious. But my opinion is that, nevertheless, the pace at which people are coming to realise the importance and the timeless significance of national values and customs will gradually pick up, both in European countries and the United States as well.

                              In this sense, I think yes, the ideological confrontation will continue. But the future lies in the nationally-oriented forces of the world. As I said in my remarks, their balance on the world stage will be achieved by finding a compromise between civilisations.

                              Vladimir Putin: If the people of Moldova vote for parties that want to give up a significant part of their sovereignty to other countries and follow in the wake of their interests, this will define their role: they will neither be seen nor heard.

                              But if they follow the path of upholding their sovereignty and their national dignity, sticking to their national traditions, then, as I said in my remarks, we will strive to ensure that all countries, regardless of their size, regardless of their economic situation, have an equal say, and that all countries treat each other as equals. I do not know how it will all work out, but this is our approach, and this is what we will strive for.

                              Vladimir Putin: With regard to energy and energy supplies, we have never exported gas from Russia to Central Asia. In the Soviet Union, things were the other way round, and Central Asia used to supply gas to Russia through two pipeline systems.

                              However, considering the growing energy needs and economic growth in our Central Asian friends' countries, as well as climate change – this year, the temperatures in Kazakhstan and Tashkent dropped to 21, even 24 below zero, which, I believe, no one can remember ever seeing before. It is truly incredible, but it happened, which means it could happen again. They raised the question with us and asked us to consider gas supplies to these countries. We understand that living without these supplies may be a challenge.

                              We worked on this issue together. Our Kazakhstani friends have rebuilt their section of the pipeline, and Uzbekistan did the same. Gazprom, too, was supposed to do the same in Russia and retrofit some of our technical capabilities, because, to reiterate, in the Soviet Union, gas went in the opposite direction, and we now need to reverse it.

                              We will be doing this, and it has already been done from a technical standpoint. Full-scale deliveries will begin in October. First, in small volumes, but they are critically important for the economies of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We plan to supply up to three billion cubic metres of gas annually to each country, with an option to increase the volume.

                              There are other issues as well, such as broader energy concerns, hydropower, and water resources. They are challenging from an economic and financial perspective, but solvable. However, as we address these issues, we must not forget about the environment. These matters are within our scope of vision, including the discussions with our Kyrgyz friends. We are aware of these matters and are working on them. I hope to meet with the Prime Minister soon at the CIS Summit, where we will discuss these matters. So, we have all these items on the agenda, and we understand their importance for our countries.

                              By the way, concerning our gas exports to Moldova, I noticed that someone from Moldova's official circles said that Moldova was no longer purchasing Russian gas. Frankly, I was a bit surprised to hear that because the terms under which we supply gas to Moldova are Moldovan terms. Moldovans asked us for these supply and pricing arrangements, and we agreed to these terms, despite political differences. We went with the Moldovan side's proposal. However, debt-related issues need to be addressed, no question about it.

                              Despite the statement from Moldovan official circles to the effect that Moldova has stopped receiving our gas, I asked Mr Miller yesterday what they are thinking and if they no longer need gas. He told me nothing had changed and we are continuing to supply gas as usual. What kind of people are they? They are saying random things for unclear reasons and I think that serves no purpose other than harming Moldova's economy.

                              Vladimir Putin: With regard to Russia's greatness, it currently lies in strengthening its sovereignty. Sovereignty is based on self-sufficiency in technology, finance, the economy in general, defence and security.

                              Here is what I would like to say in this regard. The people who, for some reason, started fighting today's Russia after 1991 – I mentioned some of it in my remarks… I have no idea why they did it. Perhaps, they did it out of arrogance or foolishness, I cannot find another explanation. I keep asking myself: Why? After all, we opened our arms and said, "We are here for you." But instead they tried to finish us off. Why? Nonetheless, they began doing this. This led us to the only remaining choice which was to strengthen our sovereignty in the economy, finance, technology, and security.

                              So, the people who began this and brought us to the current phase of the already heated confrontation began to impose sanctions on us and accomplished the opposite of what they expected to accomplish. We are witnessing a clear shift in the structure of the Russian economy. I have already mentioned this: we have added three percent to GDP from oil and gas, and 43 percent from the processing industries, including defence, but also electronics, optics, and machine building. They have left our market, probably thinking that everything would collapse, but instead things are only getting stronger.

                              Indeed, inflation is slightly up and the ruble rate is fluctuating. We see these issues. But the structure of the economy is changing; it is becoming more technologically advanced on its own foundation, and we need to consolidate this trend. We will definitely do this, and based on this, we will continue to strengthen our defence capability. We see the issues that arise during, I apologise for putting it bluntly, the hostilities. We see what else we are lacking, and we are scaling up production, in some areas by orders of magnitude, not just by a few percent.

                              We will undoubtedly maintain these trends and we will rely on the support and trust of our people, which, among other things, are expressed in the fact that we have a large number of volunteers joining the Armed Forces. As of today, 335,000 people have enlisted and signed contracts with the Defence Ministry of their own accord, and there are about 5,000, even slightly more, volunteers. They are all volunteers, but it is just a different category since contracts are signed for shorter terms. The total number is about 350,000 people which fact shows the level of people's trust in the policies of the Russian state.

                              Everyone can see that we are not dealing with fleeting issues. We may not be doing everything exactly the way we would like things to be, but the overwhelming majority of our citizens see that everything is aimed at strengthening the Russian state and Russian statehood. It encompasses many aspects, but the trend is absolutely positive and correct. Our objective is to keep these trends going, and we will do so.

                              Vladimir Putin: There are no real private military companies in Russia, because there is no law on private military companies. We do not have them and never did.

                              The experience that we had was so lopsided because it was not based on the law. True, it was necessitated by the current situation on the battlefield, to put it bluntly. And when the Ministry of Defence invited members of that company to come and participate in the fighting, I did not object, because people acted voluntarily, and we saw that they fought heroically. But even inside that company, the interests of its ordinary members and the management did not always coincide. I doubt that all of them made 840 billion rubles from supplying food to the Armed Forces. There were other problems of a purely economic nature, but I would not like to go into that now.

                              I know, the question is probably hanging in the air: what happened to the company's management and so on. We know about the plane crash; the head of the Investigative Committee [Alexander Bastrykin] reported to me about it just the other day: fragments of hand grenades were found in the bodies of those killed in the plane crash. There was no external impact on the plane – this is already established as the result of an examination carried out by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. But the investigation is not over. Yes, unfortunately, no examination was carried out on the presence of alcohol or drugs in the victims' blood, although we know that after the well-known events, the FSB discovered not only 10 billion [rubles] in cash, but also five kilograms of cocaine at the St Petersburg office of the company [Wagner]. But I repeat once again: in my opinion, such an examination should have been carried out, but it was not. I told you what there is.

                              I want to say right away that I asked the head of the Investigative Committee whether this could be said publicly. He says: yes, it is possible, this is an established fact. So, this is how it is.

                              Margarita Simonyan: You spoke about Karabakh. Being an ethnic Armenian, I cannot help but respond and will take the liberty to assure you that all normal Armenians understand it perfectly well, they understand that Mr Pashinyan was placed in power at the time exactly to surrender Karabakh and to raise questions for European politicians like the one our host quoted. Normal Armenians understand that if it was not for Russia, the Armenian people would have been wiped out of existence. Just like in the early 19th century when they were saved by Alexander Griboyedov, in the beginning of the 21st century they are being saved by the peacekeepers in Karabakh. This is just a side note… Odessa is a wonderful Russian city, and we believe that Russian cities should be in Russia. So here is my question. Where do you want us to stop?

                              Vladimir Putin: As for the first part of your remarks, I cannot agree with you that Prime Minister Pashinyan was brought to power by somebody outside to surrender Karabakh. It was actually the choice of the Armenian people. Yes, views can differ on election processes, but it is a fact. So, here I do not agree with you. This is the first thing.

                              Second, I also disagree that he sought to give up Karabakh. I talked to him at great length; both during the 2020 conflict, and before that. Recall that when he came to power, he said that Karabakh was part of Armenia. Nobody said that before. It is true, his position changed radically over time. Why that happened is not for me to say. And then we spoke during the 2020 conflict, and in my opinion, he sincerely wanted to preserve the situation.

                              I am not saying the decisions were right or wrong, it is not my business to judge. But I believe it is unfair to say that he deliberately surrendered Karabakh.

                              Now, as for where we should stop. You know, it is not about territories, it is about security guarantees for the peoples of Russia and the Russian state, and this is a more complex issue than some territory. It is about the security of people who consider Russia their Motherland and whom we consider our people. This is a complex question that demands a discussion.

                              Muhammad Athar Javed: How would you define that? Is there a probability that down the road we will have a new economic world order led by Russia?

                              Vladimir Putin: I fully agree with what you have just said. This is true – the future world order will undoubtedly be based on the future economic, monetary and financial system. And it should be more balanced; it should meet the interests of the overwhelming majority of the international community – this is quite right.

                              Is there any possibility that this will eventually happen? This is a very complex process. Judging by the way our opponents behave – let us call them that, as we are talking about the economy now, we will not use any other terms – they are clinging to their privileges at any cost.

                              I have already said, and many people agree with me, that the Bretton Woods system is obsolete. This is not just me; there are Western experts saying this. It needs to be replaced of course, because it leads to such ugly phenomena as the huge debts of developing economies, for example, or the full and unconditional domination of the dollar in the international system. This is already happening; it is a matter of time.

                              But the political and financial authorities, the economic authorities in the United States are actually shooting themselves in the foot by acting so unprofessionally, to put it mildly, by showing stubbornness and disregard for all other participants in international economic affairs. They have restricted payments in dollars – now what can we do? We have no other choice but to pay in national currencies. We have to discuss the issues that I have mentioned in answering one of the questions from our colleagues, and to create new logistics for these transactions.

                              As a result, the use of the dollar is naturally shrinking, but this is also happening as the United States – it is a huge economy, and the country is huge and great, there can be no doubt about it, we are not underestimating or exaggerating anything, but it is reducing its own sphere of influence in the global economy. In other words, this is happening anyway, for reasons beyond their control – because emerging markets, developing economies are growing, just look at the pace at which Asia is growing. It is already happening. And the United States, guided by the current political situation, is accelerating these processes, if anything. Sorry, but to put it mildly… You know this expression? It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake. This is one of those cases.

                              Are there any projects that will shape a new economic and logistics architecture? Of course, there are. President Xi Jinping is proposing one such project, the Belt and Road Initiative. It is the unifying slogan – one belt, one road, acting all together. And we are doing the same by building the Eurasian Economic Community: we are thinking together about how to unite the two. And if the BRICS and the SCO countries get also involved in this – listen, this is true cooperation – Pakistan is also involved in this, in the search for a solution. Of course, this is a challenging task, and it will take time. But the realisation that it will benefit everyone will push this process forward.

                              And I will end where I started. In this sense, the strengthening of the multipolar world is inevitable.

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                                            SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                            Book launch – The BRICS in Africa: Promoting Development? (Презентация книги – БРИКС в Африке: содействие развитию?) / South Africa, October, 2023
                                            Keywords:social_issues, research
                                            South Africa

                                            Five years and twenty chapters later, it's a pleasure to have officially launched the The BRICS in Africa: Promoting Development?' The launch took place at Exclusive Books, V&A Waterfront, where two of the book's editors participated in a panel discussion. Dr Yul Davids (Research Director, Development, Capable and Ethical State) and Krish Chetty (Research Manager, Equitable Education and Economies) were joined by Dr Jaya Josie (visiting professor at Zhejiang University International Business School) to reflect on what inspired the book, and share thoughts on recent BRICS developments. The other editors are Dr Funeka Yazini April (Coordinator, BRICS Research Centre works at the Human Science Research Council) and Professor Modimowabarwa Kanyane (Executive Dean: Faculty of Management, Commerce and Law at the University of Venda).

                                            Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) nations have become a strong engine of South-South Cooperation. The most significant outcome of the emergence of BRICS is the shift they have brought to the balance of power in global affairs. The past decade has steadily accelerated commercial and strategic engagements between BRICS and Africa. The BRICS countries constitute Africa's largest trading partners and new investors. BRICS has nourished Africa's economic emergence and elevated the continent's contemporary global positioning. This book seeks to determine the potential of BRICS-Africa cooperation in promoting African development.

                                            Some of the critical issues in this book include the following: a) What will be the impact of intra-BRICS and BRICS–Africa cooperation and partnerships, mainly through the New Industrial Revolution, financial technologies, infrastructure, economic growth and development in health; b) Determine the relevance of the BRICS New Development Bank in the post-COVID era; c) Examine the governance and accountability mechanisms required to entrench BRICS governance cooperation with the continent, and e) Determine strategies that address gender developmental disparities and inequalities in BRICS and Africa.

                                            This book consists of five sections, preceded by an introduction and later at the end of the chapters, a conclusion. The five mentioned sections respond to the 2020 12th BRICS Summit, 'Global Stability, Shared Security, and Innovative Growth thematic thrusts.

                                            The book is available to purchase here.

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