Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 15.2017
2017.04.03 — 2017.04.07
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Reclaiming Relevance: BRICS And The New Multipolarity (Возврат релевантности: БРИКС и новая многополярность) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: International relations, global governance, politics, economics
Author: Divita Shandilya

The association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, popularly known as BRICS, finds itself at an interesting juncture in its existence. After limited success in restructuring international financial institutions, which was the stated intention of the forum, the BRICS governments established the New Development Bank that has been functioning for more than two years. At a time when the international order is becoming more multipolar, the symbolic and functional significance of such an institution and of geopolitical formations such as the BRICS has been amplified. These regional and/or multilateral groupings can provide developing countries the lexicon to negotiate favourable terms in international forums and processes, and also the possibility of responding collectively to challenges such as climate change and poverty.

However, currently each of the BRICS governments is facing multiple political and economic crises at home which have not only raised questions about their legitimacy but also created much social unrest and churning. Further, internal dissonance among the member countries and reorientation of their foreign policy priorities have become more pronounced over the past year which has raised questions of feasibility and sustainability for the BRICS. It is in this context that ActionAid India's new publication Reclaiming Relevance: BRICS and the New Multipolarity, prepared in collaboration with ActionAid Brazil and ActionAid South Africa, revisits the theoretical underpinning of BRICS, and examines whether the grouping has any purpose for the global South.

The constituent chapters present perspectives from Brazil, India, and South Africa on the developmental model of the BRICS, which in present day largely conforms to market-friendly neoliberalism as opposed to the state-led developmentalism of a few decades past, and its implications for growth, redistribution, and sustainability. Seen through this lens, the BRICS story so far seems to be one of limited progressivism, as the countries' own integration into international financial markets has greatly restricted their ability to adopt policies that might legitimize the state over the interests of the market, and by extension allow them to truly challenge and transform the international economic and financial architecture. Moreover, the over-reliance on commodity exports which is common to many of these countries and is based on the exploitation of natural resources and labour, is just not tenable and the evidences are in plain sight, be it the spectacular slowdown of their economies or the severe ecological degradation whose consequences they are now dealing with.

Yet, one finds that the BRICS forum still holds the promise of becoming a vehicle for transformative progress for developing countries through enhanced South–South cooperation based on increased trade and investment, as well as increased access to development finance.

At the launch of the publication in ActionAid Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, academics and researchers from Brazil, India and South Africa had the opportunity to reflect on this enduring promise.

Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid India, reflected that one has to be mindful of the historical context when evaluating the progress of the BRICS; the idea of the BRICS remains representative of the idea of the autonomous progress of the South and of the Bandung push towards economic democratization, which is essential to the building of democracies in the world.

Fatima Shabodien, Country Director, ActionAid South Africa, added that it is vital for women of the global South, who carry the burden of the economic injustices meted out to the South, to engage with processes such as Bandung, NAM, and BRICS as they give voice to demands for a more inclusive and just world order. If these Southern-led processes can induce some difference globally in accordance with this progressive vision, it would make lives better for many in the developing world.

Therefore, at this crucial point in history where the BRICS are pushing for greater democratization of global governance and an end to the structural hegemony of Western countries, it becomes imperative for civil societies to engage with the forum and ensure that their policies and institutions work for the betterment of their own people and the peoples of the world.

It is pertinent to recount here what Mr Celso Amorim, the ex-foreign minister of Brazil, had to say about the BRICS at a recent seminar organized by ActionAid Brazil. He stated that since its conception, the BRICS has been a reformist power, if not revolutionist, and for such a force that stands for structural reform, episodic shocks in the form of economic disruptions or political discontinuity can only be temporary. The BRICS manifest a fundamental change in the way global political and economic policies are formulated, an idea whose time has most definitely come.
BRICS States Want to Expand Cooperation to Space Science (Страны БРИКС хотят расширить сотрудничество в области космической науки) / Lebanon, April, 2017
Keywords: Space, cooperation, China, Russia, international relations

Secretary-General of China's National Space Administration Yulong Tian said that the BRICS countries are interested in broadening the space cooperation to space science mission and telecommunication.

The BRICS countries are interested in broadening the space cooperation to space science mission and telecommunication, Secretary-General of China's National Space Administration Yulong Tian told Sputnik.

"I think BRICS countries constellation is only the beginning. That's the foundation of cooperation that we established mechanism," Tian said on Wednesday. "In the future we want to expand to space science mission, to telecommunication and even navigation system cooperation."

Last year, Director General of the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos Igor Komarov announced that BRICS states agreed to create a joint satellite constellation for Earth remote sensing.

BRICS is an association of five developing economies — Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa — which comprises over one third of the world's population. The five nations have a combined nominal GDP equivalent to approximately 20 percent of gross world product.
EXCERPT | A Test of China–India Cooperative Dynamics within the BRICS Framework (Отрывок | Тест китайско-индийской динамики сотрудничества в рамках БРИКС) / Idnia, April, 2017
Keywords: China, India, bank, international relations
Author: Andrew F. Cooper and Asif B. Farooq

A serious test of the cooperation between China and India relates to the internal dynamics of the BRICS association, particularly with regard to the BRICS bank. On the one hand, the BRICS institutions serve as the mediative "voice" that strives to challenge a superpower's [the United States'] ability to "waive the rules in order to rule the waves" (Prantle 2014: 481). Indeed, Leksyutina (2014) argues that consolidation of the BRICS initiative is a means for China to pave a way to global economic governance. Similarly, Abdenur writes, "From a geopolitical point of view, the BRICS helps China to counter US hegemony without direct confrontation" (2014: 92). On the other hand, BRICS is also transformative in the sense that it acts as an exit option in remedying distributive conflicts of power. That being said, scepticism was high at the initial stage about whether the BRICS association would sustain or would ultimately turn out to be "BRICS without mortar" (Stephens 2011). Since the idea of the NDB was introduced, pessimism surrounding the bank's viability was further escalated due to the project's ambitiousness (Warner 2012; Yardley 2012). Even Takehiko Nakao, president of the Asian Development Bank, pointed to the BRICS capacity challenge in establishing the bank, saying,

Setting up banking business is not easy as it involves finding new projects, financing them and then monitoring the use of these funds and repayments. (The Economic Times 2013)

However, the BRICS nations were able to translate an ideational concept into delivery at the 2014 Fortaleza summit in Brazil with the creation of an initial USD 50 billion fund with equal stakes for each of the BRICS members. Furthermore, the BRICS economies also agreed to establish the Contingent Reserve Agreement (CRA), amounting to USD 100 billion to deal with any future financial crisis.

The BRICS alliance's ability to deliver a tangible result, however, did not come about without highlighting the sensitivity of the China– India relationship. What was salient about this initiative was not only that it repositioned the defensive response of the two countries to the ascendancy of new informal (with a self-selected membership and no charter or physical site) in the wake of the global financial crisis, but also that it made prominent the differences, as well as the similarities, between China and India's approaches in a summit process in which they were both members.

As with the G20, India's initial response to the original fournation BRIC framework was caution. In the early stage of club development, the Indian foreign minister played down the implications of the forum, saying,

These four countries are not arranged against any other countries or any other group of countries. It is not even an effort to flex muscles. We are trying to learn from each other. ( 2009)
Even when the BRIC grouping was elevated to a leaders' level summit at Yekaterinburg in June 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took a low-key approach, a stance that could be contrasted with the high-profile championing of the alliance by Brazil's president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

By 2011–2012, however, this cautious approach had subsided. Departing from the wary ambivalence it had displayed toward the G20, India took on the role of host nation for the fourth BRICS summit in New Delhi. Moreover, Prime Minister Singh pointed to a BRICS relationship that had moved beyond the function of a grouping to monitor the progress of the G20 to a forum with an autonomous agenda of its own. He said,

The relevance of BRICS to the international order has increased over time […]. The agenda of BRICS has gone beyond the purely economic to include issues such as international terrorism, climate change and food and energy security. (Ministry of External Affairs 2011)
In terms of its repositioning from a largely defensive approach, India's shift in institutional targeting came to the fore most dramatically through its ambitious form of entrepreneurial and technical leadership with respect to its proposal for a "South–South" or development bank in March 2012. In contrast to the established pattern where India stood back while other countries did the running on an initiative and its initial scepticism that the BRICS grouping could be a problem-solving body, in this case India jumped out to the front.

The initiative, however, showcased the need for serious bargaining within BRICS. It was clear from an early stage that Indian and Chinese interests were at odds. Xu Qinghong, section chief of the banking supervision department at the China Banking Regulatory Commission noted:

There are vast differences between us […]. Looking at the history of other multilateral institutions, I think such a feasibility study will take a long time and it may test our patience. Since the Delhi Summit, so far in China there have been a lot of doubts about a proposal. (Krishnan 2012)

Despite these complications, Indian officials persisted with the initiative. Up until the 2013 Durban summit, they pursued a plan whereby there would be an initial capital of USD 50 billion to launch the fund with each BRICS country making an equal contribution of USD 10 billion. China, however, pushed for an alternative model bolstered by its advantage of holding massive international monetary reserves of well beyond USD 3 trillion. Its model encouraged contributions based on each country's financial capacity and planned for an overall capital base of USD 100 billion. This model would provide China with an opportunity to contribute more to the bank's capital base and thus, would give it an asymmetric power advantage within the NDB's founding members (Sahu 2013).

To complicate the situation further, before the 2012 Tokyo meeting of BRICS finance ministers, Xu Qinghong worried that "non-economic factors" might hinder the NDB's establishment. Indeed, non-economic factors became the major driving forces during the intensive bargaining between China and India in delineating the bank's development. In response to China's stance on the details of the bank, India was often wary of its unequal power relation with China and played defensive moves in response. For instance, there was speculation that China was willing to pay part of other BRICS members' share of the bank's starting capital to resolve initial funding problems. This action could potentially allow China to take a leading role in advancing its own political agenda. From an Indian perspective, such a move would further exacerbate India's competitive relations with China. India's legitimate concern was that China's leading role would eventually make the bank more like other international financial institutions (IFI) where big members' voting rights overshadow those of smaller members. To counterbalance China, India even contemplated the idea of opening up the bank's membership to include advanced economies, whereby they would receive a minority stake (between 40 per cent and 45 per cent) as contributors. Such a strategy would effectively prevent China from using its financial power to play the dominant role.

A second contentious issue emerged when the BRICS members wanted to decide where the bank's headquarters would be located. While not a major source of debate at the outset, the issue amplified as the initiative slowly took shape. China, India, and South Africa all wanted to host the institution. The physical location of the bank had the potential to give a symbolic, if not tangible, advantage to the host nation in relation to the bank. In its efforts to headquarter the bank, India maintained the impression that it remained the inspirational force behind the institution. Indian Prime Minister Singh reinforced this view in his statement at the Durban summit in 2013. He said,

The ideas that we first discussed at New Delhi, that of instituting a mechanism to recycle surplus savings into infrastructure investments in developing countries, has been given a concrete shape. (The Economic Times 2013)

However, India's ideational inspiration did not easily translate into its physical ownership of the bank's headquarters. While India wanted the headquarters for itself, China took the stand that the bank headquarters should be located in Shanghai. This position was championed in turn by China's key think tanks. After the New Delhi summit, the Financial Research Center at Fudan University argued that "China should strive to become the headquarters of the BRICS bank" (Shanghai Forum 2013).

Contestations about control later spilled over into the issue of which currency would be the bank's functional currency. The memorandum of agreement signed at the New Delhi summit in 2012 opened the way for BRICS member development banks to extend loans in their respective currency denomination. The process of moving away from the US dollar opened up speculation about Chinese control through the internationalised CNY, especially as China benefitted from advocating the use of its own currency to offset currency risks in development finance. Indian finance ministry officials were reported to express the view that the bank's goal had become a means of "legitimising" the use of Chinese currency overseas (The Times of India 2012).

In spite of the tensions between China and India outlined above, the bargaining process, which ultimately led to the finalisation of the New Development Bank with its headquarters in Shanghai and its first president an Indian national, appeared to consolidate the club culture among the BRICS members. Thus, the NDB, to echo Cheng's argument (Cheng 2015: 364), is not only an example of institution building for the purpose of containing bilateral conflicts, but is also a means of enhancing their collective international influence.

Moreover, the partnership extended under founding membership of the AIIB, as well as economic cooperation under BRICS, brought India and China a step closer due to their overlapping interests in national financial security. India had endured an acute balance of payment crisis in 1990/1991 due to a combination of domestic factors and external shocks. Among the many lessons that India learned from that crisis – and from its Asian peers, including China, after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 – was the need to develop a large foreign reserve in order to weather a future financial crisis. However, domestic electoral politics based on populist agendas allowed India little room to maintain a healthy balance of payment. Indeed, avoiding another balance of payment crisis remained a constant headache for the new governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan. While the International Monetary fund (IMF) was India's last-minute rescuer during its financial crisis in 1991, in return for which, India had to adopt neoliberal reforms, it was in India's interests to have an alternative "safety net" in the form of the currency reserve for any future financial crises. Furthermore, a cash-starved India has been in acute need of infrastructure investment to enable broader economic development and security. Meanwhile, China needed to diversify its massive foreign reserve away from its investment in US Treasury bonds. Financing the NDB and the AIIB projects provided China with an alternative investment avenue that ultimately killed two birds with one stone: firstly, it helped to diversify China's foreign reserve investment and further supplemented its foreign policy objectives; and secondly, the BRICS reserve currency pool of USD 100 billion furthered India and China's cooperation on common financial interests.

Perhaps then, it was no wonder that India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, hailed the NDB as a new chapter of cooperation between the BRICS members and further noted that it demonstrated "our capacity to set up institutions" (Zee News 2014; The Times of India 2014). The bank also showcased China's ability to craft an initiative that furthered its own ambitions. However, aside from common interests the level of cooperation witnessed between China and India in establishing the NDB was either not evident or was mixed at best on the issue of global financial governance in other multilateral fora. This raises questions about the possible spillover effect of cooperation "within the BRICS" to coordination "outside the BRICS framework."
Investment and finance in BRICS
NDB meeting raises talks of sustainable investment in India (После встречи Нового Банка Развития начались переговоры об устойчивых инвестициях в Индию) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: investments, finance, India, New Development Bank
Author: Mehk Chakraborty

As the BRICS made New Development Bank met in New Delhi, investments and future plans have been discussed even as civil society fears non inclusivity 'sustainable development'.

The five emerging economies, Brazil Russia India China and South Africa or BRICS, created the New Development Bank (NDB) aiming to finance sustainable development and infrastructure projects in their economies and other developing countries which they are looking to incorporate as members. Even as this year has marked the second annual meet for the NDB, civil society formations such as the Peoples Forum on BRICS have raised concerns over sustainability of projects funded.

BRICS is estimated to incorporate almost 50 pc world's population and about one-fifth of the economic output globally. However, with the exception of India and China, GDP growth rates for the emerging economies have remained rather stagnant. In India though, even as the finance minister Arun Jaitley predicted a sustained growth, income disparity has grown to call for a look into the concept of sustainable inclusive development, which some fear hasn't found incorporation in NDB's projects.

Jaitely spoke at the NDB's meet, stating "India has huge unmet infrastructure funding needs. EUR 606 billion is required in the next five years. About 70 pc of this will be required in the power, roads and urban infrastructure sectors." Adding that India is set to work with the NDB to develop projects in areas such as Smart Cities, renewable energy, urban transport, and urban water supply, he voiced hope that "the NDB will emerge as a development bank representing the voice and aspirations of developing nations, and will set a new trend in multilateral funding."

The two projects India has sought investment for targets up-gradation of major district roads in Madhya Pradesh and Renewable Energy generation. The first project was proposed to be looking at inclusive economic growth through "increased incomes as a result of improved connectivity and access to markets for interior regions of the state," according to a statement released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) of India. The Second Project financed by the NDB in India will "lead to generation of about 500 MW Renewable Energy thereby preventing generation of 815,000 tonne CO2 per annum. EUR 234 million sovereign guaranteed loans will be given to Canara Bank in three tranches under this project," added the PIB report.

Sustainable development?

Ahead of NDB's meet in New Delhi, the Peoples' Forum on BRICS conducted a day-long convention in the city, which was addressed by civil society members such as academicians, economists, environmentalists, journalists and indigenous communities from the BRICS countries. In the meeting, Madhuresh Kumar, convener of the National Alliance of Peoples Movement explained, "We are not against renewable energy but it has to be decentralised. The current funding is for the large scale projects, which leads to the large scale displacements. For any project to be sustainable and inclusive the benefits have to be equally distributed." Susana Barria, Project Coordinator, Public Service International, gave an example of the promotion of the rooftop solar panels as a strategy to reduce displacement.

Ciao Borges, a lawyer representing Conectas, a not-for-profit organisation that holds consultative status from UN-ECOSOC from Brazil, had stated earlier that "So far the Shanghai based Bank, which claims to focus on 'sustainable infrastructure', has approved seven investment projects in all member countries for a total of over EUR 1.4 billion, with 75 pc investments on renewable energy. Despite this, the Bank has not felt the need to define the concept of sustainable infrastructure. Moreover, with lack of transparency and redressal mechanism, the affected communities would have no recourse to file their complaints and concerns."

As NDB's President KV Kamath shared targets of the bank funding 15 infrastructure projects in member countries worth approximately EUR 2.8 billion, the large scale impact of NDB becomes important. The NDB can potentially ensure it takes an alternative path to IMF with considerations of inclusive development, however, it yet remains to do the same.
Luxury industry should help Indian artisans access global markets, says Sitharaman (Индустрия роскоши должна помочь индийским мастерам выйти на мировые рынки, говорит Ситтараман) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: investments and finance, India, luxury industry
Author: averick Martins

Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman asked the luxury industry to recognise the work of Indian artisans and help them in accessing global markets, a news agency reported.

Sitharaman, while addressing industry leaders at the Luxury Symposium 2017 in New Delhi, expressed pain that "wonderful" artisans are standing in queues for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MNREGA) scheme to get minimum wages.

"Luxury industry will have to identify artisans from various pockets in India and give them their due recognition," she said. "It is possible for the luxury industry to promote products of artisans...They need recognition and this industry today is well poised to bridge the gap between artisans and market," she added.

Sitharaman appealed to the industry players to come forward and engage with the artisans.

She said the industry is rapidly growing in India and as per a study, the market size of the sector would touch $100 billion in eight years from the current $7-8 billion.

"We need to put in lot of attention for this sector and facilitate and ensure that it really fits into Make in India," she added. Citing another report of 2014, the minister said globally the industry size is $2 trillion, of which 30% comes from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

India is the only country among these five that is growing at over 7.2%, she said, adding that the growth rate will be sustained at 7% and above. "The possibility of the luxury industry to survive and grow sufficiently in India is there because of its aspirational class," she said.

The minister also said that the number of high net worth individuals is growing in India and the country will account for about 6% of all billionaires in the next five years.
The BRICS may be sputtering but its bank is keeping the dream alive (БРИКС может брызгать слюной, но его банк не дает мечте умереть) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: investments and finance, New Development Bank, IMF, economics, opinion
Author: Devjyot Ghoshal

It hasn't been the best of times for the BRICS, the five-member bloc that was once advertised as the next global economic powerhouse.

With the exception of India and China (i.e. if you trust the GDP numbers), economic growth has been tepid across the bloc. In late 2014, Goldman Sachs, the original purveyor of the acronym, even shuttered its BRICS investment fund after years of losses.

Political uncertainty, in particular, has ravaged some member countries: it took the wind out of fast-growing Brazil, and is deepening in South Africa's already reeling economy. Russia, meanwhile, finally saw its economy grow after seven straight quarters of contraction, but damp oil prices and continuing Western economic sanctions won't do the recovery any favours.

As the BRICS attempts to pull itself out of the hole, the only real manifestation of its collective economic might—the New Development Bank (NDB)—is trying to keep the dream alive.

Seen by some as an alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the Shanghai-based NDB was launched in 2015 to provide infrastructure financing to BRICS members and other developing countries. Since then, the bank, with an initial subscribed capital of $50 billion equally distributed among the five members, has approved seven projects for a total of $1.5 billion.

Now, the NDB wants to up its game.

In 2017, it expects to fund 15 other projects with a total value of between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, NDB president KV Kamath said. The bank will also look to add new members as it prepares to widen its footprint. So far, all its seven projects are located within the BRICS.

"The board of governors approved the terms, conditions and procedures for admission of new members to the New Development Bank," Kamath, a veteran Indian banker, said at a press conference on April 01 in New Delhi, during the NDB's second annual meeting. "We will now work on the criterion to select and then look at countries that possibly could be a fit in terms of NDB and then discuss this with the boards."

Kamath, who previously helmed India's ICICI Bank, declined to provide any details of possible members, but said that they "ought to be countries that fit in with the overall set of aspirations with which the bank was set up." "The global south will be an important constituent but we will certainly look at a wider set of countries," he added. That sets up the tantalising possibility of, say, Pakistan applying for membership, a situation that India may not be particularly agreeable to.

Nonetheless, the membership expansion is backed by growing confidence at the NDB that the BRICS may be out of the woods.

"Our reading is that the economy in all three countries (Brazil, South Africa, and Russia) which were a bit under stress has been improving dramatically this year," explained Kamath, who met with finance ministers of all member countries earlier in 2017. "And in all three countries, if there was a fear of inflation, that fear also has died down."

But political uncertainty remains. On March 31, the day the NDB board meetings began in New Delhi, South African president Jacob Zuma sacked his finance minister Pravin Gordhan and reshuffled his cabinet, plunging the government into turmoil. The sputtering South African economy now faces the very real prospect of a credit rating downgrade to junk status.

That won't be good news for the BRICS bloc—or its ambitious bank.
New Development Bank to work closely with BRICS Business Council (Новый Банк Развития будет тесно сотрудничать с Деловым советом БРИКС) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: New Development Bank, IMF, Business Counsil, finance, investments, economics, development
Author: Veronica Usacheva

Members of the BRICS Business Council will suggest specific projects that could be supported by the New Development Bank. The bank has agreed to finance road construction projects in Madhya Pradesh and hydropower plants in Karelia.

The New Development Bank (NDB), one of the flagship institutions of BRICS, will work closely with the BRICS Business Council. Senior executives from the bank met members of the council in New Delhi, where the NDB held its second annual meeting on March 31-April 2.

An official agreement is being prepared to formalize this cooperation.

"The agreement between the bank and the council should have a practical character and we are ready to take part in its preparation, including the creation of a list of specific projects," Alexander Misharin, first vice president of JSC Russian Railways, told RIR. "The high speed railway between Moscow and Kazan might be one such project and it could later become a part of the Moscow-Beijing transport corridor."

The foundation of the BRICS Rating Agency is another urgent goal for the group of emerging economies, Vladimir Dmitriev, Vice President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said. "None of the BRICS countries are happy with the fact that their development prospects are assessed in other countries," he added.

The initiatives undertaken by BRICS leaders at last year's summit in Goa, to set up a new global financial architecture, have assumed greater prominence. Member countries are keen to have a stable currency reserve to avoid being in a position where they would need help from U.S.-dominated multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Institutions such as the NDB, the BRICS-led Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), where China, India and Russia are the biggest stakeholders, aim to bridge the gap between available funding and large investment demands of BRICS member states.

NDB's growing role in BRICS countries

The NDB supports investment in sustainable development projects including infrastructure, green economy, water supply and smart cities.

On April 1, India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the first NDB loan has been approved for an Indian project. The bank will finance the construction of major roads in Madhya Pradesh.

"With this, the NDB will have its first footprint in India," Jaitley said. "We have proposed projects worth about $2 billion for NDB funding, which I hope will be taken up by the board expeditiously," he added while giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the NDB meeting in New Delhi.

For now the only project in Russia financed by the NDB (along with the Eurasian Development Bank) is the building of two small hydropower plants in Karelia, the Beloporojskaya HPP-1 and the Beloporojskaya HPP-2. This project, worth 11.8 billion rubles ($209.5 million), is being implemented by Russian Nord Hydro and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. The NDB has agreed to provide two loans ($50 million each) for the completion of the project.

Russian Railways is also negotiating a $1 billion loan for the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway route.

The NDB has signed memorandums of understanding with the AIIB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the International Investment Bank (IIB), and the Eurasian Development Bank.

During the meeting in New Delhi, the NDB's board agreed on a new development strategy for 2017-21 and a procedure for the admission of new members. The official document with new changes will be published by July 2017.
BRICS Bank Vice President Zhu Xian meets Nitish (Вице-президент БРИКС Чжу Сиань встретился с Нитишем) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: New Development Bank, India, roads, investments, economics

Patna, Apr 7 (PTI) BRICS Development Bank Vice President Zhu Xian today met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and expressed keenness to extend economic assistance in the road sector.

Besides, extending assistance in roads, the BRICS bank senior official showed willingness to promote economic progress in other areas as well, an official statement said here.

Zhu Xian, who is Vice President cum Chief Operational Officer, met made a courtesy visit to the CM at his 1 Anne Marg residence.

New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Recently, the CM had said that Bihar government has applied with the BRICS Bank for a loan to construct metallic roads in areas having population of 250 to 499. PTI SNS RG
Work on BRICS Credit Ratings Agency Underway (Ведется работа над агентством кредитных рейтингов БРИКС) / Russia, April, 2017
Keywords: New Development Bank, credit rating agency, investments and finance

NDB President K.V.Kamath says India and other developing countries need to make a strong pitch for a credit ratings upgrade, while also simultaneously working on a BRICS credit rating agency to make global financial governance more broad-based.

New Delhi (Sputnik)- The work on establishing an alternative credit rating agency led by the BRICS bloc of countries is underway, Shanghai-based New Development Bank President K V Kamath said during the second annual meeting of the multilateral agency in New Delhi recently.

"India should make a strong case for ratings upgrade. The developing countries will have to make a strong case for where they are and how they should be looked at. In our context, BRICS needs to ensure that our voice is heard," PTI quoted Kamath as saying.

India has been critical of global rating agencies like Moody's, S&P, and Fitch for pegging its sovereign credit rating at a much lower BBB- level despite recent economic growth and stable macroeconomic indicators.

Global rating agencies, however, point at India's high public debt levels and bank non-performing assets as the reason for status quo.

This year's Economic Survey, presented a day before the Union Budget, raised the issue and talked about contrasting experiences over ratings assigned by these agencies in relation to India and China in the last two years. The Modi government has maintained that the agencies have ignored the steady decline in India's debt burden and fiscal strength in recent years.

India's concerns over the methodology adopted by ratings agencies have been shared by other BRICS member countries, including Russia, China, South Africa and Brazil, prompting the multilateral body to set up an independent ratings agency based on market-oriented principles.

The idea of a BRICS ratings agency emerged during the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa and was affirmed by the Goa Declaration at the eighth BRICS Summit.

BRICS has started engaging financial experts on a business model for the new ratings agency as well as what methodology it would adopt to rate itself and others.
South Africa downgrade just a sideshow for Brics buyers (Снижение рейтинга ЮАР несущественно для экспортеров БРИКС) / USA, April, 2017
Keywords: South Africa, Brazil, China, India, rating, economics, S&P, investment and finance, stocks, Summit, Jim O'Neill
Author: Mark Gilbert

South Africa's downgrade on Monday after the nation's finance minister was fired means three of the five BRICS nations now have junk credit assessments at S&P Global Ratings.

For dollar-based investors betting on the group's stocks and bonds, the history of this decade suggests that matters less -- much less -- than hedging the currency risk accompanying those investments.

Jim O'Neill, the then chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, coined the term in his 2001 research note"Building Better Global Economic BRICs." O'Neill argued that the emerging market nations were under-represented in the various supranational forums, given their likely future contributions to global gross domestic product. Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China held their first formal summit in 2009; South Africa officially joined the gang a year later.

In terms of growth, Brazil has suffered the biggest decline as the economy slumped into a recession in 2014 and stayed there. All except India have seen gross domestic product deteriorate this decade.

That recession has dragged down the performance of Brazilian stocks, although it's the Chinese equity market, as measured by the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index that trades in Hong Kong, that's the laggard, losing almost 20 percent. The benchmark South African index is the clear winner among the BRICS this decade. Its gains contrast with the benchmark MSCI Emerging Markets Index's decline of about 4 percent since the start of 2010.

Benchmark bonds haven't really moved much since the start of the decade. South Africa's cost of borrowing for 10 years jumped after President Jacob Zuma fired finance minister Pravin Gordhan last week. S&P blamed "political uncertainty" for its decision to downgrade the country. The move, though, leaves the 10-year yield at about 9 percent -- in line with where it was at the start of 2010. Yields for the rest of the BRICS are similarly becalmed:

It's the currency market, though, that's seen the most action. China's currency started the decade trading at about 6.83 to the dollar, strengthened to about 6 by the start of 2014, but has since retreated all the way back to be little changed. The other four currencies, however, have depreciated substantially.

To be sure, the above chart says more about dollar strength than it does about emerging-market currency weakness. This decade, the dollar has made ground against almost every currency in the world (with the notable exceptions of the Somali shilling, the Guatemalan Quetzal and the Icelandic krona).

The BRICS moniker was a useful tool in focusing the investment community on the likely winners among emerging markets; more than 480 investment funds in various flavors, currencies and domiciles use the term in their titles, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In January 2014, O'Neill shifted his attention to the so-called MINT countries -- Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. The history of the BRICS this decade suggests investors looking to make money from that selection need to have the currency angle front and center of their thinking.
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Defence sector to receive competitiveness boost (Оборонный сектор получит повышение конкурентоспособности) / Brazil, April, 2017
Keywords: Brazil, military, political events, GDP

Weight of sector in Brazilian GDP exceeds R$ 200 billion, In addition to creating jobs, the sector also creates significant benefits for domestic industry as a whole

The Brazilian government is preparing incentives aimed at boosting the competitiveness and international market presence of the country's defence sector. The announcement was made this Tuesday (4 April) by Defence Minister Raul Jungmann, who was speaking during the opening ceremony of LAAD Defence & Security 2017, a major event of the sector.

According to Jungmann, actions will include a line of credit from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) to offer financing to countries that buy products from the Brazilian defence industry, insurance instruments for domestic manufacturers and a dedicated group in the Foreign Trade Chamber (CAMEX) that will exclusively address the defence industry.

"We need to create a specific policy for this sector, with robust instruments that can create greater efficiency in our trade relations," the minister said.

Jungmann said that the defence industry was the driver of a number of technological breakthroughs in history, such as GPS, the microwave and Teflon, adding that he believed the sector can contribute significantly to stronger economic growth. He explained that the incentives are necessary because the defence market is asymmetric between competing countries, and is not governed by the same World Trade Organization (WTO) rules like other sectors.

Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles also highlighted the sector's importance, and how it benefits from the structural changes taking place in the Brazilian economy. The weight of the sector in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) exceeds R$ 200 billion, Meirelles said, adding that, in addition to generating income and at a higher pace than the Brazilian average, the area benefits industry as a whole.

"The defence industry is an important driver of new technologies and productivity in the economy."

The Ministers attended the opening ceremony of the 11th edition of LAAD, considered the most important conference in the Latin American defence sector. Held in the Riocentro Convention Centre in Rio de Janeiro, the event includes an exhibition by 600 different brands of several defence areas, including marine and aeronautics engineering, personal and tactical equipment, and military weapons, systems and solutions. About 150 of these companies are Brazilian, representing a sector that accounts for 3.7% of Brazil's Gross Domestic Product and generates 30,000 direct jobs.

World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
Russia to award 20 nuclear engineering scholarships to Bangladeshi students(Россия присудит 20 стипендий в области ядерной энергетики студентам из Бангладеш) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: world of work, Russia, Bangladesh, education, scholarship
Author: Alessandro Belli

At least 20 Bangladesh students will receive scholarships to study nuclear engineering, Alexander Demin, Director of the Russian Center of Science and Culture (RCSC) in Dhaka, told RIR on April 3.

The scholarships, sponsored by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, are meant for several major universities such as the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute).

"Admission tests in mathematics and physics, as well as profile interviews were conducted in cooperation with Rosatom, which is building the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Bangladesh," Demin said. "Almost 100 students applied for the scholarships. At least 20 students from Bangladesh will be selected for the graduate and post-graduate programs. Their education will be free."

Demin added that on the whole over 60 students will be able to go to Russia from Bangladesh to study through quotas this year, including in faculties such as medicine, agriculture, journalism and fine arts.

"There are currently about 50 Bangladesh students in MEPhI. The first batch is graduating next year," he said.

The RCSC in Dhaka was established in March 1974. Russian language courses are offered in the center. There is also a library and an auditorium. The center is supervised by Rossotrudnichestvo, the state organisation that builds Russia's cultural ties with foreign countries.

National Research Nuclear University MEPhI was founded in the 1940s and was known as the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. It was reorganized in April 2009 under a presidential decree, assuming the current name. It became one of the first national research universities in Russia.

In June 2016, MEPhI was listed in the QS Top 50 universities ranking in the BRICS countries. At the moment more than 900 students from 30 countries are enrolled at the university.
Exim Bank of India announces details of BRICS Economic Research Award 2017 (Exim Bank of India опубликовал детали о премии BRICS Economic Research Award 2017) / India, April, 2017
Keywords: world of work, Exim Bank, award, trade, economics

Mumbai: Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank), has announced details for accepting applications for its BRICS Economic Research Award for 2017. This is the second annual research award being conferred by Exim Bank with a view to promote and encourage research which is relevant to the economies of BRICS countries. The applications can be downloaded from the website of Exim Bank ( and the last date for submitting the research paper is May 10, 2017.

Research thesis of nationals, of any of the five member nations of BRICS i.e. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, who have been awarded a Doctorate or who have submitted thesis for a Doctorate from any recognized nationally accredited University or academic institution globally, during the period January 2012 to March 2017, are eligible to participate and receive the Award. All entries must be received by Exim Bank on or before May 10, 2017.

The subject matter of the thesis can be research in international economics, trade, development and related financing. Issues of relevance to BRICS nations/ member development banks of BRICS such as those pertaining (but not limited) to international economics, foreign trade, development and related financing, foreign direct investments, joint ventures, international competitiveness, policies impacting trade and investment, monetary and fiscal interventions would be of interest. Credit would be given for originality, clarity of presentation and relevance to BRICS context.

Within the BRICS framework, Exim Bank has taken a leadership role of promoting research on trade related areas concerning the BRICS economies. The Award comprises a Citation and prize money of ` 15 lakh (equivalent) (approximately USD 20,000) which is sponsored by Exim Bank. The objective of the Award is to stimulate and encourage advanced (doctoral) research on economics related topics of contemporary relevance to the member nations of BRICS.

Commenting on the reasons for instituting the award, Mr David Rasquinha, Managing Director of Exim Bank said, "BRICS nations account for nearly half of the global population and are emerging as growth centres in the last few years. The economies of these countries stand to benefit from research which assist and accelerate this growth. Besides, the Award will act as a great motivator to undertake original research work in the fields of economics, international trade and allied fields.

The first BRICS Economic Research Award was presented to Dr. Joao Prates Romero in October 2016 during the BRICS Summit held in Goa in India. "The response from research scholars during for the last edition of the Award was very encouraging and we urge more research scholars to take part for this year's award," Mr. Rasquinha added.

Exim Bank is the nominated member development bank under the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism, along with other nominated member development banks from member nations of BRICS namely Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social (BNDES), Brazil; State Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank), Russia; China Development Bank Corporation (CDB), China, and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), South Africa.

· Exim Bank is also a signatory to the multilateral cooperation agreement signed among the member development banks of member nations of BRICS.
· Exim Bank promotes India's international trade and focuses on south-south cooperation.
· The Award would serve to encourage scholars to undertake focused research studies on topics of contemporary relevance to BRICS.

The Winner of the Award will be announced during the Annual BRICS Summit in September 2017.

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