Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 6.2020
2020.02.03 — 2020.02.09
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS Leaders to Hold Informal Meeting on Sidelines of G20 Summit in Riyadh (Лидеры БРИКС проведут неформальную встречу в кулуарах саммита G20 в Эр-Рияде) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, top_level_meeting

Leaders of BRICS countries will hold an informal meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia in November, major Russianevent organizer Roscongress said.

According to a statement by Roscongress, representatives of several state agencies discussed at a meeting in Moscow preparations for BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) events.

"An informal meeting of BRICS leaders that will take part on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia on November 21 and November 22, 2020, was discussed separately at the meeting," the statement read.

At the meeting, the participants also discussed preparations for the BRICS and SCO leadership summits, set to take place in St.Petersburg from July 21-23, including preparing the city's transport infrastructure and logistics, drawing up a cultural program, arranging the sites, and other aspects of the events.

Apart from the leadership summit, BRICS events are planned in 13 Russian regions, according to the statement.

"During the Russian chairmanship of BRICS in 2020, we have planned about 150 events. Allresponsible persons have vigorously begun implementing assigned tasks within a coordinated timetable," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

Following the meeting, additional tasks were given together with their deadlines.
While criticizing the Indo-Pacific, Russia steps up its presence (Критикуя Индо-Тихоокеанский регион, Россия наращивает свое присутствие) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, narendra_modi, cooperation, top_level_meeting

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to India was special for several reasons. Firstly, the visit laid down a new foundation for future interactions between the two countries. It is expected that in 2020 there will be two visits by Prime-Minister Narendra Modi to Russia – for the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War and for the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Saint Petersburg – and President Vladimir Putin will come to India for the annual bilateral summit. Meetings between the leaders, as always, serves as an impulse for the Russia-India relationship. Secondly, earlier it was rare for a Russian Foreign Minister to visit India separately from the occasion of multilateral forums. Over the last decade, Sergey Lavrov came to India mainly for the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral. Finally, apart from his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Lavrov became the highest-ranking Russian official to address the prestigious Raisina Dialogue.

It should not come as a big surprise that in his remarks at the conference, Sergey Lavrov criticized the concept of the Indo-Pacific. Earlier as well, he has expressed similar sentiments, at equivalent gatherings, with a surprisingly consistent stance against the U.S. as the major architect of the Indo-Pacific narrative. This position seems to be ignoring the evolution of the initial idea, which is well known in Russia, and the fact that the Indo-Pacific concept is already acknowledged, albeit with some caveats, by majority of regional players, including ASEAN countries. Pointing solely at the Americans who attempt to redefine the rules of the game or divide the region means being detached from the reality. Furthermore, seeing the region through the binary of a contest with the U.S. prevents Moscow from being objective towards other regional powers, specifically India.

After the latest bilateral summits between Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin where the Indo - Pacific, though referred differently, figured as a potential area of Russia-India cooperation, it seemed that Moscow and New Delhi might be able to find common ground in the maritime space. The Chennai-Vladivostok sea route seemingly acts as a bedrock of the two sides' efforts to align their visions for the 'regions of Indian and Pacific Oceans'. When (or if) this maritime corridor is operated, it could allow shorter connectivity between the two countries. Lavrov tactfully highlighted India's smart policy in the region of not acceding to the U.S. policy of China's containment. This leaves some space for Russia-India regional collaboration, at least on diplomatic and economic tracks. Is it sufficient for the two states given the vast history of their relationship? Surprisingly enough, both New Delhi and Moscow have been slow in increasing their interoperability, having failed to sign the Reciprocal Logistics Support Agreement.

While criticizing the basics of the Indo-Pacific concept, Russia decisively started to act in the region with port calls by Russian warships in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and two new naval drills with China taking place off the Cape of Good Hope with South Africa and in the northern Indian Ocean with Iran. The latter undoubtedly is a case of all the three sending a signal to Washington. Apparently, Russia's increasing interest in the Indian Ocean region is driven by the two new frontiers of its foreign policy – Middle East and Africa. The U.S. pressure on Iran opened a window of opportunity for Moscow to step up its partnership with Tehran. In order to embolden its idea of collective security mechanism for the Persian Gulf, Moscow requires a more robust naval presence in the IOR.

A worrying question for New Delhi is whether Russia's presence in the Indian Ocean is going to tag along with the Chinese interests there. Despite some steps to increase its engagement with the region, Russia has been suffering from insufficient naval capabilities, with its naval forces urgently needing modernization. Notably, the same three Baltic Fleet ships – the guard ship Yaroslav Mudriy, the tanker Yelnya and the sea tug Viktor Konetsky, which embarked on deployment to Indian Ocean back in October 2019 were part of both sea phase of 'Indra-2019' with India and 'Marine Security Belt' exercise with China and Iran and most lately – the anti-piracy drills with Japan in the Gulf of Aden. To be more active regionally, even for simple naval demonstration operations, Russia requires regional partnerships. The interoperability with the Chinese Navy reflects the level of political trust that has been established between Beijing and Moscow. Apart from being merely the case of military interaction, there is always an underlying geopolitical context in the military drills between the two countries. Unlike India, China is less ambivalent when it comes to matching U.S. regional interests. Besides, often labelled by the U.S. administration as the biggest threat in the Indo-Pacific, Beijing is interested in Russia's support as well.

Moscow, albeit rather late, has realized the significance of the new regional dynamics and is trying to promote its own vision, a kind of a counter-narrative to the existing conceptual framework. While straightforwardly slamming the Indo-Pacific, Russia highlights the benefits of its 'Greater Eurasia vision'. It looks as if Moscow views India as an integral part of this construct, however, three and half years on from its announcement by Vladimir Putin, there is still no clear white paper on the 'Greater Eurasia' concept. It is evident that Moscow seeks to be a leading geopolitical player in a landmass from Lisbon to Shanghai, but the means of achieving it remain vague. The concept also appears as an attempt to infuse energy in some integrational mechanisms in the post-Soviet space. One of them is the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which has been actively seeking partnerships and free trade agreements with countries in Europe and Asia. India and EAEU are already involved in negotiations on signing the FTA. The equivalent deal with Vietnam paved the way for boosting trade with organization's member states, and potentially the same may be achieved in India's case. Interestingly, Sergey Lavrov mentioned in his speech in New Delhi that the Eurasian economic project may be promising in "harmonising various integrational groups, including the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation."

Is it an indication that, apart from India, EAEU may envisage FTA negotiations with other countries in South Asia? Since SAARC remains in a freeze due to India-Pakistan differences, does this outlook of "harmonization" may imply Russia's intention to mediate between the two? Could Pakistan become another partner of the EAEU, after Moscow and Islamabad had settled the Soviet-era trade dispute?

There is also another SAARC member, Sri Lanka, which appears to be gaining weight in Moscow's geopolitical calculations. On January 14, Russian Foreign Minister visited Colombo where he met with Sri Lankan President, Prime Minister and his counterpart from Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Beyond traditional bilateral issues that boil down to Russia's support in defense and security, the potential elevation of Sri Lankan role at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was also discussed during the visit. Taking into account earlier statements of Sri Lankan officials, Colombo expects to get a status of SCO member state rather than being just a dialogue partner of the organization.

Undoubtedly, as S. Jaishankar noted at Raisina Dialogue, the India-Russia relationship is "extraordinarily steady" and fundamentally rooted in similar geopolitical understanding." In most cases, like in the Middle East, for example – on Syria, Libya, and lately Iran, the two sides have been able to construct common approaches. The catchwords – 'sovereignty' and 'non-interference in internal affairs' – remain vital for both governments scripting their internal narratives irrespective of views from abroad. The interdependence between the two is going to rise, though may not necessarily imply similarity of views when it comes to regional affairs. It is evident that Moscow regards South Asia and the IOR as part of global standoff with Washington. This vision makes Russia search for 'like-minded' states across the region, bringing it closer to China, Iran and Pakistan. As a side effect, such strategic thinking has an unfortunate impact on the relationship with India.

For the moment, it is clear that Moscow will not embed itself in the Indo-Pacific framework, though the era of Asia-Pacific is gone. There is no doubt that Russia, with its growing appetite for distant geographies, will be looking for options to bolster its influence in that region as well. Its idea of 'Greater Eurasia' supercontinent is not complete without the maritime domain. Finding itself on the periphery of the Indo-Pacific dynamics, Moscow is leaning on China for the same along with few other regional players. Such ad-hoc coalitions may be seen as a way to turn the game in Russia's favor. Unfortunately, even though being a key regional partner, India does not serve as a primary window for Russia's involvement in the Indo-Pacific.
Angela Merkel to focus on migration, trade on trip to South Africa, Angola (Ангела Меркель обсудит миграцию и торговлю на встрече в Анголе) / South Africa, February, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, cyril_ramaphosa, top_level_meeting
South Africa

Chancellor Angela Merkel's three-day trip to South Africa and Angola will address migration. But expect economic talks to get plenty of attention as well.

Germany and South Africa's relationship almost resembles that of a movie couple rekindling their feelings. The initial passion having passed, they went their separate ways only to later rediscover what brought them together in the first place.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made the first step by flying to Germany in October 2018. This was followed by a return visit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier a month later.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's trip seems rather late by comparison, but it's still "a recognition that relations [between Germany and South Africa] have become closer again," Melanie Müller, an expert on South Africa at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW.

This is mainly thanks to Ramaphosa. In early 2018, he forced his scandal-ridden predecessor Jacob Zuma out of office. Zuma had adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach during his presidency and was making a name for himself — mostly through numerous corruption scandals.

When it came to foreign policy, Zuma relied on close ties with the so-called BRICS countries which, in addition to South Africa, include Brazil, China, Russia and India. Ramaphosa, on the other hand, has set about wooing old friends.

"[Ramaphosa] understood that South Africa's reputation suffered under the presidency of Jacob Zuma," said Müller.

Read more: Boost Africa investment, Germany's Merkel tells 'Compact with Africa' summit

South Africa's comeback on the world stage

Zuma's time in office had consequences not just for South Africa but also for its relationship with Germany.

"Across various levels, it is clear that the relationship is a two-way street rather than one-sided," Ottilia Maunganidze from the South African think-tank Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told DW. "That is why for South Africa there has been a greater investment in strengthening that relationship over the past two years."

The relationship between former South African president Jacob Zuma and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — pictured here at the G20 meeting in Hamburg in 2017 — was rather distant

South Africa was Germany's most important political partner in Africa before the Zuma era. In terms of foreign policy, both countries took a similar stance on global issues, including support for establishing the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Now both countries are currently members of the United Nations Security Council. South Africa is due to take over the presidency of the African Union in February, while Germany assumes the presidency of the European Council in the fall. Both governments are also working together on the Compact with Africa initiative launched by Germany during its G20 presidency in 2017.

With international diplomacy set to increase, the economy will also play a major role. South Africa is Germany's most important trading partner in Africa: It receives two-thirds of all German investments on the continent. Stalwarts of the German economy, such as BMW, Mercedes or Siemens, are also represented in South Africa.

"German-South Africa economic relations are flourishing at the moment," Matthias Boddenberg from the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry told DW. "2019 was most likely a new record year in trade relations."

Read more: Merkel urges reforms in Africa to woo German investors to the region

Power crisis and bankruptcies worry Germany

Both countries still want more out of this relationship. South Africa is in the midst of a severe economic crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund, the economy is expected to grow by just 0.8% this year. The unemployment rate is currently sitting at around 30%.

"One of the things that fuels inequality is unemployment and the lack of access to opportunities," Maunganidze said. "It is in that space that South Africa wants to nurture direct involvement that actually propels the economy further."

For Germany, this means one thing: More investment.

Current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has a big job ahead of him — but will he have Germany's support?

South Africa is a lucrative market for the German economy. But "the general conditions for the commitment of German companies are not optimal," Boddenberg said. State electricity supplier Eskom is currently facing collapse following years of mismanagement. The country has experienced regular power cuts for months, which has fatal consequences for energy-dependent industries. State airline South African Airways, as well as the state-run trains, have only survived thanks to the government investing billions in aid. Ramaphosa has promised to find a solution, but many people still haven't noticed any changes in everyday life — and the president's popularity is waning.

"At the moment, there has been a shift from 'Ramaphoria' to 'Ramaphobia,'" Boddenberg said.

German navy boats for Angola?

The chancellor's visit to Angola is also about both the past and the future. Both countries have planning closer cooperation for a long time. But there was one obstacle in the way: Long-time ruler Jose Eduardo dos Santos. During his 38-years in power, he and his family looted the oil-rich country. Just a few weeks ago, the international investigation Luanda Leaks revealed how the president's daughter, Isabel dos Santos, allegedly accumulated billions of dollars during her father's rule through dubious deals.

But a new leader has been at the helm since 2017.

"Relations with Germany have improved since President Joao Lourenco took office," Müller said.

That's mostly because Lourenco has taken a tough stance against corruption — including against the family of his predecessor. The assets of Isabel dos Santos have been frozen, while the judiciary has pursued fraud charges against her.

From Germany's perspective, Angola's President Joao Lourenco is considered a beacon of hope after decades of rule by Jose Eduardo dos Santos which was marred by corruption

Read more: Angola: The fall of the dos Santos clan

The first signs of closer cooperation are already apparent. Angola has long wanted to establish closer military ties with Germany. A German military attache has been on the ground since 2017. Angola's government is also interested in buying German naval boats. Germany has not yet commented on Angola's military wishlist, so the boat issue will likely be on Merkel's agenda during her visit. Germany is particularly interested in building stronger economic ties with the resource-rich country.

In an exclusive interview with DW, Lourenco expressed his wish for Germany to increase its economic involvement with Angola.

"German investment is welcome in Angola," he said. "We are doing our part, creating a better business involvement in Angola day after day. One of the measures is precisely fighting corruption. So, foreign investment in Angola is safe. There is a guaranteed return and, if it happens, everyone will win."

However, Germany's overall investment in Angola has decreased in recent years. Establishing deeper relations between the two countries may go a long way towards changing this.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
India's Trade Could Be Boosted by Joining the Eurasian Economic Union (Вступление Индии в Евразийский экономический союз может подстегнуть торговые отношения) / India, February, 2020
Keywords: trade_relations, global_governance

India's entry to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), spurred by Russia, could help expand South Asia-Eurasia trade, but there's a potential glitch. The US would need to allow a waiver for New Delhi to transship goods through Iran.

With talks ongoing about a possible India-EAEU free trade agreement (FTA), Moscow has also been pushing for New Delhi to join the EAEU — currently consisting of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Such a move could open new trade opportunities between the South Asian and Eurasian regions via the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) — a 7,200km ship, rail and road trade network that cuts across Central Asia, beginning in Iran and ending in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan.

Yet, fresh US sanctions on Iran could stand in the way — unless Washington is willing to grant New Delhi a waiver to work with Tehran.

India - Iran: A new route to Afghanistan

Initiated in 2002, the INSCT project is a trilateral effort of Russia, Iran and India. New Delhi had sought to connect the INSCT to its strategic project at Port Chabahar in Iran in order to build a strategic transit route bypassing its neighbour and arch-rival Pakistan. Keen also to promote an alternative route to Afghanistan, the US afforded India a waiver from US sanctions on Iran — and in a landmark moment, India shipped its first consignment of wheat from Port Kandla in west India to Afghanistan via Chabahar in 2017.

However, the sanctions imposed after the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by the US in January could change everything.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order introducing the new punitive measures after Tehran retaliated against the assassination of its general by firing missiles at bases used by the US military in Iraq. The measures were aimed against individuals or entities operating in the construction, manufacturing, textiles, or mining sectors of the Iranian economy — or indeed anyone assisting those who engage in sanctioned business.

Impact of new sanctions

The latest sanctions could certainly have an adverse impact on India's trade — and not just in terms of its investments in Chahbahar, but also its opportunities for trade with Central Asia and Russia. Access to the EAEU countries through the INSCT route could offer India companies producing goods like tea, canned vegetables, fruit, rice, spice, herbs coffee, generic medicines and other consumables access to a massive market of more than 173 million.

The EAEU has also signed FTAs with Serbia and Singapore and is currently working on improving trade ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which means the US sanctions could even impact those states.

Another waiver for India?

The US has been keen to promote strategic partnerships with Indian in the Indo-Pacific region to counter rapidly-growing Chinese influence. To that end, it has so far been lenient when it comes to India's 'transgressions' regarding US sanctions.

For instance, it has seemingly overlooked New Delhi's decision to go ahead with the procurement of Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, which some expected might earn the wrath of Washington and invite new sanctions 'to punish' both Russia and India.

Meanwhile, Turkey – a NATO ally – which also procured the S-400 systems from Russia – faced punitive actions from the Trump administration resulting in the cancellation of the the delivery of around 100 fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft from the US.

So far, it's unclear whether India will manage to extract further concessions from Washington to continue to do business with Iran over the INSCT, improving connectivity with Afghanistan and allowing it to make inroads into the EAEU markets — but the question will likely figure prominently in upcoming discussions between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump when he visits New Delhi later this month.

Shishir Upadhyaya is an internationally acknowledged defence and strategic affairs expert, former Indian naval intelligence officer and author of "India's Maritime Strategy: Balancing Regional Ambitions and China." He is an Associate Professor at the Gujarat Maritime University, where he teaches courses in International Relations and Security Studies.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of InfoBRICS.
BRICS Bank To Invest $2Bln In Russia In 2020 To Back Economic Stimulus Projects - Head (НБР инвестирует в Россию 2 млрд долларов в 2020 году для поддержки проектов по стимулированию экономики - Глава) / India, February, 2020

Keywords: ndb, quotation, cooperation

The New Development Bank (NDB), set up by BRICS nations, will invest $2 billion in Russia this year to support the new government in pursuing its economic stimulus projects, NDB President Kundapur Vaman Kamath told Sputnik on Friday

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 07th February, 2020) The New Development Bank (NDB), set up by BRICS nations, will invest $2 billion in Russia this year to support the new government in pursuing its economic stimulus projects, NDB President Kundapur Vaman Kamath told Sputnik on Friday.

In a bid to boost the economy and improve living standards, Russia is seeking to implement 12 national projects outlined by President Vladimir Putin in May 2018. From 2019-2024, the country is estimated to spend 25.7 trillion rubles ($402 billion) to this end. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin's government, which came to power in January when the cabinet of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned in a wake of an announcement of constitutional reform by Putin, has been focused on implementing the national projects. Moreover, Mishustin outlined further measures to boost the Russian economy.

"New Development Bank will actively support the Government of the Russian Federation in implementation of its economic development agenda and is committed to finance together with our Russian partners major infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the country.

NDB target business volume in Russia for 2020 is USD 2 billion which will bring cumulative NDB investments in Russian economy to USD 4.7 billion," Kamath said.

The president added that the bank was confident that the "major stimulus package" promoted by Mishustin's government would underpin the economic growth and attract foreign investments in the country.

The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014 to focus on developing sustainable infrastructure. The bank is open for membership to any UN member, but the cumulative share of BRICS nations can never be less than 55 percent of the voting potential.
India's fiscal gap one of the highest in emerging markets: Report (Финансовый разрыв Индии один из самых высоких на развивающихся рынках: доклад) / India, February, 2020
Keywords: emerging_markets, research, imf

The New Development Bank (NDB), set up by BRICS nations, will invest $2 billion in Russia this year to support the new government in pursuing its economic stimulus projects, NDB President Kundapur Vaman Kamath told Sputnik on Friday

At around 7.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the revenue-to-expenditure gap in India is one of the highest among major emerging markets.

According to estimates by International Monetary Fund (IMF), total government expenditure was equivalent to around 27.1 per cent of GDP while total government revenue was around 19.6 per cent of GDP in the last calendar year.

The revenue-to-expenditure gap in India is similar to that in Brazil but much higher compared to China, Russia and Indonesia.

In China, government expenditure exceeded revenues by 6.1 per cent of GDP last year while it was a negative 1 per cent of GDP in Russia and 1.9 per cent in Indonesia (see adjoining chart).

Data on general government operations include state governments but exclude local governments (such as municipal corporations), state and central PSUs as well as social security funds.

In Asia, only Pakistan has a bigger gap between government revenues and expenditure. In calendar year 2019, Pakistan's government expenditure exceeded revenue by 8.8 per cent of country's GDP. In comparison, the gap was only 4.8 per cent in Bangladesh, 5.7 per cent in Sri Lanka and 4.4 per cent in Vietnam.

A relatively higher fiscal gap in India has translated into a greater level of public debt-to-GDP ratio in the country. "At around 69 per cent of GDP for the year FY20, India's public debt is relatively large in comparison with other major emerging market economies," said the IMF in its recent consultation paper on India.

The fund partly blamed the recent rise in public debt to the corporate income taxes. "In the absence of offsetting measures, it (tax cut) would contribute to pushing general government debt to a 10-year high of 69 per cent of GDP by the end of FY20," the IMF added.

Higher public debt has translated into a high interest burden which stood at 4.9 per cent of GDP during FY19, well above emerging market peers.

The ratio is around 3 per cent for the other four BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa – while it's around 1.5 per cent in case of ASEAN countries, according to the IMF.

Piyush Garg, chief investment officer at ICICI Securities said the government will become increasingly constrained in its ability to keep borrowing as the debt-to-GDP keeps rising.

"India's overall debt-to-GDP ratio is an outlier among emerging markets," he said.

He pointed out that nominal GDP growth has also been slowing which further limits the amount by which the deficit can be increased. The risks of higher debt can affect India in various ways, including through downward pressure on currency.

Garg believes that the next fiscal year is likely to see some signs of improvement. This may also help government finances.

CARE Ratings chief economist Madan Sabnavis said, "For the last few years, we have been in an economic slowdown which forced the government to spend more money to push up growth. This also meant that it hasn't been able to go by earlier targets on fiscal deficit. Lower growth has also led to lower tax collections which further exacerbates the situation." He feels that things may remain at similar levels for the time being.

"It's going to take some time before the private sector is able to pick up. Until such time, the government will be forced to run these kind of deficits," he said.

The fact that India's debt is largely in its own domestic currency, unlike some emerging markets, may mean that the country is relatively more insulated. This is despite the issues associated with higher debt numbers, according to Sabnavis.

Higher deficit numbers aren't restricted to India. It is expected to rise in emerging and advanced countries alike, noted a January 2020 Economy Watch report by consultancy firm EY.

The US fiscal-deficit-to-GDP-ratio is expected to rise to seven per cent in 2019 and remain elevated.

Rising fiscal-deficit-to-GDP is also true for the UK. China and South Africa may also see a similar trend. India has had its own challenges on revenues, too, according to a forward to the note authored by D.K. Srivastava, EY India's chief policy advisor.

"The central government's tax base has also been eroded by a significantly lower growth in imports and global trade challenges," it said.

IMF, however, said that a high interest-payment-to-GDP ratio restricts a government's ability to raise public spending on social and infrastructure projects.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Georgy Toloraya: BRICS Role in Global Governance is to Provide a Voice for Non-Western Countries (Георгий Толорая: Роль БРИКС в глобальном управлении - предоставить голос не-западным странам) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, global_governance, quotation, sergey_lavrov

As Russia takes over the one-year chairmanship of BRICS, experts expect the group of five rapidly developing economies will continue to play an important role in global governance and regional stability.

BRICS, comprising Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, will remain central for the member countries and will continue to protect the values of multilateralism, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

According to Russia's state news agency Tass, Russia plans to carry out about 150 activities at various levels during its chairmanship. Saint Petersburg will be the site of the next BRICS summit in July. The five countries' leaders will hold another meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in November.

Over 20 ministerial meetings are expected to take place, including those involving the Russian Security Council secretary, the Supreme Court chief justice and the chairpersons of both houses of Russia's Parliament.

"We intend to ensure continuity and harmonious transition from the Brazil chairmanship to the Russian one. And we will continue the policy of progressive and comprehensive enhancement of the strategic partnership of the BRICS countries," Lavrov said.

He noted Russia is interested in increasing financial and economic cooperation, industrial interaction and practical cooperation in developing and implementing joint projects involving energy, telecommunications and high-tech under the BRICS mechanism.

The priorities of Russia's chairmanship include enhanced foreign policy coordination within leading multilateral organizations, primarily in the United Nations, Lavrov said.

Boosting space cooperation is another important task, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is the Russian representative for BRICS.

He said Moscow will "fill the emerging five-party space cooperation with specific activities", while steps will be taken to continue the implementation of the Clean Rivers program, initiated by BRICS with the aim of improving the environmental conditions of river basins.

In the stormy ocean of world politics, the BRICS "ship" will steer a steady course and further contribute significantly to maintaining international stability and ensuring global economic growth, Lavrov stressed.

Georgy Toloraya, executive director of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, agreed with Lavrov, saying the BRICS' role in global governance is to provide a voice for non-Western countries.

Toloraya said that in the context of increasing chaos in international affairs, BRICS provides an opportunity for consolidating the views of non-Western countries on the global agenda.

"It is not aimed against the West. BRICS is for order, for determining game rules that would meet the interests of various countries and not just Western countries as has been the case so far," he said.

Each BRICS member state takes a turn as chairman of the group for a year. Russia last chaired BRICS in 2015, when a summit took place in Ufa in the Republic of Bashkortostan.
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