Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 9.2020
2020.02.24 — 2020.03.01
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
First meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues to be held in Moscow (Первое заседание контактной группы БРИКС по торгово-экономическим вопросам пройдет в Москве) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: cooperation

On 26 February 2020, Moscow hosted the first meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020. The meeting was chaired by Natalia Stapran, Director of the Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects of the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia.

During the meetings to be held on 26-28 February, the following economic priorities of Russia's BRICS Chairmanship will be presented: "trade and investment without barriers and sanctions," "digital economy in the service of the individual," and "sustainable growth and balanced development." The participants will discuss the results of the five-year period of implementing the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2015-2020. The Russian side will also present an updated version of the document for the period to 2025, which will focus on the joint cooperation of the five countries in the context of digital transformation processes, as well as enhancing the role of the sustainable and inclusive development agenda.

In addition, during the meetings, representatives of Russian state, academic and business communities will present to partners a number of relevant initiatives for elaboration during Russia's chairmanship.

BRICS: The Stepping Stones Towards New Global Governance (БРИКС: шаги к новому глобальному управлению) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, global_governance

"The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Psalm 118:22)

In the beginning of 2020 Russia assumed chairmanship in the BRICS amid an escalation in geopolitical risks and further shocks to the global economy. Among the plethora of priorities and initiatives that are traditionally launched by countries assuming chairmanship in the BRICS the focus this year is likely to accord more weight to exploring the pathways to strengthening the multilateral layers of global governance. In order to aspire to have a global impact on the evolving global governance construct of the world economy the BRICS need to form an effective platform for extending their economic cooperation to the Global South. Such a platform may be based on the BRICS-plus initiative launched by China, with the aggregation of regional integration blocks from the developing world serving as the core of such a platform.

Perhaps the most effective way in which the BRICS could prove to be instrumental in rendering the construct of the world economy more balanced would be to through filling the voids and the gaps in the current global governance system. These include imbalances within multilateral global institutions (between the weight of developed and developing economies), lack of coordination of regional institutions such as regional trading blocks, regional development banks, regional financing arrangements (currently there is no such mechanism in the global governance system), the acute need for an expansion in the array of reserve currencies available in the global economy, as well as the absence of an ex-ante, pre-determined anti-crisis mechanism that may involve coordinated fiscal and/or monetary stimuli across the globe during periods of severe downturn.

The BRICS are uniquely positioned to lead the global community in bridging the above gaps and inefficiencies. Apart from the increasing weight of the block in the world economy, the BRICS exercise a "comparative advantage" compared to other blocks and arrangements in reaching out to the rest of the world, given that this diverse grouping is present in all of the main regions of the developing world. The aggregation of the regional integration blocks where BRICS are members may form the basis of BRICS+, which in turn through greater openness and inclusivity will be in a much stronger position to address the gaps in global governance outlined above.

Most importantly, the BRICS through the BRICS+ framework can serve as a gateway to alternative liberalization and economic integration impulses vis-a-vis the developed world. Such an alternative should allow for a critical level of optionality in the direction of the development of the global economy, whether in terms of the economic models pursued by countries or in terms of currencies and payment systems that may be employed to service cross-border transactions. It should also allow the world economy to make full use of one of the most promising reserve for boosting global economic growth, namely South-South economic integration.

In order to raise the appeal of building alliances with the BRICS countries and to become one of the critical elements in the new international economic architecture the block needs to make advancements in such critical areas as raising environmental standards. Greater emphasis on environmental protection needs to become one of the systemic elements of BRICS strategy in intra-BRICS cooperation as well as the outside world. There may also be a case for jointly developing strategies for raising corporate governance standards as well as reducing economic imbalances and inequalities across regions. On the latter point, one of the promising venues of cooperation may be the fostering of economic linkages and the broader development of the remote inland (Hinterland) regions of the BRICS countries that are faced with high transportation costs and other infrastructural bottlenecks.

The path to playing a major role in shaping the new global governance will also involve the BRICS working with global organizations such as the WTO to address issues ranging from procedures on dispute settlement to cooperation with regional institutions and devising norms on curbing technological, financial and investment protectionism in the global economy. In working with the advanced economies on addressing some of the key gaps in the global governance system the BRICS together with allies from the wider BRICS+ circle can deliver a crucial contribution to the reinforcement of the multilateral framework of international institutions.

Importantly, rather than seeking to sideline existing arrangements and institutions, the BRICS have openly advocated the need to reinforce multilateralism and strengthen the global institutions in the face of mounting protectionist pressures. In other words rather than aiming to substitute existing global institutions the BRICS are creating new arrangements that complement and reinforce the existing institutional framework of the global economy via addressing some of the weaker links and gaps in global governance. Rather than being the disruptor of the current governance framework the BRICS block may play the role of a stabilizer as well as an incubator of innovative approaches to raising the global system's effectiveness and inclusivity.

In conclusion, the past decades provided a unique opportunity for the advanced economies to build an open, sustainable and inclusive world economic architecture that promotes development. The reality of today's world economy characterized by protectionism, sanctions and weakening multilateralism points to the necessity for reforming global governance. The BRICS could become the key pillar of the new emerging economic architecture and for Russia's chairmanship in the BRICS in 2020 this means that the key focus needs to be directed at building the framework of BRICS partnerships across the globe. It is through such efforts that the BRICS may after all turn out to be "the stone the builders rejected [and that] has become the cornerstone".

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS partners support Russian Chairmanship's key economic initiatives (Партнеры БРИКС поддерживают ключевые экономические инициативы российского председательства) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, cooperation

On 26–28 February, the 23rd meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues took place. It was the Contact Group's first meeting since the start of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020. The meeting was chaired by Natalia Stapran, Director of the Department for Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects at the Russian Ministry of Economic Development.

The meeting participants expressed their support of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship's key economic priorities, as proposed by the Russian side, including trade and investments without barriers or sanctions; digital economy for the people; sustainable growth and balanced development. A discussion took place on the updated version of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership by 2025, which was presented by the Russian side for the first time. "We placed the main emphasis on the five countries' cooperation in the field of digital transformation, as well as on boosting the role of sustainable and inclusive development agenda," Natalia Stapran said. The document sets out pressing issues that the BRICS countries are facing, particularly those related to infrastructure development, including in remote and rural areas.

Among new issues selected by the Russian BRICS Chairmanship, Russia's comprehensive initiative for the development and integration of remote and rural areas captured particular interest of its BRICS partners. Currently, system-wide efforts are being made to develop the initiative at APEC, the SCO, and the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership.

While considering e-commerce issues, the countries agreed to discuss best practices and approaches to the protection of consumer rights, Natalia Stapran said. "I am confident that Russia's experience in digitisation in this sphere will be highly relevant. Digital transformation in the context of the service industry development and advanced experience in this sphere will also be important issues of discussions," she said.

The BRICS countries also discussed supporting a comprehensive trade system, the WTO reform[НШ1] , and preparations for the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), to take place in June 2020 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The sides confirmed the priority importance of resolving the WTO Appellate Body's crisis and the importance of preserving the two-stage system for dispute settlement at the WTO. They also agreed to take further efforts to seek common ground for both the organisation's negotiation agenda and the WTO reform agenda.

The participants also discussed the issues related to transparent trade policy and possible further steps to provide more transparent conditions for the economic activity of BRICS countries' operators.

BRIC Healthcare Markets Are Still an Opportunity (Рынки здравоохранения БРИК все еще имеют возможности) / United Kingdom, February, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, emerging_market
United Kingdom
Author: Gareth Macdonald

BRIC healthcare markets are still an opportunity, but slowing growth and diverging healthcare policies mean pharma needs to employ nuanced, country-specific strategies.

Economists started grouping Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) together in the early 2000s based on predicted GDP growth rates.

The idea was to illustrate the growing importance of emerging economies relative to developed markets and to encourage the G7 to factor them into policymaking.

Since then the BRIC grouping has evolved a more political dimension and expanded to include South Africa (BRICS).

Despite these changes, the pharmaceutical industry has continued to focus on the original BRIC countries, with healthcare spending being the defining metric.

According to a recent study, although per capita healthcare spending is still highest in G7 nations, the percentage share of global expenditure coming from developed countries has fallen from 65% in 1995 to 53.2% in 2013.

In contrast, the share of global healthcare spending from Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) has increased from 10.7% in 1995 to 20.2% in 2013.

For the drug industry, the increase has proved to be an important revenue driver in recent years. Primarily this is because pharmaceuticals account for an increasingly large proportion of healthcare spending.

According to a 2018 study, average revenues generated by the pharmaceutical industry in BRIC markets have increased 13% a year since 2012, compared with just 2% in mature markets.

BRIC pharmaceutical growth slowing

More recently, however, the dynamics have changed. Research by the IQVIA Institute for Human data science suggests spending on medicines in BRIC nations has slowed down.

For example, while spending on medicines in China continues to increase, the rate of growth has slowed over the past ten years from the double- digit rates seen before 2014 to 4.5% in 2018.

And the authors say growth in China could fall to as low as 3% by 2025. Likewise in Brazil, Russia and India, growth has fallen from 10.8%, 9.9% and 11.2%, respectively between 2014 and 2018 to 5-8%, 7-10% and 8-11% last year.

But, despite the slowing growth rates the BRIC markets still hold potential, according to Michael Kleinrock, IQVIA lead research director.

"Growth is slowing, but they are still growing. In most of the BRIC markets the healthcare coverage and the provision of medicines is suboptimal, so there are opportunities.

He added: "The hype about BRIC markets is cooler than it used to be. The BRIC markets were considered to be a gold rush but now the multinational pharmaceutical industry is more sanguine about the opportunities."

Similarities and differences

Understanding what unifies the BRIC nations' healthcare dynamics is important. But knowing how they differ is vital, particularly for pharma companies hoping to increase revenue.

Victor G Rodwin, Professor of Health Policy and Management at Wagner, New York University, said: "Healthcare systems in BRIC countries are similar in that they all proclaim to assure universal health coverage. They do so, more or less, in very different ways.

"The Russian Federation has good coverage for primary care but quality is extremely uneven and access to specialty services and prescription drugs is a problem," he continued.

"Brazil has a great system of universal coverage for basic primary care (SUS) but there are enormous gaps between what the upper middle class is able to get from the system and what poorer and rural populations are able to access beyond primary care."

India's healthcare system, in contrast, is relatively underdeveloped according to Rodwin, who said: "India is behind the other three nations in its coverage, level of public expenditure and population health indicators.

"And China is furthest ahead in that it has achieved universal coverage but the population still has to pay about one-third of aggregate healthcare costs, and rural populations and migrants are at a great disadvantage."

The view of healthcare coverage in China is shared by Michael Kleinrock, who said the country has sought to improve healthcare.

"Ten years ago only around 40% of the Chinese population had healthcare coverage, now around 95% have coverage."

Drug reimbursement lists

All the BRIC nations have lists of medicines reimbursed at government level. However, again there are differences in how the lists function and how regularly they are revised.

Michael Kleinrock said: "China has had a national reimbursement drug list since 2001, which was updated in 2004 and then again in 2009, but then was not updated again until 2018.

"The list enables the government to negotiate lower prices for medicines on the list in return for greater access to patients. Drugs that aren't listed may maintain a higher price and the lack of access may not necessarily be a negative for them."

He added: "Manufacturers looking at China need to balance lower prices against the likely increase in patients as a result of their product being included on the list."

Russia also has an essential medicines list. According to a 2018 study the reimbursement system in Russia consists of a few programmes: reimbursement for specific categories of citizens, vital and essential drug list, list of 24 orphan diseases, list of seven nosologies, and other programmes, depending on region.

In addition the authors wrote: 'Financing for drug provision in Russia is divided into two levels: federal and regional. There is still a lack of transparency and equality in healthcare as well as huge differences in access to healthcare, depending on region.'

Kleinrock explained that, in effect, Russia "has two supplementary reimbursement systems on top of general healthcare coverage, each covering more complex or costly medicines".

Market access

Access strategies are also evolving. Initially multinational pharmaceutical companies entered BRIC markets by teaming up with local manufactures.

Kleinrock said: "The early entry strategy for multinational pharmaceutical companies seeking to access a BRIC market was to seek to partner with a local supplier.

"Another common market entry approach was to try and develop a presence in BRIC markets using older portfolio products. Older lower priced medicines stood a better change of growing market share."

But now things have started to change. According to Kleinrock: "The challenge now for multinationals that want to enter BRIC markets is that most of the major local manufacturers have already signed partnership agreements."


Looking forward, it is important to keep in mind that the BRIC markets do not operate in isolation.

Issues that shape the pharmaceutical and healthcare markets in developed economies will also have an impact in developing economies.

Michael Kleinrock said: "The dynamics of the BRIC healthcare and pharmaceutical markets are also impacted by developments in more mature markets in Europe and North America."

He cited ongoing efforts by the US government to reduce pharmaceutical prices as an example, explaining that the impact of such measures are likely to be felt elsewhere, including in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

"US drug prices are often used as a direct or indirect reference for products sold in BRIC markets. As a result US government efforts to reduce pharmaceutical prices is likely to have an impact."

And in future some BRIC countries are likely to have an impact on the pharmaceutical and healthcare markets in developed countries, according to Klein, citing China as an example.

"China is emerging as a drug R&D hub and it represents about 10% of the global R&D pipeline. The country is attracting increasing amounts of venture capital funding and we are going see some novel medicines developed in those labs being sold in international markets," he concluded.

Gareth Macdonald is a journalist specialising in the life sciences industry.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Chelyabinsk to Host Over 20 Events Within Russian SCO and BRICS Chairmanship (В Челябинске пройдет более 20 мероприятий в рамках председательства России в ШОС и БРИКС) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: summit, chairmanship

Adviser to the President of Russia Anton Kobyakov has chaired an interdepartmental meeting of members of the Chelyabinsk Region government and Federal Executive Agencies responsible for preparing and hosting the events of the Russian SCO 2019-2020 and BRICS 2020 chairmanship in Chelyabinsk in 2020.

The participants discussed the infrastructure readiness and environment in Chelyabinsk, the development of public spaces, as well as the construction and the modernisation of hotels and urban recreation sites.

According to the Chelyabinsk officials, Kurchatov International Airport opened a new terminal on 26 November 2019 to help streamline logistics. The terminal has a total space of 16,500 square metres and can deal with around 2 million passengers annually.

As part of the Russian BRICS 2020 Chairmanship, Chelyabinsk, which is often referred to as the capital of the South Urals, will be the venue of the traditional BRICS Urbanization Forum, to be prepared by the Russian Ministry of Construction Industry, Housing and Utilities Sector. The Russian Ministry of Culture will host the BRICS and SCO Cultural Festival. The Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education will hold the BRICS Young Scientists Forum, and the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs will organize a International BRICS Youth Business Incubator.

The Russian Ministry of Sport will hold the BRICS Games in Chelyabinsk. For the first time, the Games will feature six sports: sambo, men's boxing, wushu, women's volleyball, 3x3 basketball and table tennis. The competition will bring together over 500 people up to the age of 23 from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In total, Chelyabinsk will host 22 events under the Russian SCO 2019-2020 and BRICS 2020 chairmanship. The BRICS and SCO summits will be held on 21-23 July in St Petersburg.

World of Work
BRICS countries outline energy cooperation development prospects for 2020 (Страны БРИКС наметили перспективы развития энергетического сотрудничества на 2020 год) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: cooperation

On 20-21 February, Moscow hosted the first meeting of the Committee of BRICS Senior Energy Officials chaired by Russian Deputy Minister of Energy Anton Inyutsin.

Delegations from all the BRICS countries, experts of the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform (ERCP) and representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Education and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry took part in the event.

In his opening remarks, Anton Inyutsin spoke about the concept of energy cooperation in BRICS during Russia's 2020 Chairmanship.

"As the first priority of energy cooperation in BRICS, we suggest developing BRICS national energy systems by enhancing cooperation within BRICS. Such cooperation can include in-depth joint analysis of the current situation in the BRICS energy sectors as well as plans to develop them," the deputy minister said.

According to Inyutsin, the proposal is to develop and adopt a "Roadmap for BRICS Energy Cooperation" for the period to 2025 as well as to provide ways of exchanging expertise to increase energy efficiency in the energy sector and popularize energy saving.

Anton Inyutsin also noted that the Russian Energy Ministry considered the introduction of new energy technologies and the improvement of conditions for investing in energy as its key priorities.

"Enabling the development and exchange of advanced energy technologies is an important part of energy cooperation at BRICS, especially during a time of energy transition. Financing tools are also decisive to ensure the stable supply of energy and technological progress," Anton Inyutsin added.

During the meeting, the parties discussed plans to further expand the activities of the ERPC as well as possible topics for initial research and an appropriate work schedule. Following the meeting, priority areas of the ERPC's work were determined, including overviews of energy sector development, research on technology, gas and coal industries, digitalization and renewable sources of energy.

BRICS representatives also discussed issues regarding the promotion of stability in energy markets and increasing the role of BRICS countries in the global dialogue on topical energy problems.

"The situation in the energy sector of BRICS countries is different in terms of energy resource self-sufficiency. However, external factors, including the proper functioning of the global energy markets, are essential for all the five countries," Anton Inyutsin said.

The deputy minister added that BRICS countries, being large energy powers, could enhance their role in the global discussion on energy issues through closer consultations and searching for solutions complying with their common interests.

In addition, according to Anton Inyutsin, involving youth in energy cooperation and BRICS research was obligatory.

"During our chairmanship, we plan to convene the third Youth Energy Summit, where the BRICS Youth Energy Outlook will be presented. It is the annual research of global energy trends and challenges for BRICS countries prepared by young scientists and specialists from leading BRICS universities and industrial companies," he said.

The Russian Energy Ministry expects to organize more than five events during Russia's chairmanship, including a meeting of BRICS Ministers of Enerfy to be held on the sidelines of the Russian Energy Week International Forum, scheduled for 13 to 16 October 2020, two meetings of BRICS Senior Officials Committee on Energy, a meeting of the BRICS Working Group on New and Renewable Sources of Energy and Energy Efficiency, the BRICS Youth Energy Summit and the #TogetherBrighter International Festival of Energy Saving and Environment,

"I am sure that this year we will be able to substantively promote our energy cooperation on the firm foundation of common interests in the area of sustainable energy development," Anton Inyutsin concluded.

BRICS Working Group for the Research of Competition Issues in Pharmaceutical Markets to meet in Moscow on 13 March (Рабочая группа БРИКС по исследованию проблем конкуренции на фармацевтических рынках соберется в Москве 13 марта) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

The pharmaceutical industry has been witnessing market consolidation in recent years. Two major mergers, Bristol-Myers Squibb / Celgene and Allergan / AbbVie took place in 2019 alone. Just this year, several major deals between Danaher and GE Healthcare, Pfizer and Mylan, Novatris AG and The Medicines Co as well as between SANOFI and Synthorx Inc. have already been announced. The mergers of pharmaceutical giants scheduled for 2020 are among the top ten biggest mergers.

Evidently, oligopolisation of the pharmaceutical sector requires more thorough state regulation, oversight of mergers and acquisitions, and evaluation of their consequences, including the prevention of increasing prices with a view to preventing unlawful practices.

The BRICS Working Group is planning to discuss the challenges caused by the increasing number of mergers in the pharmaceutical sector, analyse possible ways to prevent anticompetitive practices and the unfavourable effects of some mergers in this socially significant industry, and share the experience of evaluating global consolidation for use as best practices in the BRICS countries.

Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service Alexei Dotsenko will moderate the meeting. The meeting will see the presence of the representatives from the BRICS countries', Austrian, Italian and Turkish competition authorities as well as representatives from the BRICS Antimonopoly Centre of the National Research University-Higher School of Economics and pharmaceutical companies.

The event is organised by the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service with support from the BRICS Antimonopoly Centre of the National Research University-Higher School of Economics within the framework of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.

Venue: 11 Pokrovsky Boulevard (at the Higher School of Economics)
Time: 10:00 - 17:00
Media accreditation is open at: until 11 March 2020.

BRICS CCI Summit Discusses International Law Issues (На саммите ТПП БРИКС обсуждаются вопросы международного права) / India, February, 2020
Keywords: cooperation

BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BRICS CCI) said it has organized the second annual direct tax summit where trends and issues related to international tax was discussed in detail."The day long summit saw an eminent list of delegates discussing recent trends and issues in the field of international tax and identified the best methods for integrating into the new systems while deriving the most tax benefits," the chamber said in a statement.

BBL Madhukar, Founder, Director General of BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that it was an endeavour to facilitate an economic ecosystem which not only seamless in terms of transactions and regulations but helps us aggregate global trade.

"Forums like these will help us better understand the direct tax amendments proposed in the Union Budget 2020 and will also help us in developing a global transfer pricing risk strategy by identifying the best methods for integration into the new systems while deriving the most tax benefits," he said.
BRICS CCI announces launch of BRICS CCI Women's Wing (БРИКС ТПП объявляет о запуске Женского Крыла ТПП БРИКС) / India, February, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation

The BRICS Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BRICS CCI) announced the launch of the BRICS CCI Women's Wing with a focus on women empowerment initiatives and policies across geographies.

The objective of the women's wing is to create an enabling support system for women entrepreneurs and professionals across geographies. Founded in 2012, BRICS CCI is empanelled with NITI Aayog and recognized by the United Nations.

While the BRICS nations will remain at the centre of all activities, the chamber has taken in its credo to reach out to and enable young entrepreneurs from other friendly nations too and bring stakeholders associated with women entrepreneurship across key countries under one platform.

The BRICS CCI Women's wing will be led by Shabana Nasim, Governing Body Member, BRICS CCI, Shormishtha Ghosh, Director – Business Advisory, BRICS CCI and Ruby Sinha, Convenor, BRICS CCI Women's wing and Advisor BRICS CCI.

One-stop knowledge hub for women entrepreneurs globally, will be the knowledge partner for the BRICS CCI Women's wing. An eminent advisory board comprising of eminent women professionals from across countries is also being set up.

"We are very pleased to announce the launch of our exclusive wing for enterprising women entrepreneurs and professionals looking at creating a global presence through our advisory and support services. It will be our endeavour to create a supportive eco-system to enable women to realise their full potential which in turn will help in generating employment and growing the economy," said Dr BBL Madhukar, Director-General – BRICS CCI, while announcing the launch.

The BRICS CCI women's wing will be building a credible repository of working professionals, entrepreneurs, business partners across different geographies and industry verticals and promoting business interactions among members by organizing regular events platforms and other forms of interactions. It will also facilitate mentoring/training programs for women professionals.

More than $46 billion lost in productivity in BRICS nations due to premature cancer mortality (В странах БРИКС из-за преждевременной смертности от рака потеряли более 46 миллиардов долларов) / South Africa, February, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, economic_challenges
South Africa

Dread diseases such as cancer not only have a devastating effect on individuals, but can also prove to be costly for society, as they can have a potentially large impact on productivity and the overall economy. Every cancer-related death in individuals of working age, as well as every absence from work due to cancer—whether temporary or permanent—represents an economic loss to society.

"Cancer is a costly disease, with potentially significant impact on productivity and the economy, meaning that aside from directly affecting the lives of those diagnosed, it potentially also has a large scale knock-on effect on communities. This should certainly play a role in informing the prioritisation of prevention strategies," says Hollard Group CEO, Saks Ntombela.

According to recent global studies, the costs of cancer to the economy were nearly twice as high for males compared with females, because – on average – men have higher labour force participation rates than women and are still generally paid more. "It is therefore important that prevention strategies broaden their focus beyond cancers that typically affect women, to also focus on so-called 'male cancers' as well, so that we can further reduce the significant socio-economic impact of cancer treatment and cancer-related deaths," says Ntombela.

Growing concern

While recent figures for the socio-economic impact of cancer in South Africa are seemingly not readily available, Government – in its National Cancer Strategic Framework 2017 – 2022 – describes the disease as "a growing national health and socio-economic concern in South Africa".

A study conducted by the Cancer Epidemiology medical journal in 2012 found that more than two-thirds of the world's cancer deaths occur in economically developing countries; however, the societal costs of cancer have rarely been assessed in these settings. Furthermore, researchers found that the high proportion of cancer mortality in developing countries is likely to increase, given trends such as population ageing, changes in socioeconomic conditions and the westernisation of lifestyles.

According to this study, the total cost of lost productivity due to premature cancer mortality in the BRICS countries in 2012 was $46,3 billion, representing 0,33% of their combined gross domestic product. The largest total productivity loss was in China ($28 billion), while South Africa had the highest cost per cancer death ($101 000). When examined as costs per cancer death, losses were over five times higher in South Africa than in India, at $19 691.

"Putting a value to the socio-economic impact of cancer should provide policy- and decision-makers with a better perspective when identifying priorities for cancer prevention and control. This is specifically important in developing economies, where workforce and productivity are critical resources for ensuring sustained economic growth," says Ntombela.

Local statistics show that prostate cancer is the most common cancer among South African men, with prevalence rates estimated to lie somewhere between 1 in 9 men and 1 in 5. When detected early, prostate cancer survival rates are better than 98%, however, if discovered late, the survival rate drops below 26%.

Other male cancers, such as testicular cancer, are more common in younger men, aged 15 to 39, with the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) citing the lifetime risk for testicular cancer in men in South Africa as one in 1 959. Again, the prognosis for testicular cancer – once treated – is good, with the average five-year survival rate at around 95%.

Late stage diagnosis

"However, despite the positive outlook for early detection, it is of much concern that the number of men being diagnosed with late stage cancer is on the rise in South Africa. The sad fact is that cancer is among the main causes of death and a great worry for both developed and developing countries, including South Africa," says Ntombela.

Alarmingly, the Lancet medical journal predicts that South Africa could face a 78% increase in cancer cases by 2030, and research shows that already 60% more people on the African continent die from cancer than from malaria.

"More people need to recognise that knowledge is power. It would significantly affect the lives of men if they were to become aware of early warning signs and symptoms of male cancers. It is absolutely critical that men need to become more pro-active about their health and should recognise warning signs."

He adds that, given the significant socio-economic impact of lost productivity due to cancer, men should also strive to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, eliminating out lifestyle factors that increase their cancer risk. To raise awareness about male cancers, Hollard will host the 2020 Daredevil Run on 13th of March, in Johannesburg. The annual event – a 5km run through Joburg traffic - attracts thousands of men who run in just their purple Speedos, in a bid to raise funds for cancer screening and awareness programmes.

BRICS New Development Bank Warns Countries of New Scam (Новый банк развития БРИКС предупреждает страны о новой афере) / South Africa, February, 2020
Keywords: ndb
South Africa

You probably think you have read this story already. Back in 2016, the-not-yet Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille warned against five separate, fraudulent emails emanating from her office. The email address from 2016 was, along with a subject line that read "BRICS Bank Funding".

All these years later, the BRICS New Development Bank is warning of a new scam using their credentials to solicit financial information with the promise of a loan or tender-type guarantee from the New Development Bank. BRICS have stated, emphatically, that they are not a commercial bank and do not open accounts on behalf of any individual or provide them with any kind of financing or loan.

"The New Development Bank does not send unsolicited e-mails or any other communication asking people to open a personal bank account, transfer money, or provide personal information," says Monale Ratsoma, Director-General for the Africa Regional Centre. The ploy is aimed at collecting personal information such as passports, driver's licences, identity documents, payslips and contact details – by sending an email or other communication that would appear to come from reputable sources like a bank or government department.

In this second round of the scam: the fraudulent emails are being sent by which was the first red flag for her department as this is not a government email address. "My office has been alerted to an email scam purporting to be in my name as the minister of public works and infrastructure regarding funding from a programme between the BRICS New Development Bank and European Development Fund," read a statement from De Lille. Adding that her government department would never make unsolicited contact regarding a project or programme loan under any circumstances. No requests to individual service providers or groups of service providers would be sent out without following the appropriate supply chain management processes.

"Furthermore, as ministers and public representatives we are never involved in any procurement or administrative processes for funding proposals or disbursing of funding."

"This is a fraudulent email scam and I am hereby issuing a warning to the public to please ignore this email."

"Any such communication is fraudulent. Do not respond and report it immediately to the South African Police Service."

She warned the public that any correspondence in the name of her – or any – government department should verify the request and communication before delivering large amounts of goods without a tender being advertised for the purchase. De Lille emphasised that they are "extremely concerned about the use of employees' names and contact details in this scam. This poses serious security and reputational threats and damage to officials whose names have been used by the fraudsters."

In another version of this scam, fraudsters offer attractive loans or financing at very low interest rates. Requiring the recipient to pay some sort of administration – or other upfront – fee in order to qualify for the loans offered. Usually, the offer will have a time limit to put pressure on unsuspecting victims. These scams can also be reported to the South African Fraud Prevention Services. According to The South Africa Risk Information Centre, scams such as these are more prevalent over the holiday period and into the new year after year-end bonuses have been paid and companies are looking for new clients.

They offer the following advice to consumers to protect themselves:

  • Be very wary about responding to unsolicited messages. Remember that scammers use a variety of channels including e-mail, mail, phone and social media. Verify all requests for personal information and only provide it when there is a legitimate reason to do so.
  • Be suspicious of e-mails or messages that contain spelling or grammatical errors or other inconsistencies such as Gmail addresses, rather than a company domain e-mail.
  • Be wary of requests for upfront payments or payment for goods or services you haven't or don't remember ordering, especially if you're asked to use an unusual payment method such as MoneyGram
The New Development Bank finances sustainable development and infrastructure projects in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations and in other developing countries. The bank advises anyone who has transacted with – or provided personal information to – these unauthorised emails should immediately contact their local law enforcement. They have stated definitely that "the bank has no involvement in such fraudulent schemes and cautions the public to be very wary of these and other similar solicitations that falsely claim to be affiliated with the New Development Bank."

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