BRICs and Sustainable Development Worries

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EnviroNews, Nigeria

When Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Vladmir Putin of Russia, Manmohan Singh of India, Xi Jinping of China and Jacob Zuma of South Africa met recently under the aegis of BRICS recently in the South African coastal city of Durban, the leaders explored the creation of a development bank, in follow up from the previous summit. The last summit was the fifth in the series.

Focused on establishing an infrastructure-focused bank, the heads of states fashioned out what it would do and how it would provide an equitable return on the initial investment of about $10 billion.

Host President Zuma said the summit addressed South Africa’s economic problems, such as high unemployment, adding: “BRICS provides an opportunity for South Africa to promote its competitiveness. It is an opportunity to move further in our drive to promote economic growth and confront the challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment that afflicts our country.”

Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund said: “Ironically it may be the cleavages within the BRICS grouping that more accurately hint at the future of the global order: tensions between China and Brazil on trade, India on security, and Russia on status highlight the difficulty Beijing will have in staking its claim to global leadership.”

The media suggested the bank was way to bypass the IMF and the World Bank. The criticisms did not end there. Environmental activists have also picked holes in the activities of the group in the area of climate change and sustainable development.

For instance, Nnimmo Bassey of Oilwatch International recalls that when BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively gave $75 billion to the IMF in 2012, “it was not Europe or the US which lost voting power – but Africa.”

He went on: “When BRICS (minus Russia) signed the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ with Washington in 2009, this deal confirmed that the fossil-fuel addicted economies could continue polluting unabated while the rest of Africa is cooked by climate change. The governments of the BRICS pretend that they are standing up against neo-colonial and imperial forces. They also suggest that their countries’ corporations compare favourably to the global North’s. These claims have little foundation in reality. The BRICS’ infamous power, oil and other fossil-fuel companies (whether private or state-owned) engage with impunity in the same misbehaviour that foreign transnational companies in the same fields do. They aid repression, drive environmental destruction and harm local livelihoods.”

According to Bassey, Brazil’s Petrobras, Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil, India’s CoalIndia Ltd., China’s CNPC and Sinopec, and South Africa’s Sasol, among others, are all extending their reach deep into their continents and beyond, taking advantage of each country’s role as regional hegemon.

Bassey wrote: “Given the definition of the BRICS as a grouping of ‘markets’ rather than societies, it is not surprising the way they are reduced to their products. As Russian analyst Anna Ochkina writes for the Durban ‘brics-from-below’ coalitions: ‘Brazil is essential for agricultural supplies, China provides cheap labour, India supplies cheap intellectual work force for high tech industries, South Africa provides minerals and Russia supplies minerals, oil and gas. The scale and conditions of provision of these resources for global capital makes BRICS countries essential for the current system’.

 “While the BRICS present themselves as offering benevolence to the territories they plan to economically carve, their own peoples have to endure serious socio-economic, political and civil rights violations. They live with serious inequality, lack of adequate infrastructure, increased levels of violence and other symptoms of development oriented not toward people but rather toward government and corporate profit.

“Oilwatch views groupings of this ilk as attempting to partition the world into various markets and spheres of influence, and to support each other as they meddle in the affairs of nations they work to exploit and oppress. Blocs like the BRICS are wedges for breaking apart other, more democratic spaces, eroding solidarity and promoting narrow market interests.

 “Africa’s minerals and other resources have been objects of desire for plunderers and adventurers of every ilk over the centuries. Of late, land grabs have supplemented the grabbing of other African resources. Through these grabs, BRICS and similar blocs seek to entrench failed neoliberal agendas as well as an already obsolete fossil fuel- and dirty energy-driven civilization. The BRICS do not seem to realise that the destination of their planned drive on wheels of markets driven by dirty investments and the grabbing of resources is a brick wall. Or dead troops in search of their leaders’ mineral interests (as in unfortunate South Africans in the Central African Republic just as BRICS begins its Durban summit).

“The grouping of nations into blocs by commodities and financial traders such as Goldman Sachs must rank as one of the most blatant subversions of the collective rights of peoples today. The situation will only be exacerbated by Goldman Sachs’ likely influence over the BRICS Bank proposed at a recent March meeting in South Africa. One leading Johannesburg official at Goldman Sachs is the former governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and Pretoria has requested that SA be the host for the new BRICS Bank – which Beijing reportedly supports.

“Such a BRICS Bank could only exacerbate the social, economic and environmental chaos already caused in part by multilateral financing. Existing development finance institutions in BRICS countries – like South Africa’s Development Bank of Southern Africa or BNDES, the Brazilian development bank – offer sobering lessons. The spectacular failures of Goldman Sachs, as well as those of other Wall Street companies holding huge stocks of physical commodities such as oil storage tanks, metal warehouses and power plants [3], should send strong signals that their dreams and desires must be repudiated and rejected.

“Oilwatch International denounces the contraption called BRICS and all other groupings set up to drive divisive and exploitative agendas around the world. We believe the time has come for the peoples of the countries in groups such as the BRICS, G8, and G20 to demand that their elected leaders shun those harmful blocs that destroy formal multilateral spaces and plunge the world into violence and deeper crises as evidenced by spiralling climate change, financial, economic and food crises.”