Brazil, Russia, India, and China originally formed the bloc in 2009 after a series of meetings and understandings. The first BRIC Summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on June 16 of the same year, where the heads of state in question agreed to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between them.
The following year, in Brasilia, Brazil, in April 2010, the second Summit was held, where the leaders of these countries emphasized the need for a multidimensional global intergovernmental system. During their third meeting in New York in September 2010, the BRICs agreed on the entry of South Africa. South Africa managed to join after a strong effort as a result of its active foreign policy, changing this coalition of states from “BRIC” to “BRICS”.
At the fourth summit in March 2012 in New Delhi, India, a first announcement was made of the establishment of a New Development Bank (NDB), which was formalized at their fifth summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2013, with the clear intention of the independence of BRICS by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the US, and the European Union. The agreement for its establishment, after resolving disputes over organizational issues, was finally reached in 2014, during the sixth BRICS meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil.
The countries comprise 40 percent of the world’s population, which amounts to over 3.1 billion people. BRICS countries coexist with countries with different degrees of development and different strategies.
Brazil, the largest country in South America both in population (about 213 million) and in area, occupies 1/3 of South America by itself. It is also the fourth-richest country in the Americas in terms of GDP. However, it does not have the appropriate infrastructure (inadequate road and rail networks, inadequate port infrastructure, etc.), and in combination with extreme economic inequality (one in four citizens lives in absolute poverty), this does not allow it to emerge as an economic superpower.
According to the World Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, Brazil ranked 108th among 137 economies in 2017 in terms of the general quality of its infrastructure. Corruption scandals are also present in the country.
Russia, which is the world’s largest transcontinental country with global influence and a large economy, also possesses the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet and enormous military power, which it has used in Syria and now in Ukraine. Russia provides the best standard of living for its residents, compared to the rest of the BRICS countries, with 3.5 percent of GDP spent on education and 3.1 percent on public health. The number of residents living below the poverty line amounts to just 0.2 percent of its population. The Russian economy suffers, however, from the critical problem of corruption, which exists in all countries to a greater or lesser degree, as well as from a significant lack of banking infrastructure due to insufficiently developed financial markets, difficulty obtaining loans, and limited investment options.
An emerging world power with an ever-growing economy, India is currently the fifth largest economy in the world based on its GDP, while its territory is home to the second largest population in the world, after that of China, reaching close to 1.4 billion people.
The country’s GDP growth has been among the highest in the world over the past decade, achieving an annual growth rate of between six and seven percent. However, India has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world while facing huge social problems at home due to poverty. It has the lowest percentages of GDP spent on education and health among the BRICS, at 2.7 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. India is regionally oriented.
Home to 1.4 billion people, China is expanding rapidly with economic penetration in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and other regions of the world. It is the economic giant of the East with an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent, thus threatening the economic primacy of the US. China has been the world’s leading exporter since 2014.
At the same time, although it is the second largest economy in the world, China remains a middle-income country as its per capita income is still only about a quarter of that of countries with high incomes, and about 375 million Chinese live below the poverty line of USD 5.50 a day. Corruption appears to occur at particularly high rates.
Due to its geographical position at the southern tip of the continent, which gives it access to two oceans, South Africa is a hub country and China’s largest trading partner in Africa. At the same time, hundreds of Chinese companies, both state-owned and private, are currently active in the country.
South Africa’s economy is the second-largest on the African continent, behind Nigeria’s. It has natural wealth in gold, silver, and coal but also one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. The richest 10 percent of the population owns about 71 percent of the net wealth, while the bottom 60 percent own seven percent of the net wealth.
It is a country with particular political weight in Africa as the only African member state of the G20 group, which, however, needs a reform effort for its further economic development.
The BRICS are the opposing camp of the West, whether expressed politically by the US-Anglo-Saxon countries-European Union alliance, militarily by NATO, or economically by the international economic organizations of American origin, such as the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. The bloc’s strategic objective is to effectively and successfully counter the US-dominated international financial architecture through close cooperation.
After 15 years, during which many questioned the viability of the scheme, the existing global balances led to the enlargement of the bloc. Many countries have expressed their desire to become members of the BRICS, such as Argentina, Egypt, Venezuela, Mexico, Iran, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and others.
Thus, the agenda of the BRICS, which have succeeded in consolidating their position on the global political and economic scene, leads to the reduction of the dominance of the US and the Western world in general and to the establishment of a new multipolar reality.
(Isidoros Karderinis is an expert in tourism economics.)
Contributed by Isidoros Karderinis