What the World Needs from the BRICS

It can be cause only for celebration that the world’s largest developing economies are holding regularly meetings and establishing common initiatives. Nonetheless, it is disappointing that Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have chosen to focus on infrastructure finance as their first major area of collaboration.

CAMBRIDGE – In 2001, Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill famously coined the term BRIC to characterize the world’s four largest developing economies – Brazil, Russia, India, and China. But, more than a decade later, just about the only thing that these countries have in common is that they are the only economies ranked among the world’s 15 largest (adjusted for purchasing power) that are not members of the OECD.

The four countries have very different economic structures: Russia and Brazil rely on commodities, India on services, and China on manufacturing. Brazil and India are democracies, while China and Russia are decidedly not. And, as Joseph Nye has written, Russia is a superpower in decline, while China and (less markedly) the others are on the rise.

Yet, in a strange case of life imitating fantasy, BRICS – the original four countries, now joined by South Africa – have formed a grouping of their own with regular meetings and policy initiatives. Their most ambitious effort to date is the establishment of a development bank.

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