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Opinion

Opinion: BRICS? What's that?

It was the American investment bank Goldman Sachs that first dreamed of the rise of aspiring emerging economies. It established a nice-sounding fund, BRIC, in 2001 to entice investors from around the world.

The BRIC countries, chosen with great care, were themselves enticed by the web of possibilities. In 2010, South Africa joined Brazil, Russia, India and China that formed the original BRIC group. It thrived on a grand vision. The BRIC countries felt a special kinship for one another and wanted to change the world. They challenged the dominance of industrialized nations at the World Bank, the IMF and the UN Security Council. They committed themselves to a renewed solidarity among countries of the global south.

Nothing more than growth

Goldman Sachs was overjoyed by the rush of investors, choosing to ignore the rising anti-US sentiment emanating from the BRIC family. It wanted nothing more than to cash in on economic growth, and kept pushing the fund.

That growth emboldened BRIC, and the group propagated the myth of growing unity. They held fast to their trade relationships and cooperation; they founded a common bank; and they convened annual summits to draw up detailed communiqués.

Prange de Oliveira Astrid Kommentarbild App

DW's Astrid Prange

Yet, now, calamity looms in advance of this weekend's 8th BRIC conference in Goa. India, the conference host, has to look on as its fellow - and leading - BRIC member China supports its enemy Pakistan with money and weapons. Brazil continues to lament the lack of BRIC support for its petition to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Complaints at the summit will be loud enough to hear across all of Goa. Why is the world always so unfair, summit participants ask themselves? Why did prices for raw materials have to fall at the same time? Why do political and economic crises constantly overlap?

Myth of brotherly love

The honorable participants at the Goa summit have begun desperately searching for what they hold in common and are shocked to discover there is very little in common left. China started digging into old statistics, discovering it had more trade in 2015 with the United States than with its BRIC partners combined.

China earned an incredible $482 billion in exports to the US last year against a modest $244 billion to the BRIC family. Even Russia's President Vladimir Putin had to grin and bear it at a time when he has little good to say about the US.

Goldman Sachs, the bank that started it all, has again taken a leading step. Following years of losses, it closed the BRIC fund in November 2015, ending the myth of constant growth and brotherly love among the emerging nations. The BRIC countries themselves, however, continue to cling to that fairytale. But will they live happily ever after?

 

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