Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

The BRICS, then and now

Louis Delvoie, Op Ed
Kingston Whig Standard, December 18, 2015

In the early years of this century, a new term entered the lexicon of international relations. That term was BRICS. It was a piece of shorthand designed to refer collectively to five countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. These countries were described as "newly emerging economies" by virtue of their rates of economic growth and of their perceived economic potential. They were the object of serious studies published by major international banks and think-tanks. And the hopes vested in them were enormous, with many predicting that they would become the most important engines of world economic growth in the years ahead. That sentiment seemed to be shared by the government of Canada, which in its 2005 foreign policy review depicted the BRICS as providing great opportunities for Canada in the realms of trade and investment.

Ten years on, it is interesting to examine how the BRICS countries have fared and how the predictions for them have held up. The picture is a very mixed one, with a bit more gloom than gratification to report. Here is a very simplified thumbnail portrait of the outcomes.

Brazil

Under the presidency of Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, Brazil recorded some remarkable achievements. Its economy grew at record levels, thanks in good part to Lula's pragmatic and intelligent policies. His government instituted imaginative programs to combat the country's notorious socioeconomic inequalities and was quite successful in its endeavours. And Brazil was chosen to host the 2014 World Cup of Football and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Unfortunately, Brazil has fared far less well under Lula's hand-picked successor, President Dilma Roussef. On her watch, economic mismanagement has been the order of the day with disastrous consequences. For the second year in a row, the economy is now officially in recession, the unemployment rate is rising, the value of the currency is depreciating rapidly and socioeconomic inequality is once again on the rise. Matters have, of course, been made worse by the collapse in the prices of commodities such as soya beans, iron ore and oil. And the country is now in the grips of a series of monumental corruption scandals. To top it all off, Dilma Roussef is currently fending off attempts to impeach her and remove her from office.

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