"Developing countries cannot rely on the BRICs to argue their case  in international fora. The reality is that they have different interests from  those of developing countries."

Date published on SAFPI: 
Friday, 20 April, 2012
Date published on source: 
Thursday, 19 April, 2012
Source organisation: 
Jamaica Observer

There are no permanent friends, only permanent interests

For the last 60 years, developing countries have complained about  their exclusion from the governance of international institutions and, in  particular, decision-making in the international financial institutions, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Developing countries as a group have carried out a collective  lobbying campaign for democracy and transparency in the selection of the top  post in key international institutions. This was accomplished at the United  Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where developing country  representatives have been in the top post. But not so at the IMF and the World  Bank which have been the exclusive preserve of Europe and the United States  respectively.

The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) have recently been  elevated to membership in the new global governance forum known as the G-20  because of the pressure mounted over the years by developing countries and by  their importance in the world economy. They gained access to the G-20 partly by  standing on the shoulders of the developing countries.

Developing countries in turn were initially elated because they  felt that the BRICs would strongly advocate positions addressing their concerns  and needs. However, no sooner had the BRICS become members of the G-20 than they  forgot their origins and began to act in concert with the developed countries. A  couple of examples suffice as a word to the wise.

The WTO is dominated by the foursome of the US, EU, Brazil and  India. The latter two have evinced no willingness to advance topics like special  and differential treatment and small economies.

In the election of the heads of the IMF and the World Bank, they  either supported the EU and the US or they did not galvanise support for a  developing country candidate.

This was particularly egregious in the case of the president of  the World Bank where the African and Latin American candidates were far more  qualified in development policy, management experience and proven leadership  than the US candidate. The BRICs allowed a process which was not democratic, not  transparent and not merit-based.

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met  last month for the fourth annual BRICs summit to discuss global stability,  security and prosperity. The group took steps toward increased financial  integration and trade among themselves. They also discussed establishing a  development bank, hence their lack of concern about who heads the World  Bank.

Developing countries cannot rely on the BRICs to argue their case  in international fora. The reality is that they have different interests from  those of developing countries. China and Russia are communist countries with  nuclear weapons in transition to capitalism. Brazil and India are large emerging  market economies that have grand aspirations of being global players. They share  many of the characteristics of developing countries but only assume developing  country status when they can use it to their own national interest.

All of this proves that there are no permanent friends, only  permanent interests.

We in Jamaica must not be seduced by the appearance of friendship  nor naively accept foreign aid because all countries pursue their national  interests. These, unfortunately, include some of our own Caricom brethren.

  • Editorial comment in the Jamaica Observer.

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