"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."
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.