BRICS CountriesFive countries known as BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — have become shining examples of successful poverty reduction with strong agricultural research systems and technologies. With major agricultural economies, the BRICS countries are leaders in the movement to eradicate global hunger and poverty in developing countries.

Agriculture is a major contributor to economic growth and poverty reduction, and BRICS play an important role in helping developing countries meet the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. As contributors of more than 40 percent of the world’s population and more than 20 percent of the world’s GDP, the five countries account for more than one-third of global cereal production.

“In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy,” Kundhavi Kadiresan, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, said at the seventh meeting of the BRICS ministers of agriculture.

BRICS countries lead the fight against global hunger and poverty with essential knowledge and technologies for sustainable development and rural growth through agriculture. FAO collaborates with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Food Policy Research Institute to confirm that the technologies benefit smallholders. With BRICS agricultural research systems, developing countries will assess their challenges and find sustainable solutions.

According to FAO, biotechnology and agro-ecological approaches would also, “play a key role in these advances. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on cutting-edge research.”

Information and communication technologies address many of the challenges smallholders face, including prices, weather forecasts, vaccines and financial services. For example, South Africa’s Festa Tlala is a government-led initiative to support cultivated land expansion and food production for smallholder farmers. As BRICS find working solutions to global hunger and poverty, developing countries will increase their production and productivity with similar tools and approaches.

In addition, social protection programs help rural development and poverty reduction by strengthening family farmers and their entrepreneurship. Enriching health, education and other services outside of farming plays a significant role in developing a country, as do international trade, promoting food security and balancing the domestic food economy.

As leaders in poverty reduction and achieving Sustainable Development Goals, BRICS technologies and approaches for agricultural growth assist in strengthening developing countries by 2030. Their role could shape the economies of countries all around the globe.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

New Efforts to End TB
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that is largely associated with countries’ health care systems and with other factors relating to health such as nutrition, sanitation and housing. Therefore, it is crucial to help combat TB in developing countries, especially where the disease continues to be a problem.

In 2014, the World Health Assembly approved the End TB Strategy, which aims to end the epidemic of Tuberculosis by 2035. Because of this, the Stop TB Partnership Task Force is developing a plan to make significant progress toward the End TB Strategy goal.

Additionally, Ministers of Health from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) developed a strategy to help end Tuberculosis in their countries. The Ministers established a plan that would provide universal access to medicines for all people with Tuberculosis in BRICS countries, as well as low or middle-income countries. Also, they developed a 90-90-90 goal. In BRICS countries, 90 percent of people should be screened for Tuberculosis, 90 percent should be diagnosed and started on treatment and 90 percent of treatments should be successful. Scientific research on things like drug-resistant strains of Tuberculosis and service delivery of TB were also agreed upon by the Ministers. Given that 50 percent of all TB cases and about 60 percent of MDR-TB cases occur in BRICS countries, these efforts could make a large impact.

There are also two new drugs that can be used to treat Tuberculosis: bedaquiline and delamanid. These drugs can help fight TB strains that are resistant to other antibiotics. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Johnson & Johnson affiliate, Janssen Therapeutics, will provide bedaquiline to patients for free in more than 100 low and middle-income countries where people are suffering from strains of Tuberculosis that are resistant to two or more antibiotics.

Tuberculosis is still a problem in developing countries. There are 24,000 new cases and 4,000 deaths from the disease every day. Recently, however, there have been many new efforts that aim to end TB. If we continue to try and combat Tuberculosis, the tides will change in the war against this disease.

Ella Cady

Sources: Impatient Optimists, Stop TB, WHO
Photo: Stop TB

The Russian economy is suffering due to sanctions enacted by the United States and the European Union. Inflation has risen dramatically and with the ruble teetering back and forth, the safety of their currency is uncertain.

During the annexation of Crimea and Russian military movement in the Ukraine, the U.S. and E.U. increased trade restrictions on Russia and wealthy businessmen regarded as being close to Vladimir Putin. As the Russian economy shifts focus toward a stronger economic development and trade with the Asian countries, Russia’s reliance on the dollar decreases.

One of the ways in which Russia is attempting to achieve this is by trading in domestic currency rather than relying on the U.S. dollar. Russia’s dependence on Asia in general and China in particular hints at Putin’s larger goal for the Russian economy to be less involved in U.S. and Europe. Among of the most important deals Russia has made is  the Agreement on Cooperation which was signed by Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping. The $25 billion deal will allow Russia and China to trade in domestic currencies rather than the dollar.

Another significant deal is the $400 billion trade deal that will increase oil exports from Russia to China. It includes a proposal for a new pipeline that will send oil directly from Western Siberia to China. Underlying Putin’s unease with the U.S. is the desire to begin limiting U.S. economic hegemony. However, the dollar is so prevalent in the foreign economy it seems unlikely that a dramatic shift will occur in the near future. Russia’s largest market is currently the E.U. and sanctions have reduced the amount Russia is able to export.

Economic sanctions enforced by President Barack Obama seek to undercut Russian oil exports which make up half of Russia’s economic revenue. Putin announced recently at a G-20 Summit that the West needs to lift sanctions. He states, “This is harmful, and of course is doing us some damage, but it’s harmful for them as well because, in essence, it’s undermining the entire system of international economic relations.”

If Russia is less dependent on the U.S. market, sanctions will mean little to Putin and the Russian economy. Eventually there will be little to deter him from further military involvement in the Ukraine or elsewhere. It will be more difficult for the U.S. to influence Putin’s perceived aggression.

Russia is not the only country who wants to decrease dependence on the U.S. market. Other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries are looking to do the same. For the meantime, Russia may be forced to cope with the low price of oil. American economists predict that the prices should level out at about $83 a barrel and stay there for a while to come.

Maxine Gordon

Sources: International Business Times, Reuters, New York Times, The Guardian
Photo: Newsweek

Healthcare and Taxation in developing countries
One of the reasons health care in developing nations is ineffective is that governments heavily tax medicines and other health care related products. While the combination of health care and taxation in developing countries is a good revenue generator for the government, it imposes a heavy burden on those who cannot afford to carry it. Those with low incomes and who mostly need these medicines find themselves castigated by high prices that result from government tariffs and taxes.

Developing nations tend to import many, if not all, of the medicines prescribed. In addition, patients usually are the ones paying the full amount for medical services due to the unavailability of health care in their countries. For instance, the average Indian pays for about 70 percent of health care services. After taxes and tariffs, the price of medicines can go up two-thirds, making even generic drugs unaffordable to the lower class.

This story repeats itself in other emerging markets. Countries like Argentina, Russia and Brazil impose tariffs of 10 percent on medicines. Other developing nations like Algeria and Rwanda impose tariffs of 15 percent, and in places like the Republic of Djibouti tariffs can even go up to 26 percent.

In the case of medicine, tariffs are only one part of the problem. Many countries also impose heavy taxes on top of tariffs. For instance, Brazil imposes a 28 percent tax on prescribed medicines, while India levies a variety of taxes that increase the value of medicine by about 8 percent on top of the states’ taxes, which can range from five to 16 percent.

Besides the fact that they place the heaviest economic burden on the poorest sectors of the population — which also tend to have the highest levels of health problems — these tariffs and taxes are economically counterproductive. According to Rod Hunter, senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, higher prices on medicines limit people’s use of them. Illnesses go on unabated, in time leading to less productivity and a lower national GDP.

The effects of reducing or eliminating tariffs and taxes on medicines have been dramatic in places like Kenya, Colombia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Tanzania and Uganda. For instance, after the Kenyan government removed tariffs and taxes on anti-malaria medicine, infant mortality and disease rates between 2005 and 2009 declined by almost 44 percent.

The initiative shown by these countries has resonated across the globe. Many African nations in 2011 pledged to lower tariffs and taxes on medicines. However, so far only a handful of nations have followed through.

It is in the best interest of countries like India and China to lower tariffs, especially considering India is the biggest exporter of finished medicines and the China produces 70-80 percent of the active ingredients contained in medicines.

The upcoming 2015 BRICS summit could be a good place to raise this issue again. These large stakeholders and developed nations alike could make it part of the agenda to change the practice of “taxing the sick.” Perhaps they could even form a coalition to press governments worldwide to change these practices and broaden access to health care in many developing nations.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Project Syndicate, Voice of America
Photo: Huffington Post

Defining an Emerging Market
The term “emerging markets” was coined in 1981 at the International Finance Corporation when promoting the first mutual funding investments in developing countries. While the term is sometimes considered unhelpful, it is important to identify and define these markets. Emerging markets are a hot topic as they are predicted to surpass the US, German, and UK economies in the future.

There are three factors that distinguish an emerging market from a developed market. Firstly, rapid economic growth defines emerging markets. Great examples of emerging markets are Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS). In recent decades, these developing countries have boosted their large economies based on global capital, technology, and talent. The GDP growth rates of these countries have outpaced those of more developed economies, lifting millions out of poverty and creating new middle classes and large new markets for consumer products and services. The large labor pools of these countries give their economies a huge advantage over more developed economies.

The second factor that defines the emergence of a developing economy is how much competition it offers in comparison to developed markets. Along with the rapid pace of development, these countries pose serious competition to current dominant economies in developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy.

Lastly, emerging markets are often defined in terms of their financial situation and infrastructure. While their rapid growth and competitiveness are positive growth indicators, the amount of red-tape and inconsistencies involved in dealing with these markets marks them as emerging. Unfortunately, some argue that the corruption in these markets will halt them all together despite other growth factors.

While the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China are well on their way to surpassing “emergence”, the predicted emerging economies of the future are Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa (CIVETs). According to John Bowler, director of Country Risk Service at the Economist Intelligence Unit, the sizeable populations of some of these countries and the wealth of natural resources in others, just might make them the economic boomers of the next decade.

– Kira Maixner

Source CNN , Forbes
Photo ACF


Leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) announced at the end of their summit in March in Durban their intention to start a new Development Bank.  This Development Bank will be used to mobilize resources within developing countries to build infrastructure and promote sustainable development projects.

Over the last four decades, the nations of BRICS have seen enormous success in economic development and are coming together to see that their futures are bright and full of opportunities.  As developed nations struggle through their own economic difficulties, the Development Bank will serve to bridge a gap in funding.  Infrastructure requirements in emerging-market economies point to the need for the availability of credit and sources of financing. With 1.4 billion people lacking reliable electricity, 900 million lacking access to clean water, and 2.6 billion without adequate sanitation, the Development Bank will be a key player in addressing the long-term sustainable solutions to those problems.  In addition, the forecasted large migration to cities calls for policymakers to fund environmentally sustainable investments.

Predictions for infrastructure spending within the developing world top $2 trillion annually in the coming decades.  This spending will allow nations to achieve long-term poverty reduction and economic growth. The private market will still be relied upon, but their dollars can only go so far. The Development Bank will fill the gap and become a catalyst for change in developing countries.

As the world economy is changing, the Development Bank provides BRICS a chance to reflect on those changes within an institution that utilizes modern financial instruments, strong governance, and broad-based mandates.  The bank can capitalize on new development partnerships and collective action as well as innovative and cost-effective approaches.  While developed countries still have a strong role to play in global development, the shortfall in assistance and need for quick decisions make the Development Bank a welcome institution in the marketplace of emerging countries.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: The Korea Herald
Photo: BRICS

Global aid, formally known as Official Development Assistance (ODA), continued to decline in 2012 as wealthy countries struggled with the global financial crisis. Global aid decreased by four percent in 2012, following a two percent decline in 2011.

Global aid totaled about $125 billion USD in 2012. Most of that came from members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which includes most of the world’s wealthiest countries: the United States, Japan, and much of Europe. However, contributions of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are becoming increasingly important to poverty reduction and assistance efforts.

In 2012, Australia, Austria, Iceland, Korea, and Luxembourg increased their donations to global aid. Countries hit the hardest by the financial crisis, including Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, decreased their contributions.

Donations can be measured both by total quantity of donation and percentage of gross national income (GNI). The US was among the largest donors in total monetary value, but did not reach the minimum threshold of 0.7% of GNI. Smaller countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark surpassed 0.7%. In some cases, donations from non-traditional donor countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey surpassed individual donations from DAC-member countries.

The percentage of OECD global aid dedicated to humanitarian causes has increased from 3.3 percent to 8.6 percent over the last two decades. Global aid is distributed to many different sectors, including economic development, social and administrative infrastructure, food aid, transportation, and agriculture.

Global aid distribution has also shifted in recent years. The share of aid going to sub-Saharan Africa, traditionally the largest beneficiary, decreased from 47.8% to 41.8%. Meanwhile, aid to South and Central Asia increased from 11.5% to 19.8%.

The OECD’s official report on global aid trends can be found here. Call your senator or representative and let them know that you’d like to see the US contribute more, not less, to global aid.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: The Fact File

BRICS Advance Plans for Development Bank
The BRICS countries met in Durban, South Africa last week to finalize plans for the establishment of a New Development Bank that would be led by the quickly developing countries. While the negotiations were not finalized and a plan wasn’t cemented, officials claim that progress is being made.

The BRICS are a group of large, quickly industrializing countries; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Early last year they made the announcement that they would consider creating a separate development bank run by the leaders of the developing world for the developing world.

While South Africa’s Minister of Finance stated that the negotiations had been completed the day before the meeting, they apparently were not. However, they say that progress was made and that the New Development Bank will be established soon and that they are pleased with the rapid materialization of a concept that only came into their discussions one year ago.

One of the issues remaining is where the central bank will be built, as each country would obviously like to have such a large institution and the profit and recognition that would come along with it. In response to significant pressure from activist groups and student and humanitarian groups, representatives of the five countries made statements condemning the abuse of humanitarian rights in Syria and pleaded that aid workers and organizations be allowed to freely access the region to provide help for those suffering.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Voice of America
Photo: Post

BRICS Think Tanks Plan Involvement With AfricaBRICS think tanks are planning the proceedings of the 2013 BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa. The proceedings will decide the course of BRICS’s support and capitalization on exploring African economies.

BRICS (an association of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will be discussing the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank which was proposed at last years’ BRICS conference in New Delhi.

Although it would be an internationally supported bank, the BRICS Development Bank would not be competing with larger banks such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund (IMF). Instead, the BRICS Development Bank will be concerned with financing and supporting intra-BRICS programs and emerging African economies.

Among the finance projects of the BRICS Development Bank will be creating job prospects, urbanization and infrastructure development of African communities and economies. While the goals of larger organizations such as the World Bank are in line with these same pursuits, many representatives affiliated with the BRICS association feel that reform is necessary and that a more focused bank could better meet the needs of developing African economies.

If the BRICS Development Bank is established, South African officials believe that it should be based in their country.

-Pete Grapentien

Source Business Day