BRICS nations plan new bank to encroach on World Bank turf

FDI Inflows

Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill coined the BRIC term in 2001 to describe the four emerging powers he estimated would equal the U.S. in joint economic output by 2020. Brazil, Russia, India and China held their first summit four years ago and invited South Africa to join their ranks in December 2010.

Trade within the group surged to $282 billion last year from $27 billion in 2002 and may reach $500 billion by 2015, according to data from Brazil’s government. Foreign direct invesment into BRICS nations reached $263 billion last year, accounting for 20 percent of global FDI flows, up from 6 percent in 2000, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said on its website yesterday.

“If they announce a BRICS bank it will be quite something,” O’Neill said in an e-mailed reply to questions on March 15. “At a minimum it symbolizes they can achieve something as political group and means lots of other things could follow in the future. It also means that they will have their own kind of special World Bank, which may aid infrastructure and trade projects.”

Currency Pool

While BRICS leaders may approve the creation of a development bank in principle at the summit, details on funding and operations may take longer to finalize.

Russia favors capping each side’s initial contribution at $10 billion, Mikhail Margelov, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to Africa he said in a March 15 interview in Moscow.

“It will be some time before it will be feasible for this bank to start financing say, a railway project,” Simon Freemantle, an analyst at Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest lender, told reporters in Durban yesterday. “That is some way out.”

Interest rates near zero in the U.S., Japan and Europe have fueled foreign investors’ appetite for higher-yielding assets, driving up currencies from Brazil to Turkey. Brazil has warned of a global currency war as nations take reciprocal action to weaken their currencies and protect export industries.

African Leaders

Brazil’s real has gained 1.9 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the year, while South Africa’s rand has dropped 8.7 percent in the period.

For South Africa, which makes up just 2.5 percent of total gross domestic product in BRICS, the summit is a way to showcase its role as an investment gateway to Africa. President Jacob Zuma has invited 15 African heads of state, including Egypt’s Mohamed Mursi and Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn, for talks with the BRICS leaders at the summit. For most of the BRICS leaders, it’s also the first opportunity to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping after his appointment on March 17.

“We will discuss ways to revive global growth and ensure macroeconomic stability, as well as mechanisms and measures to promote investment in infrastructure and sustainable development,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement yesterday.

Bloomberg News

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