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BRICS Summit 2012: A long Journey to cover; Overview, Outcomes and Expectations

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BRICS summit logo
BRICS Summit 2012 Logo

Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met on Thursday, Mar 29, 2012 in Delhi for the fourth annual Summit. Earlier known as BRIC before the addition of South Africa, BRICS is the group of emerging economies around the world, who are exploring new ways of collaboration, collective economic growth and developing common ground on foreign policy.

Sao Paulo at night
Sao Paulo, Brazil
All five economies maintain a great potential to become a superpower, but most of them are dependent on western economies. Any ups and down in the western markets leave their impact on these markets.
Moscow at night
Moscow, Russia

The summit stressed on linking economies, as in trading in local currencies as well as linking stock exchanges of the member countries. The leaders also stressed on setting up of an international bank on par with Asian Development Bank, IMF and World Bank. It would fund various development projects in member countries and other emerging economies and may act as a relief provider for first time buyer mortgages in case of real financial crisis and disaster. The goal of the bank will also include lending, in the long term, if there comes a global financial crises such as the Eurozone crisis and issuing convertible debt, which could be bought by the central banks of all the member nations. Hence it will be acting as a vessel for risk-sharing.

Mumbai at night
Mumbai, India
Shanghai at night
Shanghai, China

The idea of setting up such bank was put forward by India, which received a good response from the member countries as well as from the countries who were observing the event carefully. Analyst John Mashaka called India’s move “long overdue”, and said that setting up a bank was a means of “pulling out of the western-dominated World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.” Assistant professor at the Institute of African Studies (China) Yuhua Xiao noted that setting up the bank showed signs of growing self-assertiveness and inter-dependence among developing economies. Dr. Alexandra A Arkhangelskaya noted that creating such a bank would effectively “shift the weight of economic power”, and could also be very beneficial to non-BRICS nations.

Johannesburg at night
Johannesburg, South Africa

The nations also signed an agreement to extend credit facilities in their local currencies, a step to reduce the role of dollar between them. As of now, if Russia wants to trade with India, Russia will convert Rubles to Dollars send it to India, and then India will convert Dollars to Rupees. Completely removing the intermediate step of converting to and from dollar is not so easy, but if removed, the trade between the two countries will become independent of what the value of dollar is, which is highly unstable.

Also the nations will be launching a benchmark equity index derivatives that would allow investor of one member country to bet on the performance of stock exchanges of other member countries without currency risk.

Accounted 50% of global economic growth in last decade, BRICS accounts for 26% of global landmass, 42% of the global population and 40% of global GDP.

Below is the tabulation of the countries and their economy in therms of GDP (PPP). The data is taken from CIA World Factbook GDP PPP data update of 2011. PPP is one of the scale to measure difference between two economies. Using a PPP basis is arguably more useful when comparing generalized differences in total economic output between countries because PPP takes into account the relative costs and the inflation rates of the countries, rather than using just exchange rates, which may distort the real differences in income. The table shows BRICS as a single entity is more powerful than European Union. The data for GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) has also been re based using the new International Comparison Program (ICP) price surveys and extrapolated to 2007. Final figures are estimates in billions of international dollars.

Rank Country GDP (PPP) $Billion Year
BRICS 20,975 2011 est.
 European Union 15,390 2011 est.
1  United States 15,040 2011 est.
2  China 11,300 2011 est.
3  India 4,463 2011 est.
4  Japan 4,389 2011 est.
5  Germany 3,085 2011 est.
6  Russia 2,373 2011 est.
7  Brazil 2,284 2011 est.
8  United Kingdom 2,250 2011 est.
9  France 2,214 2011 est.
10  Italy 1,826 2011 est.

Another method of measuring economy is GDP (nominal) based on official exchange rates. The list below includes mostly 2011 estimates from the CIA World Factbook. The table shows BRICS as the third largest economy after EU and US.

Rank Country GDP nominal $Billion Year
 European Union 17,720,000 2011 est.
1  United States 17,720,000 2011 est.
BRICS 13,766,000 2011 est.
2  China 6,988,000 2011 est.
3  Japan 5,866,000 2011 est.
4  Germany  3,739,000 2011 est.
5   France 2,919,000 2011 est.
6  Brazil  2,407,000 2011 est.
7  United Kingdom 2,370,000 2011 est.
8  Italy 2,135,000 2011 est.
9  Russia 1,995,000 2011 est.
10  India 1,954,000 2011 est.

The performance of the BRICS nations on the international platform has been brilliant, despite the fact all these countries come from different continents, having different government, political and economical structure. How far this concept of BRICS will sustain no body knows, but if it works then it will bring a great change in the current world, a change for good.

The countries have been working together to find some common ground and fortunately their thoughts match on the issues of West Asia, North Africa and Afghanistan. All five countries called for the international community to continue development projects in Afghanistan for 10 years after America led international forces will withdraw from the nation by the end of 2014.

BRICS nations together have strongly condemned the Western world’s politics on Iran to make other countries stick to the restrictions imposed by them on trade ties.  China’s Trade Minister Chen Deming said that the “rise [in the price] of crude oil has impacted all countries. The Iran issue has become an issue for all. We need to continue with normal relations with Iran, but, at the same time, we respect UN resolution. We hope that unilateral movement by one country will not affect other countries.”  The group warned against any military intervention in Syria by the West or by Israel in Iran. They added that a war with Iran would have “disastrous consequences.”

BRICS VS EU map
Landmass of BRICS vs EU, Click to Enlarge

Out of five BRICS nations, three of them have remained or are super power. India before 14th century, Russia in the 20th century and China almost in 21st century. No matter these countries possess power and wealth, but they may not share good relations with each other. Brazil and South Africa being geographically isolated from these nations share good relations with all. The best example is China and India,  both of them have faced each other in the war in 1965 and China is still occupying a large part of North India and claims some part of Indian territory in North East India. China was also about to open the front in Indo Pakistani war in 1971 but didn’t do so, fearing Pro Indian Soviet Union might take action against them. Russia and China have also shared cold relations following the illegal migration of Chinese in Russia’s far east and border dispute which was recently resolved.

Russia and India have been sharing good relations from the Soviet times. India also shares good relations with South Africa, one of the major reason being Mahatma Gandhi, whose work in South Africa promoted equality between blacks and whites. In South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi is equally respected as in India. Brazil has also been close to all the countries.

Leaving aside all these solid claims about BRICS, there are critics as well who discuss why BRICS might fail with some genuine facts. One of the reason is all these countries come from different continents, different social, economical and political systems and some of these countries do not share good relations as well as common ground.

One of the best example of this claim is that after the declaration of setting up of an International bank, these countries fear that China will be the most benefited country out of all and will enjoy the most.

However, just after the summit was over, India and China declared that they will keep their border issue aside for now and will take more steps to increase trade between the two neighbors. Indian government also expressed their interest in inviting Chinese investment in India’s manufacturing sector. Both the countries have together declared this year as Indo Chinese year of friendship and cooperation.

After the summit, Brazil and India also took the opportunity of exploring their way of cooperation. The two countries signed six pacts in areas ranging from closer cooperation in science and biotechnology to cultural exchanges. Under a signature, Brazilian initiative Science Without Borders, the two sides inked a pact that envisages placement of Brazilian students and young researchers in India. It will be funded by Brazil.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “We reviewed the leaders’ Delhi declaration and believe that their efforts to engage in global multilateral institutions productively can only strengthen the international system. United States welcomed the efforts by the so-called BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to support the recovery of the global economy as well as “

Russian by roots, global citizen by choice. In love with India and Indian culture, love to report everything from politics to military news. Against the controlled media.

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Opinion

Should You Support Universal Basic Income? Who else is in favour?

Manak Suri

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In the previous article “Universal Basic Income: In Action” we explored that Universal Basic Income under different variants is already being put to trial in different provinces of a number of countries around the world. Before that, in “Universal Basic Income: The Idea” we weighed the potential of UBI in creating a monumental change in the way humanity as a society functions as of today. While there’s still quite some time required to ascertain how easily and efficiently the system can be put into effect and whether it should be put into place at all, some of the more apparent advantages, as well as flaws of the system, are repeatedly considered by experts in determining the answers to the aforementioned questions. In addition, many influential figures have also come out both in support of UBI as well as against it. Let’s take a look at the support UBI has garnered as well as the supposed benefits and criticisms of UBI.

Pros of Universal Basic Income

The first argument often cited in favour of UBI is for its potential to alleviate poverty, improve the standard of living and vastly reduce income inequality no matter which country it is implemented in. the Alaska Permanent Fund (AFP), which we’ve already discussed, was instrumental in improving the state’s income equality rank from 30 to 2. UBI trials in Namibia, Kenya, and parts of India have also yielded positive results in this regard. UBI has also resulted in the improvement of health, especially mental health, as reported by people who have been part of UBI trials in Ontario, Canada. UBI also encourages entrepreneurial behaviour since it guarantees basic subsistence thereby providing an incentive for people to take up a line of work of their liking. UBI trials in India and Namibia have also shown that it has helped promote financial decision making by women resulting in their empowerment. A guarantee of a fixed income every month also brings more power to people when it comes to deciding where they should spend money. The Roosevelt Institute research we discussed previously also suggests an overall growth in the US economy with a countrywide implementation of UBI. UBI is also expected to lead to a positive job growth and lower the dropout rates in schools since it provides more security to families.

Cons of Universal Basic Income

The critics of UBI argue that money that is essential for the poor is being redirected towards the wealthy and those citizens who have no need for it. Robert Greenstein, founder and President of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C.  “if you take the dollars targeted on people in the bottom fifth or two-fifths of the population and convert them to universal payments to people all the way up the income scale, you’re redistributing income upward. That would increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them.” In addition to that, it is often argued that UBI programs are highly ineffective when compared to welfare programs that are implemented on targeted populations. Therefore, unless UBI is implemented without the scrapping off of such welfare schemes, it is likely to find opposition from a huge number of people who currently benefit from these programs. Another argument against UBI one may repeatedly encounter is that UBI reduces the incentive to work, which leads to huge costs for the economy. This may also lead to a dearth of skilled and unskilled labour in the economy. The Swiss government have opposed the implementation of UBI for the very same reason, fearing that the current labour shortages may be exacerbated. Finally, an argument that also holds the door open for many debates is that UBI is too expensive to implement and will cost a lot to the government. As opposed to studies which show a growth in the economies through the implementation of UBI, many economists have also opposed it, claiming that UBI in the more developed nations will be very expensive to guarantee an acceptable standard of living to all the citizens.

Who Supports Universal Basic Income?

Since the idea was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, UBI has found suitors throughout recent history. Founding father of the United States Thomas Paine was in favour of it, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell argued in its favour, and even Martin Luther King said: “the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” American economist Milton Friedman, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and even former US President Richard Nixon came close to bringing UBI to the United States. As of today, a number of high profile names in the Silicon Valley have expressed their support for UBI. An advocate of entrepreneurship and creativity, Mark Zuckerberg sighted UBI as an worth a look in his statement at his Harvard commencement address: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk believes implementation of UBI is inevitable. “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk said in an interview in 2016. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay also donated towards a UBI experiment in Kenya. Coursera founder Andrew Ng expressed on Twitter: “More than ever, we need a basic income to limit everyone’s downside, and better education to give everyone an upside.” The list does not stop here.

UBI has at least gained enough attention to get people, investors, world leaders, and governments to talk about it and more importantly experiment with it. The results are not yet out and will take a considerable amount of time still to be able to present a final verdict on UBI and its effectiveness. However, as robots make humans redundant in recurring waves, is there still enough time to just be experimenting?

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Universal Basic Income: In Action

Manak Suri

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Universal Basic Income presents a case to be considered, now stronger than ever, as automation hits us in recurring waves and machines are slowly beginning to take over much of the work that was done by human beings. If you aren’t caught up with the idea behind UBI and what its implementation could mean for us, you might want to read our previous article on the subject. Now, let’s focus our attention on the practicality of the scheme and let’s have a look at some of the existing cases of UBI in different parts of the world along with their results so far, and have a look at who all are backing the program to become the political norm in the coming decades.

Basic Income Around the World

Pilot programs of UBI have been held in different parts of the world. Besides Finland and Ontario, Canada, which began experimenting with UBI this year itself, countries such as Brazil, the city of Utrecht in The Netherlands and even Oakland in California, the United States have implemented varying UBI schemes on parts of their population. Hawaii passed a legislation this year which aims at forming working groups in order to study the effects of UBI. Elsewhere in the United States, the state of Alaska boasts of a genuine UBI program which has existed since 1976. The Alaskan Permanent Fund or the AFP, which is funded by oil reserves gives dividends to its permanent citizens every year. However, also in 2017, 77% of Swiss voters rejected a UBI proposal from being introduced in the country. Now lets take a look at the cases in Finland and Ontario individually.

In Ontario, Canada trials of UBI have recently begun involving 4,000 citizens between the ages of 18 and 64 who expect to receive a total of a little over 12,000 dollars a year. Couples are entitled to nearly twice of the amount. The plan is to study the effect of such a scheme on the health and well being of the subjects, their earnings and also their productivity. While the experiment is still in its initial stages and it’s too early to make any decisions, a few of the participants have already shown signs of a positive change. In addition to boosting the income of some who fall in the lower end of the earning bracket, the scheme has greatly improved their mental well-being, enabled them to afford healthier food and pay more attention to their health and visit their families more often. Other participants have also expressed that the safety net provided to them by the scheme has enabled them to focus on work they want to do and also on helping others.

Unsurprisingly, automation was a major factor in the decision to introduce the scheme in the province. Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne said of the same,” I see it on a daily basis. I go into a factory and the floor plant manager can tell me where there were 20 people and there is one machine. We need to understand what it might look like if there is, in fact, the labour disruption that some economists are predicting.” Ontario has a population of nearly 14 million people. Positive results overall from the scheme may further result in its adoption throughout the province including all 14 million of its populace.

In January this year, 2,000 people were randomly selected across Finland to be part of a trial of one of the most advanced UBI schemes in the world, undertaken by the Finnish Social Insurance Institute. Under the scheme, the selected citizens receive  €560 (£495) from the Finnish government regardless of their employment status and how much they earn. Some of the cases in the country show that UBI provides the participants with more flexibility in their working pattern, encourages entrepreneurial spirit to take up what one would like to do, and also create more time and focus on volunteering and charity work.

Ms. Sini Martinnen, one of the beneficiaries of the program who noted the above changes in her lifestyle spoke of the same. “So there’s value in other things you do – if there’s just not enough work for everyone you have to figure out how to inspire people to be creative and do other kinds of stuff”, she said. Her statement falls in line with the kind of environment being created due to automation. Otherwise, you will have a lot of different social problems that will be very expensive – more expensive than the basic income system”, she added.

What Studies Say

The success of UBI among small populations in Ontario or in a Scandinavian country such as Finland does not necessarily mean they will work in larger countries. UBI may be introduced in a limited form in parts of UK, where we may be able to better assess the case of basic income and its viability over a population that is more diverse and layered with complexity at every step of implementation.

Nevertheless, studies on the matter precede trials in many countries. Considering the point, a recent study by the Roosevelt Institute on universal basic income and its effects suggests that the introduction of UBI in the United States would boost the US Economy by $2.5 trillion. The study, titled “Modeling the Macroeconomic Effects of a Universal Basic Income” suggests that a UBI of $1,000 a month to every American adult will lead to a growth of the economy by 12.56 percent over a period of 12 years, resulting in an increase in the GDP of the country by nearly $2.5 trillion. It reaches the statement after considering three different versions of unconditional cash payments. Another assumption taken up in the study to arrive at the given conclusion was that room for UBI in the budget would be made by increasing the deficit and not by increasing taxes. “When paying for the policy by increasing taxes on households rather than paying for the policy with debt, the policy is not expansionary,” the study says. “In effect, it is giving to households with one hand what it is taking away with the other. There is no net effect.”

In the midst of these studies, theories and trials UBI has attracted support and critics from all corners. In the final article of this series, we’ll take a look at who all are backing the program to become the political norm in the coming decades and what are the pros and cons tossed around in the debate around universal basic income.

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Culture and Lifestyle

Universal Basic Income: The Idea

Manak Suri

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Mankind has come so far because of the ability to adapt. If you were to randomly pick out any point of time in mankind’s history, you would find certain existing threats or those looming large over certain segments of people or a large collection of them. From hunting animals for food for survival to protecting themselves from wars, plagues and famine; for humankind, each step was daunting till it had been conquered. Many of these threats they would brave, while against many others a good chunk of people died trying, leaving behind the ones who were wiser after what they had overcome. In 2017, we are a long long way ahead, still not without problems of our own. One of the gravest, if not the gravest of these problems that is ready for impact in the not so distant future is automation. Automation, with its projected path for replacing much of the work currently done by humans, has the potential to cause a huge disruption in the way we live our life, the way that nearly everyone alive today is accustomed to living. The great challenge that lies ahead of us in the wake of such retrenchment across the world is how to ensure that people are still able to make/earn a living after so much of what they did is taken up by machines. Education and training among others are often touted as the best possible solutions to help make a person stay relevant, but as automation alters the basic structure on which our work life is built, the decades-old idea of Universal Basic Income or UBI has started to once again gain relevance, provoke debates and be looked at as a serious option to catapult the human race into what could possibly be a new social structure.

What is Basic Income or Universal Basic Income?

In case you haven’t been following the idea, the concept behind UBI is to provide every citizen with a fixed amount of money periodically so that they can cover their basic subsistence needs without having to worry about ever living in a state of poverty. The same amount will be received by every individual (with possibly additional allowances for families and children) regardless of whether they are working or how much they are earning from their work. You would not be crazy to point out that the idea behind UBI sounds far too utopian to be true, which is exactly what most critics of the idea have held against it. In addition to that, once you start trying to figure the idea out, you are bound to face really important questions about the scheme. How will the payments to entire populations be financed? Will it exist alongside or replace existing welfare programs in order for its effective implementation? How will the minimum amount be decided? Under what criteria will families, children and the elderly be accommodated under the program if implemented? These are among other questions that merely touch the tip of the iceberg. Without even getting into further details and problems associated with it, UBI may look like an attempt to reach the moon with only a ladder at your disposal.

However, somewhere along the road to figuring out the most obvious intricacies associated with a hugely ambitious and optimistic idea as universal basic income, it is not hard to see why its successful implementation (if it ever happens on a significantly large scale) would be such a game changer for humanity. Besides being a possible solution amid our motivated search to the threats posed by automation, many supporters of UBI also see it as one of the best ways, if not the best way, to create a more advanced as well as equal society. Imagine a world which provides you with sufficient time and room to be able to do what you want to do, to not be tied to your work to be able to afford/make the life that you not only need but the life that you want for yourself. Now imagine if everyone was a part of such a world, that anyone is able to make more time to spend with their family, or to invest in themselves, or to add value to the said world in a manner in which they feel they are most capable, without having to worry about having a meal on their table two times a day.

Where are we with Universal Basic Income?

Yes, all of this does sound maybe too good to be true, especially if this is the first time you are reading about it, but that does not mean it’s not achievable. As a matter of fact, its viability is the biggest question that remains in the open. So, what does the situation look like right now? You’d be surprised to know that variants of the scheme are being experimented across the world on targeted populations in various countries, more recently in countries such as Canada and Finland. More importantly, many of these have shown encouraging results, dousing some of the arguments against the scheme by its critics.

The term Basic Income, or Universal Basic Income is relatively new, but the idea behind it is decades old, or perhaps even older than a century. However, the reasons due to which it originally came about is not the main reason why it has become ever so relevant today. Humanity’s desire to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources has seen its fair share of ups and downs, some too important to forget, but it’s the dawn of automation that the idea of UBI, dismissed countless times over the years due to the intricacies surrounding it that makes it ‘basic’, has come back into the fold, this time with the support of some of the world’s most influential figures. That makes it impossible to just rule it out

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