I was both flattered and apprehensive when authors Chris Hart and Glenn Silverman asked me to join them as editor on their book on the BRICS, which ended up with the title: Half Way There.
At the time, I felt this title was a tad pessimistic. After all, this coalition of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa was a populous and exciting new grouping, with the potential to provide a counterbalance to the old order, where the world was dominated by the Western Powers.
However, while the global economy has since suffered some grief….so too have the BRICS. And arguably there has been, on balance, some political deterioration. The South African President escaped impeachment thanks to a loyal parliamentary party, but we have just seen that his Brazilian counterpart was not so lucky and has lost the first round of her impeachment battle.
China a remains a vital economic power, but its human rights record remains a disgrace. And while India limps along as a democracy, the bureaucratic vice continues to stifle growth. It remains a delightful location for pictures of balding British heirs and their attractive wives, but the slums and squalor show no signs of abating and are more real to billions of Indians than the Taj Mahal and other tombs.
And then there is Russia. A country where the leader is thought to have enriched himself to the tune of billions of dollars, and has acted with contempt for Russia’s neighbours. To add insult to injury, Putin the Terrible has even banned some imported wines and cheeses, a gastronomic deprivation too horrible to imagine.
Looking back, I give Chris Hart and Glenn Silverman top marks for their reading of the BRICS, and for their caution. Their analysis of the challenges facing the five BRICS nations helps to explain a lot of what is happening today.
Half Way There? Maybe they did make some progress, but there is no sign of the BRICS completing their journey anytime soon.