By Frank Jack Daniel and Brian Winter
NEW DELHI, March 28 The BRICS group of emerging
world powerhouses - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South
Africa - is set to outline plans at a summit this week for a
joint development bank, while the five countries' stock
exchanges will also move closer together.
Officials say details of the initiatives still need to be
agreed, but they herald a new level of ambition for a bloc that
brings together about half the world's people but which has been
criticised as an empty acronym.
The Middle East, including oil imports from Iran, will also
be discussed at Thursday's meeting in India, officials say.
Security was tightened in the capital on Wednesday before
the arrival of BRICS leaders including China's Hu Jintao.
His visit drew protests from Tibetan activists, one of whom
died earlier in the day after he set himself ablaze. Police
arrested about a dozen Tibetans before the summit.
BRICS leaders held their first summit in 2009 and have
sought to increase their global influence to reflect their
growing economic clout. But with radically different economies
and systems of government, and competing priorities, the
countries from four different continents have often struggled to
find common cause.
A significant announcement at this week's meeting is likely
to be the plan for a joint development bank in the mould of the
World Bank. Such an initiative would allow the countries to pool
resources for infrastructure improvements and could eventually
serve as a vehicle for lending during global financial crises
such as the one in Europe, officials say.
Brazilian Trade Minister Fernando Pimentel told reporters in
Brasilia last week that the countries would sign a deal at the
summit to study the creation of the bank.
Sudhir Vyas, a senior Indian foreign ministry official, told
reporters on Monday that the BRICS would have to determine how
the bank would be structured and capitalised. Such an ambitious
project would take time, he said.
"We don't set up a bank every ordinary day," he said.
The leaders are also expected to sign agreements allowing
their individual development banks to extend credit to other
members in their local currencies, a step towards replacing the
dollar as the main unit of trade between them.
FIVE NATION STOCK INDEX
Benchmark equity index derivatives allowing investors in one
BRICS country to bet on the performance of stock markets in the
other four members without currency risk will be cross-listed on
their stock exchanges from Friday, the exchanges said earlier
A senior Indian government source said the Middle East and
energy security will be high on the agenda, including Iran. The
Russian ambassador in New Delhi said this week that a discussion
on Syria would be among his country's top priorities.
While the plenary session on Thursday is likely to
concentrate on common ground, bilateral meetings could touch on
more sensitive issues.
The exchange rate of China's currency has sparked protests,
including from Brazilian manufacturers, for being undervalued.
Most member countries also face a slowdown in their economies.
"For different reasons, each of the (countries) has got some
serious policy issues to deal with here that will determine
whether they continue down the path we got everybody so excited
about," said Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset
O'Neill, who coined the BRIC acronym in 2001 as a catchy way
to encapsulate the shift in global economic growth towards
emerging markets, with South Africa added in 2010, predicts the
bloc's GDP will exceed that of the United States within three
years and sees China as the world's biggest economy by 2027.