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NUMERO 20 - 29/10/2014

 Testing the Club Culture of the BRICS: The Evolution of a New Development Bank

  The BRICS countries made a significant progress in cementing the group’s institutional link among its members through the creation of the BRICS’ New Development Bank (NDB). Since this initiative was first brought to the fore, by India in the context of the 2011 New Delhi BRICS summit, there was scepticism around the BRICS member states’ capacity to deliver on the proposal not only because of their broader differences in strategic interests but also due to the lack of institutional capacity to navigate those differences. Yet, the BRICS were able to translate an ideational concept on how to booster infrastructure development needs to delivery at the 2014 Fortaleza summit in Brazil with an initial $50 billion fund with equal stakes for each of the BRICS members. Furthermore, the BRICS also agreed to establish a Currency Reserve Agreement, amounting to $100 billion to deal with any future financial crisis.  Still, despite this progress, the BRICS ability to overcome the obstacles in the way of establishing the NDB remains a puzzle. First, it is surprising that a group of countries can cooperate in such an important area when their broader interests as regional powers and aspirations as global powers are highly competitive.  Indeed, at the geo-political level,  two BRICS members, China and India, had a recent escalation due to a sensitive border dispute for which they fought a war in the early 1960s. More generally, both countries are actively engaging in balancing power within the region by playing off each other’s neighbours. Although the economic incentives for an expansion of infrastructure investment of India, Brazil and South Africa helps explain why these countries were able to cooperate multilaterally via the BRICS, it provides little insight on how such cooperation is possible in the presence of mutually diverging interests. Furthermore, the normative divide among the BRICS members is also salient enough to raise questions about the degree of cooperation on economic affairs overlooking socio-political differences among them and how long this mode of cooperation can be sustained. Second, multilateralism as a mechanism providing development assistance appears on the face of it to be less attractive compared to the greater foreign policy gain that could be achieved through bilateral means. This bias is even more prevalent for emerging donors such as the BRICS members because they are already providing development assistance using concessional and non-concessional loans and credits. A strong cluster of its members has already made great strides in a short period of time reaching out to many countries in the global South. If the NDB eventually starts lending beyond the club of five – still a divisive issue within the BRICS– then foreign policy gains that they could have achieved through more bilateral cooperation would be diminished for the individual BRICS countries. In such circumstances, it is worthwhile to examine more closely from a multilateral perspective why and how these formidable constraints have been overcome. That is to say, what factors have helped BRICS deal with these institutional hurdles in establishing the NDB?  In doing so we locate this form of multilateralism in club theory. By doing so, the puzzle of how the BRICS could circumvent the formidable barriers to launching the NDB is addressed both through a conceptual and empirical lens... (segue)

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