We can only welcome the announcement that Bangladesh is likely to be among the first new members to be admitted into the BRICS - born as a group of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) identified around the turn of the century by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, who coined the term BRIC to describe four economies that would collectively dominate the global economy by 2050; South Africa was added later to the list.
Originally identified for the purpose of highlighting investment opportunities (why else would Goldman Sachs be interested?), since 2009 they started forming a more cohesive geopolitical bloc, something that would seem to have gathered even more steam in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war. China hosted the most recent BRICS summit, the 14th, in July 2022. That same year, a decision was taken to expand membership, and alongside Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia are also slated to join come August.
In the current geopolitical climate, there can be no escaping the impression of a rival bloc to the G7 group of industrialised countries emerging with institutional grounding, thanks to a series of what can be said to be competing initiatives, most notably the New Development Bank (aka the 'BRICS Bank', it is the equivalent of the World Bank). No less eye-catching are the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (a fund whose purpose matches the IMF's as a lender of last resort), the BRICS payment system (that allows you to evade SWIFT), the BRICS Joint Statistical Publication, and the one making the most noise in recent times: the BRICS basket reserve currency, that experts say may one day challenge the dominance of the dollar.
It is safe to say though, that day is still some way off - despite all the initiatives mentioned above noticeably gathering renewed vigour against the background of the war in Ukraine. The announcement that Bangladesh would likely be joining the group came after a meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa at the Bilateral Meeting room of Palais de Nations in Geneva, where the premier is ostensibly leading the Bangladesh contingent at the World of Work Summit 2023. Her meetings on the sidelines, may well have a more lasting impact on the country's fortunes.
It should be noted that while making the announcement, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen, who briefed reporters, did not indicate it was an open-and-shut deal. He was careful to add that it is 'likely', not confirmed. Everything will be known by August, when South Africa hosts the next summit of the group. Before that, a formal invitation will be extended for Bangladesh to join. It may be mentioned here that back in September 2021, the NDB had already admitted Bangladesh as a new member - but it is yet to complete the domestic formalities and deposit the instrument of accession. That may now change, and pretty quickly it would seem.
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