BRICS: A Common Currency or a Flight of Fancy?

As BRICS leaders convene for their 15th summit, the idea of a common currency has become a topic of discussion.

by Faruk Imamovic
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BRICS: A Common Currency or a Flight of Fancy?

As BRICS leaders convene for their 15th summit, the idea of a common currency has become a topic of discussion. However, Jim O’Neill, the economist who birthed the BRICS acronym, remains skeptical of such ambitious plans.

With countries like Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa under its banner, each nation boasts a distinctive economic and political landscape, making the dream of a unified currency seem distant, if not utterly implausible.

In an interview with the Financial Times, O’Neill openly criticized the effectiveness of BRICS meetings, stating, “BRICS had never achieved anything at meetings”. Responding to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other politicians' calls for a “trading currency”, he remarked, “It’s just ridiculous...

It’s embarrassing almost”.

A Shaky Foundation

Tracing back to 2001, O'Neill originally coined the term BRIC to underscore the burgeoning economic prowess of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. His aim was to emphasize the need for an overhaul in global political governance, ensuring these nations had an elevated seat at the decision-making table.

However, the addition of South Africa and the interest of other Asian and African countries in joining the bloc has diluted its primary mission, in O’Neill’s view. While the group has flourished as a symbol of shifting global power, its tangible achievements remain questionable.

O’Neill, currently a senior adviser at UK think-tank Chatham House, highlighted this perspective, saying, “Quite what they attempt to achieve beyond powerful symbolism, I don’t know”. Furthermore, internal disagreements pose another obstacle.

O’Neill pointed out the continual tension between China and India, suggesting that the West benefits from their lack of consensus. If these two behemoths ever aligned their interests, the supremacy of the dollar might face serious challenges.

He further advised Chinese policymakers to set aside historical disputes, encouraging collaboration with India on paramount issues, asserting, “...then the world might take you a bit more seriously”. As the BRICS nations continue to strive for unity and power on the global stage, the road ahead is undoubtedly fraught with challenges.

Whether they can overcome internal disputes and establish tangible achievements remains to be seen. But for now, the notion of a shared currency remains a contentious and elusive dream.

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