BRICS members need to find their purpose again, O'Neill says

Updated: 2016-10-04 17:22


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BRICS members need to find their purpose again, O'Neill says

File photo of Jim O'Neill [Photo/China Daily]

BRICS countries need to find their collective purpose again, given that some economies are weak, says Jim O'Neill, who coined the acronym BRIC in 2001 to describe Brazil, Russia, India and China as potential growth powerhouses. South Africa was added nine years later to make it BRICS.

"They need to find their collective purpose and really maintain the collective vision," the former UK Treasury minister told China Daily in an exclusive interview marking the 15th anniversary of the coining of the acronym.

Brazil, Russia and South Africa are in recession, with many questioning their BRICS status.

"Even though they have got problems, they are still key parts of the global economy. They need to be involved in global governance, so the importance of the BRICS is not diminished by the fact that they are in recession," he argued.

The former Goldman Sachs chief economist said: "In the 15-year context people also need to remember, in the first decade after I created the acronym, all the BRICS countries grew much more than I said, so even though Brazil and Russia particularly have been disappointing, the collective size is pretty similar to what I said it would be. Very importantly, so far this decade China is growing by more than I assumed."

O'Neill believes China can play a key role because it is so big-twice the size of the other four economies combined.

He thinks BRICS economies can reinforce cooperation by undertaking collective investments in environmentally friendly and alternative energies consistent with climate challenges, particularly now China has signed the climate change agreement.

O'Neill, who chairs a formal review into antimicrobial resistance, said BRCIS countries can also take a collective position in that area.

The challenges facing economies are many, but he said BRICS countries should consider sensible shared infrastructure projects.

"Take China's Belt and Road Initiative for example, which touches three out of five BRICS countries. One could conceive of all the BRICS countries' investment banks maybe playing a role in Belt and Road infrastructure efforts. That would be a significant opportunity for them to do things together, which would help strengthen their economies and the world economy," he said.

He described 2016 as a landmark year for China with it hosting the G20 Leaders Summit.

"I like the focus they brought to try to improve the global economy and global governance," he said. "In some way, the best part of the G20 was endorsing China's status as an important part of the world economy."

O'Neill recently resigned as a Treasury minister amid reported tensions over new Prime Minister Theresa May's approach to China and the UK's Northern Powerhouse project.

In the past year, he has been involved in the project with attempts to bring in Chinese investment. O'Neill, who was born in Manchester, said he remains passionate and eager to play a role.

And he hopes Sino-UK relations will remain strong under May's leadership.

"Obviously, I played my own role in developing so-called golden relations, which was very exciting, and I think it is very important for the UK, especially post-Brexit, that we develop stronger trade links with key drivers of the world economy, and obviously China is one of them."