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BRICS: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO DEVELOPMENT?

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In recent years development has been shaped by new actors. BRICS have emerged as major world players, with China leading the way. The aid landscape is always shaped by the newfound importance of countries, in this case the BRICS that tend to express their power through the rise of foreign assistance programmes. The BRICS entered in the aid framework as a block of emerging countries with fast growing economies that gained influence and shaped development with more flexible and creative programs. Their entrance increased the basket of aid but its main contribution goes beyond quantity. They brought a new refreshing perspective of aid as well as well as innovation, investment but most of all their domestic experience. Most of the BRICS are still developing countries in the traditional sense, which means that they are combating extreme poverty, hunger and disease at home as well as in their aid programmes. This is the main characteristic that sets them apart from traditional donors and philanthropic mega-foundations.

But although they are commonly treated as a block if we look at aid numbers from the specific countries they show very disparate behaviours. China increased exponentially its foreign assistance reaching around $4bn in 2010. But if South Africa has slightly increased aid (to around $143m) mainly to the African continent, instead Russia is a strange anomaly acting more as a former superpower than an aid provider with a relatively small aid budget of the size of Greece. On the other hand India`s spectacular growth prospects for 2016 will surely increase its influence pushing it´s small aid budget of the size of Portugal’s into a larger one. There is great expectation in 2016 from India`s contribution to development as it leads the way in developing world health responses. With a $1bn research and development programme and its huge generic drugs industry it has self-declared as the “pharmacy of the world’s poor”, already satisfying 70% of domestic demand and manufacturing 80% of all donor-funded HIV therapies sent to developing countries as well as 60%-80% of vaccines procured by UN agencies. Brazil emerged growing its research and development budget by 13.5% year on year, that still minor by western standards has great potential particularly on social interventions that are designed for developing country situations and therefore more easily transferable to other developing countries. Brazil may also lead health policies due to it´s in-country experiences facing challenging contagious diseases such as malaria, dengue and now zika.

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