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Solidarity Statement from India
At People’s Dialogue, Cape Town on 31 March 2019
In response to BRICS-led New Development Bank’s 4th Annual General Meeting in South Africa
The BRICS led NDB (New Development Bank) is being promoted as an institution that serves as developing economies’ healthy and essential alternative to undemocratic International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Finance Corporation that are controlled by western powers. We reject such rhetoric and assert that the $100 billion NDB is designed and structured to function equally undemocratically. NDB invests in projects that do not conform with necessary environmental and social safeguards. Consequently, billions of dollars invested by NDB in critical sectors such as energy, road building and urbanization is causing extensive environmental and social impacts. We know, as a result, South Africa, a huge recipient of NDB loans, has become a site for corporate land grabs which is resulting in massive loss of livelihoods and displacement of rural and urban communities, along with rampant corruption. The prime examples of these as we understand are Eskom, Transnet and the Development Bank of Southern Africa who are among the most notorious of South Africa’s corrupt, climate-change-causing and non-consultative firms.
IFIs have systematically disrupted evolution of democratic governance forcing Governments to implement regressive policies, legislation and schemes, commodify and financialise land, essential services and food production systems, which attack environment, food security and labour. They are gaining significant access to sovereign decision-making processes. They operated with legal immunity until recently when the US Supreme Court issued a judgement in the suit filed by Indian fishing communities against IFC that IFC is not above law. This immunity had always encouraged them to finance projects without a proper appraisal of their environmental and social impacts, and due diligence of their financial and economic consequences. IFIs typically invest in massive projects in critical sectors. A slew of such highly destructive and economically disastrous mega projects in India include Industrial corridors – Bharatmala (roads and highways expansion project), Sagarmala (creating sea-routes linked to tens of new ports), bullet train, and smart cities. The massive scales of such projects have little to do with need and necessity. Very often, a network of transnational corporations are the beneficiaries of the massive contracts that ensue. We understand it’s a way of making money out of money. The result of such development is systemic human rights violations, social disruption, and environmental destruction. And, these mega projects typically end up in massive financial losses and lead to devastating economic instability in regional and national economies. Communities in farms, coastal areas and cities are uprooted in the process, accentuating impoverishment and unemployment at massive scales. People end up burdened with crippling debts merely to survive.
Further, outsourcing the formulation of critical policies of a country relating to labour, food security, defence, water, land, farming, etc., to a variety of think-tanks and foreign consultancies work to maximise corporate control over peoples’ lives and natural resources. Institutions of democracy and decision-making of a country, such as the Parliament, are kept in the dark and global financial powers are making deep forays into sovereign decision making. Moreover, the aggressive privatisation of essential services such as electricity, water, health, food supply, public transport and education, is causing a rapid escalation of the living cost of the majority population.
Communities on the frontlines of resistance to mega undemocratic and destructive projects are facing extreme forms of violence and terror and becoming victims of systemic abuse of executive power of the State. Instead of responding to popular and people’s genuine demands, when farmers, Adivasis, Dalits and workers organise to demand just action by the State, they have often been met with state repression. The present social upheaval in India and a range of arrests of dissenters, writers, cultural and social activists across India based on fabricated cases are indicative of increasing repression.
Social movements and peoples organisations representing Adivasis, Dalits, indigenous peoples, women, farmers, fisherfolk, forest workers, hawkers, artisans, unorganised workers and civil society from across India, together with solidarity groups from India resolve that undemocratic International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have no role in a democratic polity, and therefore need to be shut down. These institutions, including NDB, trample on peoples’ rights, disregard national sovereignty, tear into the very fabric of constitutionally guaranteed governance and thus undermine India’s economic and political security.
We pledge in solidarity with the peoples’ movements, communities and civil society groups of South Africa, at this occasion of People’s Dialogue at Cape Town, to resolve to tirelessly work against subordination of governments to corporate power, against exploitation of human and natural resources, against discrimination, against social, economic and environmental injustices, against corruption, loot and violence.
We will continue resisting the prevailing financial hegemony of undemocratic and unaccountable financial institutions such as the BRICS-led NDB. We resolve to push for people-centred alternatives in all sectors of the economy and to advance an inclusive model of development in which finance and infrastructure support the vulnerable and the poor communities.
We continue remaining dedicated to building a society based on democratic and secular principles that ensure freedom, equality, equity, dignity, fraternity, love and respect for all
We continue remaining dedicated to building a society based on democratic and secular principles that ensure freedom, equality, equity, dignity, fraternity, love and respect for all, deeply respecting Mother Earth’s rights.
- Medha Patkar, Social Activist, Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People’s Movements
- Ashok Choudhary, All India Union of Forest Working People
- Saktiman Ghosh, National Hawkers Federation
- Ulka Mahajan, Social Activist, Sarvahara Jan Andolan
- Xavier Dias, Former Editor, Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR (Mines minerals & RIGHTS)
- Peter, National Fishworkers Forum
- Working Group on IFIs, India
- FAN-India – Financial Accountability Network India
- Rajendra Ravi, Director, Institute for Democracy and Sustainability
- Sreedhar Ramamurthy., Environics Trust
- PT George, Intercultural Resources, Delhi
- Gautam Bandyopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha and Peoples Alliance in Central East India
- Vimal Bhai, Convenor, Matu Jan Sangathan and National Convenor, National Alliance of People’s Movements
- Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
- Vijayan MJ, Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy
- Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group
- Anil Tharayath Varghese, Delhi Forum
- Usman Mangi, Machimar Adhikar Sangarsh Samiti
- Kalyani Menon-Sen, Independent Researcher and Feminist Activist
- Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements
- Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan
- Sanjeev Kumar, Dalit-Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch – DASAM
- Tani Alex, Centre for Financial Accountability
- Ajay Kumar Jha, Pairvi- Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India
- Priya Pillai, Social Environmental Activist
- Vidya Dinker, Social Activist, Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddhi Vedike
- Ovais Sultan Khan, Human Rights Activist
- Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Parmanu Virodhi Sagarsh Samiti
- Willy D’Costa, INSAF – Indian Social Action Forum
- Linda Chhakchhuak, Grassroots Options – Independent Journalist
- Krishnakant, Activist, Pariyavaran Suraksha Samiti Gujarat
- C. Ramachandraiah, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad
- Meera Sangamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements
- Vijay Kumar, Social and Political Activist, CPI-ML Red Star Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
- Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective
- Chennaiah Poguri, General Secretary of AP VV Union India and National Agricultural Workers Forum
- Maglin P., Activist, Theeradesha Mahila Vedi Kerala
- Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikar Sangarsh Sangathan Gujarat
- Awadesh Kumar, Srijan Lokhit Samiti Madhya Pradesh
- Ram Wangkheirakpam, Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
- Rajesh Serupally, Freelance Researcher and Journalist
By Tani Alex
For those closely looking at the trajectories of IFIs, especially the current trends of the New Development Bank (NDB) or the BRICS Bank, well, it’s all pancakes and fritters with news of NDB and BRICS Xiamen Summit all around.
The Bank, with 11 projects of over $1.5 billion already in their sack within a span of two years of their establishment, is targeting to lend $2.5-3 billion this year for ‘sustainable infrastructure’ ventures. In the last few weeks, BRICS witnessed saw a host of activities: NDB’s first regional centre opened in Johannesburg, South Africa; the interim sense of political ease happened between India and China on the Dokhlam issue just a few days before the Summit; the bloc again reinforced south-south cooperation by declaring to focus on the projects in Africa and Latin-America; their first project-financed firm commenced operations at Shanghai Lingang Distributed Solar Power Project (100 MW).
Now that the BRICS teammates have officially drawn the curtains at the finale this week at Xiamen, in their perpetual quest to overturn the western economic order, what were their projected takeaways placed side by side with their subtle agendas?
For our ease, let’s start with the first letter in the acronym coined by Jim O’ Neill of Goldman Sachs. Brazil, slouched under the pressure of staggering recovery from recession and joblessness, urged for economic cooperation in global markets.
Russia wanted to sign an intergovernmental agreement for international information security and did not hesitate to mention its initiative to establish an energy research platform for joint energy investment. They were also candidly advocating against global trade protectionism and for an open multilateral trade system.
Back here, India insisted on a medley of items—stronger cooperation in the financial sector and investment in private entrepreneurship to cater to the financial needs of ‘sovereign and corporate’ entities. Tenacious partnership with International Solar Alliance, birthed by both India and France, was also emphasised upon for ‘mutual gains’ through a comprehensive solar energy utilisation (read further exploitation of land resources for solar parks). Further India displayed vanity in having discovered digital economy as the tool for spurring economic growth and to attack corruption through demonetisation. While the World Bank and International Monetary Fund lauded this move, the citizens, independent experts, and local and international media criticised the reckless experiment thrust down to the country. In fact, RBI’s Financial Year report also indicated towards the monumental failure of the senseless decision. Media reports clamour on the resolution of the member nations to together fight corruption with a dedicated Anti-Corruption Working Group. Well, wait, did we hear anti-corruption? Does this also apply to the leaders of these nations as well, or to the higher management of their extolled NDB? We are reminded of Oscar Wilde, who said that the only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
With the newly-begun construction of NDB headquarters in Shanghai last week and the sprouting AIIB with 80 members in its kitty, China, which who chaired this year’s Summit, did not miss time in laying bare its agenda – promoting its star project Belt Road Initiative (BRI), which linked its vital China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well. During the Summit, China did not address its differences with India, which boycotted the BRI meeting earlier in May.
Further, China reiterated the idea of ‘BRICS Plus’ to invite more emerging developing economies to expand BRICS. Towards this end, China also invited leaders of Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan, and Thailand for dialogues on south-south cooperation and global development. It looks like China is on a high to alter the prevailing financial order and form a new open economic order, while critics point towards China’s discriminatory policies and trade barriers to favour local economy.
South Africa, the chair for next year’s Summit, elated by the opening of NDB’s regional centre, shared a concerted approach against global terrorism, while also listing out its goal of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 Africa Union. Interestingly NDB’s only project in South Africa, a $180 million renewable energy project with Eskom, was rejected by the Government. When asked about the rejection, NDB’s Vice-President Leslie Maardop explained that the economic slowdown in the country melted the demand for electricity bringing it to a dip and that South Africa did not need new power supplies.
Let’s also quickly glance at other developments of this week, encapsulated here. The idea of BRICS credit ranking agency, which was pushed by India in Goa last year, was discussed again. Further, resilience and the ability of central banks of member nations to foster cooperation between Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and IMF was stressed by India. It is interesting to note here that earlier we were made to believe that CRA is an arrangement competitive to IMF and that it did not require dollar denominated IMF backing?
Another curious development during this Summit was the discussion to develop BRICS’ crypto currency, in line with its earlier agreement on lending in local currencies and settlement mechanisms. One wonders, why did the countries, especially China and India, ignore the foresightedness of their central banks, which recently cautioned against virtual currencies?
In retrospect, every year there are tall claims and forged partnerships under the façade of bilateral and multilateral talks among the BRICS members. However, it seems that no member country has given any deliberate and honest assurances pertaining to the human development—not in the parameters of amassing wealth, expanding economic markets or filling the ‘gap’ in infrastructure development alone, but that kind of an integrated growth which carefully avoids human exploitation, political manipulation, natural and human resource extraction, and devastation of natural environments.