Zwelinzima Vavi

Major labour formations from the Brics member countries have “cautiously” welcomed the proposed formation of a Brics development bank.

The unions, which met in Durban from the weekend, said they were cautious because they believed such a bank should “take a different form” from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Labour federations represented at the meeting included Cosatu, the All China Confederation of Trade Unions, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the Central Única dos Trabalhadores of Brazil.

The unions said the Brics bank should be markedly different from the IMF and World Bank as its focus should be development.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the IMF and the World Bank had used lending conditions to “beat countries to submit to neo-liberalism”.

“What is happening in Cyprus should serve as a good example of what Brics should not be. (Brics) cannot impose a one-size-fits all solution,” he said, referring to the Cypriot financial crisis.

The unions believe the bank should finance development in member countries and would be crucial in addressing poverty and inequality.

A decision to establish the bank is expected to be among the major outcomes of the fifth Brics summit, which begins in Durban later today, with delegates from the member countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The summit is expected to finalise details for the bank’s formation, including its funding. One proposal is that each member country contribute $10 billion (R93bn) in seed funding for the bank.

The unionists said yesterday that such a bank would have to be publicly funded.

Asked whether the labour formations had any preference on where the bank should be located, Vavi said a proposal made in one commission was that it should be in the most underdeveloped country in Brics.

“But we don’t think it’s a matter of life and death where the bank is located. If it is located in South Africa that would be good for South Africa,” Vavi said.

The South African government has expressed a willingness to host the bank, but ANC national executive committee member and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni has been quoted as saying that this would be a costly exercise.

The unions said they would submit their proposals to the South African government with the hope that these would find their way into the summit.

They decried not being represented at the summit, saying this was not right as business would be represented.

“We are out of the party as workers,” Vavi said.

“We are somehow outsiders as we have no direct representation at the summit while business are insiders. Workers cannot be excluded from such processes.”

The unions said in their declaration: “We emphasise in one voice the need for the effective and full participation of the working class in all institutions of Brics.

“Only in that way will Brics be different from existing multilateral institutions.”

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