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BRICS leads in Ukraine and cost of living crisis

Published Jun 30, 2022


Wesley Seale

Just after filling my car’s tank recently, a text went through to my brothers: “just cost me R900 to fill my tank.”

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The stop at the garage was followed by a pop-in at the local supermarket. Bottle of juice, half-a-dozen eggs, a block of cheese, two tomatoes and three rolls cost me a whopping R100.

The cost of living has certainly risen rapidly in the last few months.

Inflation, in South Africa, is said to be its highest in five years at 6.5 percent. In Britain it has gone into double digits already and sits at eleven percent.

The world is in a cost of living crisis and no doubt the people who bear the brunt of this crisis the most are the poor, working and middle classes.

According to former British prime minister Gordon Brown, leadership is needed. Brown led the global efforts in 2008/9 after the worst global economic crisis we have seen in generations.

It is in this context that the leadership provided by Chinese President Xi Jinping this past week at the XIV BRICS summit has been crucial and comes at a critical time.

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While playing host to this year’s summit, President Xi Jinping opened the gathering indicating that: “Our world today is living through accelerating changes unseen in a century and continued spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. They confront humanity with unprecedented challenges and usher in a new phase of instability and transformation for global development.”

As a result, BRICS can play a strategic role in mitigating the devastating impact of the cost of living crisis on emerging economies.

In order to give hope and spread a bit of optimism, President Xi Jinping also reminded the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa of the Chinese proverb that says: ‘True gold can stand the test of fire.’

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Needless to mention that many commentators will point to the conflict in Ukraine as the cause of this cost of living crisis; if not the only cause. Yet this would be foolish.

In the dusk days of Covid-19, the results of protectionism in some Western economies and the irrational isolation of oil-producing countries such as Iran, the cost of living crisis was inevitable. The conflict in Ukraine has only exacerbated the already delicate global economy.

Even more so, as President Xi Jinping pointed out “…our world today is overshadowed by the dark clouds of Cold War mentality and power politics, and beset by constantly emerging traditional and non-traditional security threats”.

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Consequently, “…some countries,” continued the Chinese president, “attempt to expand military alliances to seek absolute security, stoke bloc-based confrontation by coercing other countries into picking sides, and pursue unilateral dominance at the expense of others’ rights and interests. If such dangerous trends are allowed to continue, the world will witness even more turbulence and insecurity”.

The summit eventually agreed and supported the talks between Russia and Ukraine.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s welcome at the BRICS Summit showed “disconnect with the West.” In fact, we may add, the BRICS summit shows the disconnect and just how irrelevant the G7, which expelled Russia because of Crimea, has become.

Gordon Brown is right, the world needs leadership. However, where he may be mistaken is who those leaders should be.

As we have seen with the conflict in Ukraine, we can no longer trust Western leaders to lead but instead the world does look East, and especially to BRICS leaders, to get the cost of food, petrol and living down.

For his PhD, Seale studied Sino-SA relations before and during BRICS.

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