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Bond, Patrick (2015) BRICS banking and the debate over sub-imperialism. Paper for presentation to the University of Cape Town School of Economics, version forthcoming in Third World Quarterly, 2016 : 1-24.

Notionally funded at $100 billion each, the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and New Development Bank (NDB) represent ‘sub-imperial’ finance, insofar as by all indications they fit into – instead of providing alternatives to – the prevailing world systems of sovereign debt and project credits. If in Africa, for example, the biggest project now underway – Inga Hydropower on the Congo River – is anticipated to cost $100 billion alone and the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa requires $93 billion in funding for new projects annually, vast sums could be lent. As for repayment, however, all such opportunities look much less attractive once lenders factor in the 2011-15 crash of commodity prices mainly due to slowing Chinese demand. This is just one reason for the negation of the prior years of ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric. Balance of payments constraints for BRICS members will not be relieved by the CRA, which requires an International Monetary Fund intervention after just 30 percent of the quota is borrowed. In this context, the NDB would appear much closer to the Bretton Woods Institution model promoting frenetic extractivist calculations based on US dollar financing (hence more pressure to export), than to the opposite Bank of the South model whose core mandate by founder Hugo Chavez was to finance basic needs goods in a rational manner, using local currencies. The inability of African civil society to so far grasp the dangers is of concern, yet prolific protests against extractivism amidst a larger ‘Africa upRising’ do offer grounds for optimism that both imperialist and sub-imperialist development finance will not prove viable in coming years.

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