BRICS boost foreign aid spending on health

NEW DELHI Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:45pm IST

A man walks past a signage decoration for the BRICS summit outside Sheraton Hotel, the venue for the third BRICS summit in Sanya, Hainan province April 14, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

A man walks past a signage decoration for the BRICS summit outside Sheraton Hotel, the venue for the third BRICS summit in Sanya, Hainan province April 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Spending on foreign aid by the world's main emerging economies is growing rapidly at a time when traditional donors in the West are struggling to keep up funding for global health and development programmes, a health charity said on Monday.

Some of the so-called BRICS countries, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have traditionally received aid, but fast economic growth over the past decade is turning them into new donors to the world's poor.

China and Brazil are leading the pack, increasing aid spending by more than 20 percent from 2005 to 2010, the GIS Initiatives global health charity said in a report.

India, Russia and South Africa's aid budget increased by 11, 36 and 8 percent respectively over the same period.

"The BRICS are contributing significant new resources to global health and development efforts," said David Gold, co-founder of GHS Initiatives.

"Just as importantly, they are establishing new models for cooperation that challenge the way we think about foreign assistance," Gold said.

For example, Brazil's 1996 commitment to provide universal access to effective HIV treatment influenced global policies on access to medicine. China has been a leader on malaria treatment in Africa, while South Africa is pioneering the introduction of molecular diagnostics for tuberculosis.

But experts say that while the BRICS are spending more on foreign aid than ever before, it still amounts to a drop in the ocean compared with what Western donors are giving.

In 2010, the five BRICS countries disbursed a total of $6.4 billion in foreign aid, the group said. By comparison, the United States spent $31 billion on aid in the same year.

GHS Initiatives said while the BRICS face significant development problems of their own, they are key to supporting health care for the world's poor due to their low-cost production of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for treatment of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, polio and tuberculosis.

Leaders of the five BRICS countries are due to meet in New Delhi on Thursday and will discuss an Indian initiative to establish a development bank billed as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

But privately, Indian officials have played down the chances of a BRICS development bank being set up any time soon, partly because of disagreement over China's role.

China is by far the largest donor in the group and would expect to lead any joint development efforts, with its spending on aid in 2010 estimated at $3.9 billion.

(Reporting By Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Nita Bhalla and Robert Birsel)

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