The Sao Paulo stock exchange
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill, whose pen gave birth to the concept of the BRICs —the constellation of emerging economic powers Brazil, Russia, India, and China (and now including South Africa) — said the countries’ combined growth had “exceeded all expectations.” Noted O’Neill, “in slightly over a decade the group’s GDP has grown from approximately $3 billion to $13 billion. The BRIC countries have the potential to avert a global recession and to grow faster than the rest of the world and to pull all of us along with them as a (growth) engine.”

As each of the BRIC economies has grown their combined economic strength has made an impact on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows — both inward and outward. Indeed, they have helped to alter the map of global investment.

(photo: Chesilu)

A recent report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) vividly illustrates this shift. “Since 2010,” it says, “developing and transition economies have absorbed more than half of global FDI inflows, and in 2012, FDI flows to developing economies exceeded those to developed countries for the first time ever—with US$130 billion more.”

The numbers tell the story of a collection of emerging nations that have evolved into a growth engine even while the global economy has sputtered, as I discussed in a post last week. In the past decade “FDI inflows to BRICS more than tripled to an estimated US$263 billion in 2012.” Even financial crisis and recession did not hit the BRICS as hard: flows fell by 30 percent in 2009 compared to 40 percent for the developed world. And the recovery also arrived in faster order: the BRICS’ share of global FDI reached 20 percent in 2012, “up from 6 percent in 2000.”

Serious heft

As the foreign dollars have piled up the investment dollars have poured out and the BRICS have become global investors of significant financial heft. Outbound foreign investment from the BRICS grew from “$7 billion in 2000 to $126 billion in 2012, rising from 1 percent of world flows to 9 percent.” Most notable among the investment stories is the growth of BRICS investment in Africa—and not simply in primary goods such as minerals or petroleum, but in the services and manufacturing sectors. In 2012 BRICS foreign investment accounted for a quarter of Africa’s inflows. According to UNCTAD, “the rise of FDI in manufacturing, which has positive consequences for job creation and industrial growth, is becoming an important facet of South–South economic cooperation.”

All of the BRICS minus Brazil now count “among the top investing countries in Africa on FDI stock and flows.” And even while the numbers are smaller, Brazil has had an impact on investment in Africa. The Brazilian Development Bank has helped to fuel the growth of the ethanol industry in countries including Angola and Mozambique. And other Brazilian banks have helped to fund housing developments.

As the BRICS continue to invest in Africa their funds raise important questions for policymakers and investors alike. Among them, as UNCTAD asks, is “what policies by BRICS could favor investment in Africa in sectors that can make a particular contribution to productive capacity building and employment generation?” And how can BRICS investors best link to local firms through supply chains and local procurement? These questions and more are sure to confront both business and the public sector as the BRICS become ever more central to global investment flows.

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Ideas

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

The work of 13th-century poet Rumi still resonsates today

Mihir Chitre

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.


In a world where Islam is a popular villain and lots of terrible acts across the world in the name of the religion have fueled this notion among the West and among people from other religions, it's paramount that we understand the difference between religion as a personal or spiritual concept and religion as an institution, a cage, a set of laws created to control us.

Why do you stop praying?

To begin with, and largely due to the film Rockstar, the most famous Rumi quote known to Indians goes like this: "Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there's a field. I'll meet you there."

Rumi's original Persian verse, however, uses the words kufr (meaning infidelity) and Imaan (meaning religion), which was translated as "wrongdoing" and "rightdoing." To me, the original verse surpasses the translation with a vital, often missed, often deliberately forgotten, interpretation, which is to highlight the fact that there is humanity, love and compassion or a certain kind of mystical quality to life beyond the concept of religion and that is the ultimate place, the place where Rumi invites us to meet him.

It would be incorrect now to read this and think of Rumi as irreligious. In fact, he was quite the opposite. But his interpretation of religion was personal, spiritual and not institutional or communal or exhibitionist.

In one of his poems, translated by Coleman Banks as "Love Dogs" in English, a man who has stopped praying to God because he never got a response meets "Khidr," an angel messenger, in his dream:

Why did you stop praising (or praying)?

Because I've never heard anything back.

This longing you express is the return message.

To me, through this poem, it's clear that Rumi advocates for a personal relationship with God. In fact, he goes on to say that being true to God is to long for his validation or nod, that life is longing.

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevl\u00e2na Museum in Konya, Turkey

A copy of Rumi's spiritual couplets at the Mevlâna Museum in Konya, Turkey — Photo: Georges Jansoone/Wikimedia

Don't sweep the history of Islam with the broom of radicalism

For those familiar with the European literature of the 20th century, I could say that this echoes the ideas of Samuel Beckett. But remember: Rumi lived 800 years ago, at the heart of what we call the "Muslim world." To equate Islam on the whole with repressiveness and hostility, as many of us do today, might just be a criminal contradiction then.

It's also interesting to note that after the Quran, Rumi's is probably the most widely read work in the Islamic world, which suggests that Rumi's ideas, which may sound too progressive for anyone remotely associated with Islam in today's world, have, in fact, been accepted and cherished by the Islamic world for centuries. Sweeping the whole history of the Islamic world with the broom of radicalism wouldn't then be the fairest assessment of either the religion or of radicalism.

This physical world has no two things alike.
Every comparison is awkwardly rough.
You can put a lion next to a man,
but the placing is hazardous to both.

(From the poem: "An Awkward Comparison")

It's tragic that the Taliban has ravaged the same place with their own power-hungry, totalitarian interpretation of the religion which once produced a mind that embraces it with wide arms of warmth and peace and refuses to be compared with other followers of the same.

How to cure bad habits?

It is vital for us to separate groupism or communalism, which often escalates to barbarism, from the thought it is based on. It is vital then to read and reread that what Rumi sees as religion is the private association with God. It is also vital to mark the emphasis on individuality in Rumi's thought.

All the Western ideas of liberalism are based on the idea of individuality, which in turn is based on post-renaissance European thought. Asian philosophy is contrasted with its Western counterpart in the fact that it is rooted in mysticism as opposed to individuality.

Islam itself has long had a tradition of mysticism that is known as Sufism. Sufism is a sort of an inward dimension of Islam, a practice that encourages a direct, personal connection with the divine, a spiritual proximity to the omniscient that transcends the physical world and temporarily subverts immediate reality.

Sufism is the quest for the truth of love and knowledge, without necessarily always distinguishing between the two. Rumi was known as the Mevlana (Maulana) and his poetic collection Masnavi meaning "the spiritual couplets" is known as the Persian Quran. He was no doubt a mystic, a Sufi, and one who strongly endorsed the personal, for the most intimately individual is the truly spiritual.

Rumi might remain unparalleled in not just the Islamic world but also in the world of philosophy and poetry across the globe. Another thing that he will remain is dead. The Taliban, on the other hand, at least for now, looks rampant and alive.

It is now up to us, the other people who are alive, and the ones who are going to be born — not just Muslims but everyone else as well — to choose which interpretation of Islam we uphold or react to, how we read history, and what we borrow from it.

How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits? Send me back to you.

(From the poem: "My Worst Habit")

I think what we, as a world, need now more than ever is to be sent back to Rumi.

https://thewire.in/culture/re-reading-rumi-in-the-time-of-the-taliban
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