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The Agenda of G20 Summit 2017

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Amid clashes between police and protesters, the top advanced nations known as Group of 20, or simply ‘G-20’ summit is getting underway on 7-8 July in the German port city of Hamburg with terrorism, global trade and climate change among the major issues on the agenda. From Paris Climate Accord to North Korean Nuclear threat, US-Russian ties to Indo-China strain, this G20 summit will witness the global superpowers in their worst, trying to make their best.

Germany’s G20 Presidency with three main focuses: Ensuring stability; improving viability for the future and Accepting responsibility.

 The city of Hamburg has boosted its police with reinforcements from around the country and has 20,000police officers on hand to patrol Hamburg’s streets, skies and waterways. The meeting follows skirmishes between police and protesters elsewhere in Germany’s second-biggest city. Police said that at least 76 officers were hurt, one of whom had to be taken to a hospital with an eye injury after a firework exploded in front of him. On Friday morning, dozens of protesters attempted to block cars from accessing the summit, being held at the trade fair grounds in downtown Hamburg, but they were quickly thwarted by police. Further away in the city’s Altona district, police said people set several parked cars alight and attacked a police station, though the situation quickly calmed down.

 The G-20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Also attending the summit are the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Guinea, Senegal, Singapore and Vietnam.

 The G20 is the main forum for international cooperation among the 20 leading industrialized nations and emerging economies in the fields of finance and economics. The G20 nations are together home to almost two thirds of the world’s population, as well as generating more than four fifths of global GDP, and accounting for three quarters of global trade.

 The host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, says she hopes to find “compromises and answers” on a range of issues at the two-day meeting of leading industrial and developing nations. The G20 finance ministers will be focusing on achieving progress on the stricter regulation of financial markets, especially in the field of shadow banking.

In the run up to the G20 summit, numerous line minister meetings were held, in order to explore individual G20 issues in greater depth. Between January and May 2017, ministers responsible for finance, foreign affairs, labor affairs, health, agriculture and digital policy met. As was the case during the G7 Presidency, Angela Merkel met with representatives of civil society between March and June 2017; several dialogues took place, including events for the business community (Business20), non-governmental organisations (Civil20), trade unions (Labour20), the science and research community (Science20), think tanks (Think20), women (Women20) and youth (Youth20). The civil society organisations themselves are responsible for these meeting as well as for recommendations for Presidency, which will pick up on relevant G20 issues.

The G20 Summit, being hosted this year on July 7 and July 8 in Germany, which will see the coming together of 20 of the World’s biggest economies to discuss, debate and resolve various issue of global and continental importance. Many of the G20 nations have developed differences ranging from environmental issues to prevailing tensions or war-like situations, and are expected to use this platform to at least find a resolution acceptable to all.

While main issues to focus, given the global-political scenario, can be broadly divided into two general categories, primarily as Environmental and Political, here we will look at these in a bit detailed fashion. While the G20 Summit in its definition aims to strengthen the resilience of the global financial system and proper regulation of all financial markets, it also organizes bilateral talks among the members to discuss and if needed resolve differences, at the disposal of the two nations involved. The first meeting was hosted by Germany as well after the formation of the group in 1999.

Among the nations which are expected to directly take part in this metaphorical intervention of President Trump are British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. While May will reportedly express Britain’s full commitment towards the Paris agreement and in her one-on-one talks with him will stress how the accord should not be renegotiated, Chancellor Merkel who said that the US’s withdrawal from the agreement was ‘extraordinarily regrettable’ said that her sentiments will remain similar to what it was during her last meet with Trump.

The decision to exit the European Union is irreversible now and it has been accepted by all, citizens of Britain and the European Union alike. Given that this decision to exit the Union by Britain, popularly called BREXIT, will have obvious impact upon the economical set-up and future of both Britain and the Union, G20, which is primarily an economic platform might resolve a few issues which they may encounter. While it is true that the main focus might not be upon the BREXIT phenomenon, but ignoring the economic decisions might not be possible for either of the parties here.

 Top Issues likely to dominate Geopolitics at Hamburg would be as follows:

Stability of the global economy

Germany is happy to assume the G20 Presidency as of 1 December, and to host the G20 summit in July, declared Chancellor Angela Merkel in a video podcast on the German G20 Presidency. She cited the stability of the global economy as the “top issue”. a number of issues “related to development” will be given a very high profile, in particular fighting pandemics.

Ensuring stable and resilient national economies

The first pillar involves strengthening stable environments for the global economy and the financial system, but also promoting dynamic economic growth. Structural reforms are the lynchpin here. Germany’s G20 Presidency will continue cooperation on international financial and fiscal issues, employment, and trade and investment. The aim is to strengthen free and fair trade around the globe. The German government will also be working for sustainable global supply chains.

Fit for the future

Germany not only aims to ensure the stability of the global economy, but also, and this is the second pillar, to make it more fit for the future. One main concern is to make progress on realising the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

It is every bit as important to discuss viable energy and climate strategies for the future. And the growing importance of digitalization for the global economy will play a prominent part in the discussions of the G20. To be fit for the future will also mean improving health care. The worldwide fight against antimicrobial resistance is part of this, as are efforts to put in place the mechanisms to prevent the outbreak of pandemics. And empowering women in the economy, in particular improving the quality of women’s jobs, is on the agenda. Angela Merkel will be working to give women in developing countries easier access to information and communication technologies.

Accepting responsibility – especially for Africa

Germany also intends to strengthen the G20 as a community of responsibility – and that is the third pillar. A priority concern is to achieve sustainable economic progress in Africa. German Presidency aims to take concrete steps to improve people’s living conditions in the long term and to put in place a stable environment for investment. And it aims to promote infrastructure development on the African continent. In June a separate conference entitled “Partnership with Africa” will be held in Berlin. The G20 also aims to accept responsibility in other fields. Migration and refugee movements, the fight against terrorism, money laundering and corruption will also be addressed during Germany’s G20 Presidency.

The beef over Syria, North Korea and climate

 The issues which we can expect the nations to touch upon in this meet are the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, Britain’s drift from the European Union, Syria, North Korea nuclear tensions and although off the table, but possible mentions of the rising tension between India and China.

 The long standing issue of Syria and its future, threatened by, on one hand the Assad regime and its alleged atrocities on the people and the rebels on the other, and worsened by the presence of the Islamic State terrorists. While primarily it has been speculated and confirmed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that US President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will seek to find a common ground over Syria, the most important decision both countries may arrive could be regarding establishing no-fly zones and on the ground ceasefire norms.

The G20 and world at large looked at the decision of US President Donald Trump with an expression of predictable horror, when he declared that the USA will no longer be part of the Paris Climate agreement. While his decision was censured by citizens of the US and other nations alike, this G20 platform will be reportedly used by a couple of nations to show President Trump that in this issue, the USA is isolated from the rest and as Greenpeace Director Jennifer Morgan would say,’ The only game in town.’

Indian Hindutva agenda of anti-beef issue would not even be mentioned in the summit although such grave issues that are detrimental to normalcy and prosperity of a nation need to be debated and such nations promoting fanaticism as their key ploy as policy should be warned against the dangerous drama just for majority votes. . 

Will G20 achieve anything?

Like UN, the G20 and other such forums only promote multilateral trade and do not think about the future of poor nations and poor populations in real terms. World Bank and IMF impose economic measures to weaken the poor people. They and all governments promote ah and help  the rich and MNCs, corporate lords and their  wealthy trade outfits.

With the global political dynamics changing over the period of one year severely and more so in the last few months, perhaps the Summit is well-timed to resolve the differences which have visibly surfaced within several members and non-members of the G20 nations.

No one is sure about the outcomes as the US led Syria war is in the minds of every leader attending the summit.  While there’s little disagreement on fighting terrorism, prospects of finding common ground on climate change and trade look uncertain.

The illegal war in Syria led by USA and joined by Russia must be stopped and the remaining Syrians must be saved as the first action priority of G20 and UNSC.  Israel and India must be brought to negotiating tables to discuss the burning issue of reestablishment of Palestine and Kashmir as soverign nations as they had existed before.

Remaining Palestinians and Kashmiris must be saved. Only Big powers can make the genuine dreams of Palestinians and Kashmiris a reality as quickly as possible. 

However, since the veto powers control everything including the UN and G20, no one is yet sure if the communique that would be drafted at G20 would sternly warn the colonialist and imperialist powers destroying peace in the world, destroying climate, destroying poor people in every country, destroying nations and people; These should be warned against the crimes they perpetrate against humanity by attacking and killing the native people living in them.  Apart from helping the poor and weak nation in economy and development programs, the G20 should also make suitable recommendations to arrest the climatic change taking place globally that would make many island nations disappear from the face of our earth.

Looking forward to the best possible outcomes from the G20 summit in Germany!

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Economy

‘America First’ vs. Global Financial Stability

M Waqas Jan

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The recently concluded annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank group, held in Indonesia last weekend, has highlighted a series of concerning trends with regard to the global economy. It has subsequently left many considering the impacts of a possible global recession that may be looming ahead in the next of couple of years to come.  These fears were evident in the worldwide sell-off in global equities last Thursday that has been widely attributed to the IMF revising down its global growth forecast in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) report. The report highlighted growth in a number of developed economies as having plateaued, with rising trade tensions and policy uncertainty greatly contributing to the slow-down. This includes the ongoing trade war between the US and China, as well as the numerous uncertainties pervading within the Euro-Zone.

All of this has had a significant knock-on effect on emerging markets, including Pakistan which has already been struggling with massive fiscal and current account deficits amid rampant inflationary pressures.  With tensions between the United States and China still on the rise, Pakistan presents a notable example of how deteriorating global macro-economic conditions have been exacerbated by rising geo-political tensions between these two global powers.

For instance, it took Imran Khan’s fledgling government months to accept the reality of another IMF bailout (Pakistan’s 13th in the last 30 years) despite its $68 billion investment commitment with China. This is because the US, being the largest contributor of funds to the IMF has increasingly politicized this bailout in light of its own deteriorating relations with China.  In fact, the US has directly blamed China for Pakistan’s recent debt woes referring to what has been come to known as China’s ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’. The argument being that the massive loans being doled out by China to developing countries under its Belt & Road Initiative are leading to unsustainable debt levels, eroding their sovereignty while expanding China’s hold over them. Pakistan’s loan obligations to China as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor are presented as a case in point.

Despite both Pakistan’s and China’s protests to the contrary, it is widely expected that some of the IMF’s conditions attached to Pakistan’s requested bailout are thus likely to include greater scrutiny and revisions regarding the CPEC initiative. This is likely to form part of the US’s overall objective of limiting and constraining China’s influence over Pakistan and the wider region.  The impact this would have on Pakistan however is likely to prove critical considering its precarious economic as well as geo-political position. Not only would the IMF’s conditions limit the new government’s ability to maneuver its economy around an increasingly unstable world financial system; it would also delay the much needed infrastructure projects being planned and implemented under CPEC with Chinese assistance.  Therefore, the very purpose of the IMF bailout which is to provide some semblance of stability to Pakistan’s ailing economy, would embroil it deeper in uncertainty as a direct result of the US’s unilateral push against China.

It is worth noting here that during its annual meeting, the IMF clearly voiced its concerns regarding escalating trade tensions between the US and China. While calling for increased dialogue and a careful examination of debt induced risks across the world, the IMF seems to be warning both sides over the fragility of prevailing global economic conditions. At the same meeting, China too echoed these concerns and called for increased dialogue with the US to promote open trade and growth. As a country that has for the last few decades championed globalization, China’s vision of shared global growth and win-win partnerships in emerging markets such as Pakistan, have however been directly challenged by the US. A US, that is in contrast aggressively willing to defend the prevailing status quo, as part of President Trump’s mantra of ‘America First’. Hence it was no surprise that US representatives, in response to these concerns brought up by the IMF and China, have continued to downplay the risks of their policies on global economic stability.

With respect to China and numerous emerging markets such as Pakistan, the fact still remains that the world financial system is currently replete with risks and uncertainty as a direct result of US policy. All of this is occurring while the US President continues to boast about surging US equities and record employment figures as a direct outcome of these policies. While the US economy has experienced sustained growth since the 2008 financial crisis, markets and business cycles have a way of correcting themselves, especially when world leaders themselves point to overbought and overextended conditions.

If the US economy truly is on the cusp of a potential downturn, then present geo-political tensions are more than likely to exacerbate the impacts of an impending global recession. For Pakistan, with its precariously low foreign currency reserves and an unsustainable debt to GDP ratio, such a recession is likely to bring on even bigger problems than any of the potential cuts the IMF may propose on CPEC. Thus, while the US may limit China’s rise as an economic power in the short-term, it does so at the expense of emerging markets and global economic stability in the long-run. This lack of foresight is likely to hurt the US more as it realizes how economies cannot exist within a vacuum in an increasingly interdependent world.

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How to finance Asia’s infrastructure gap

Susantono Bambang

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Asia’s countries famously need to invest trillions of dollars a year to provide infrastructure required to keep traffic flowing, ports trading, and factories humming. Yet most countries in the region consistently fall short.

The 2017 Asian Development Bank (ADB) report “Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs” puts the infrastructure tab for 45 developing Asian countries at more than US$1.7 trillion per year. Developing Asia now invests only about $881 billion a year, or slightly more than 50 percent of that. This is the infrastructure gap.

Less well known, however, is that the investment shortfall is frequently not for a lack of funds or technology. The money may be available, particularly in the private sector, but not enough of it is going where Asia needs it. And this is because many developing countries lack the knowledge and capacity to design and implement bankable infrastructure projects that integrate new technologies.

To encourage private sector investment in infrastructure, high-quality bankable projects must adopt current levels of proven technology as well as be “future-proofed” to further advances in technology.

Delegates from across the development spectrum — from government through the private sector — will gather on Oct.13 in Bali for the Global Infrastructure Forum 2018 to discuss several trillion-dollar questions. How can governments and the private sector help fill the infrastructure gap? How can authorities’ better pair the world’s big investors with the many inclusive, resilient, sustainable, and technology-driven infrastructure projects this region needs to advance economic progress? And how can multilateral development banks best help?

To be sure, strong infrastructure projects are going up all over Asia. Take Indonesia, the Forum host; the country has made enormous strides under its ongoing and ambitious infrastructure program.

The country has seen progress: from the trans-Papua road project in one of the country’s most remote and underdeveloped regions to better information and communications technology under the Palapa Ring (satellite) Project. Indonesia has also launched innovative and clean energy projects such as the 72-megawatt Tolo wind-farm in South Sulawesi and massive urban infrastructure to boost Jakarta’s livability and competitiveness. This latter project includes a new modern airport terminal, rail link, and the first phase of the mass rapid transit expected to open in 2019.

Knowledge is crucial to get such projects off the ground, and this is where the multilateral development banks, including ADB, can assist.

The development banks are providing governments financial and technical support to enhance knowledge in numerous areas.

ADB is also helping strengthen government and private sector project development and governance capacity, for instance, for preparing high-quality projects able to support private finance. It also established the Asia Pacific Project Preparation Facility, a $73 million multi-donor trust fund to support project preparation, monitoring, and project restructuring, as well as capacity building and policy-reform initiatives linked to specific projects.

In addition, the organization is promoting public-private partnerships, catalyzing regulatory reforms to make infrastructure more attractive to private investors, and encourage more bankable projects. Potential is vast, in that pension funds alone, which hold $7.8 trillion in assets, are estimated to invest only about 1 percent of funds under management in infrastructure.

A recent ADB report, “Closing the Financing Gap in Asian Infrastructure,” notes that the richer Asian economies, such as Japan — where savings rates top 30 percent — can clearly play a stronger role if it only could. Yet, the country still invests almost $4 trillion in portfolio assets outside Asia.

Likewise, ADB is developing alternative financing structures and is backing green finance to encourage a bankable green finance project pipeline that can access funds from commercial and institutional investors. Many major investors are now strictly subject to environmental, social, and governance requirements in their investment decisions.

Finally, as technology rapidly evolves, particularly digital, it is creating substantial opportunity. Land acquisition, for example, significantly delays infrastructure projects across the region. Digital technologies are therefore being tested in several countries and watched closely for an ability to improve land titling. Likewise, ADB is involved in Spatial Data Analysis Explorer to help in decision-making relevant to climate hazards and resilience across urban systems.

Multilateral development banks can play multiple roles, from assisting and advising on the creation of appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, developing bankable projects, direct financing or providing credit enhancement tools to finance projects, to structuring innovative “blended finance” solutions in circumstances where the underlying project is incapable of supporting a financing structure priced at commercial funding rates. In all of this, multilateral development banks and other development partners can assist developing countries gain the knowledge to better develop sustainable, accessible, resilient, and quality infrastructure.

ADB

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Prema Gopalan Honoured as India Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2018

MD Staff

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The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in partnership with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, announced Prema Gopalan of Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) as India Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) 2018. The award honours her exceptional contribution in revitalizing rural economies by empowering women to succeed in remote and ailing markets. The SSP model comprises four ventures: a federated network of 5,000 self-help groups; a resilience fund for women-led businesses; a rural school of entrepreneurship and leadership for women; and a market aggregator that provides warehousing, branding, marketing and distribution services to last-mile business women. In addition, it has catalysed the government, investors, financial institutions and Indian and global corporations to partner directly with grassroots women business leaders.

Over two decades, this has had a domino effect in 2,000 climate-threatened villages across six states of India. Over 97,000 women in drought and flood-affected villages have set up enterprises in clean energy, sanitation, basic health services, nutrition and safe agriculture. They have transitioned from self-employment to diversify their ventures, aggregate into value chains and mentor thousands of others to get on the path of entrepreneurship – 900 women are recognized locally as climate resilience leaders and 500 are playing a role in local governance. SSP’s grassroots women entrepreneurs are taking their communities forward as part of their business success. As SSP partners with the government to scale its model, it is demonstrating that investing in rural women entrepreneurs can be a solid strategy for transforming India.

Smita Ram and Ramakrishna NK of Rang De were also selected as finalists for their work on unlocking unusual channels of capital for India’s poorest, building bridges between India’s credit-starved communities and ordinary citizens who contribute to meet the education, health and enterprise needs of resource-poor populations. Working on the premise of “micro-investment for micro-loans”, this peer-to-peer lending platform has to date disbursed INR 70 crore from 14,000 social investors and philanthropists to benefit 60,000 families.

“The World Economic Forum has long championed gender equality on the global agenda,” said Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “The 2018 winner, Prema Gopalan of Swayam Shikshan Prayog, has demonstrated that investing in rural women is a good investment. Female entrepreneurs are critical actors to help bring about the transformation that India seeks!”

Congratulating the winner, Shyam S. Bhartia, Founder and Chairman, Jubilant Bhartia Group, and Founder Director of Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, said: “We are entering the tenth year of partnership with the Schwab Foundation. In the last nine years, we received more than 1,400 applications for this award. The response is indeed overwhelming and the quality of the applications very competitive. We are glad to see how the SEOY India Award is able to identify and bring to the forefront the enterprises who are achieving social impact at a larger scale. We hope that this year’s SEOY India Award winner will serve as an inspiration to future generations of social innovators.”

The SEOY India Award brings some of the country’s most remarkable change-makers on to a common platform. These social entrepreneurs are promising self-starters, with a strong inclination towards addressing the most pertinent needs of marginalized communities in scalable and sustainable ways. Their endeavours encapsulate alleviating poverty, hunger, gender inequality, promoting women empowerment and education. These social entrepreneurs are torch-bearers who have taken the onus of working towards managing micro-finance needs and finding solutions to daunting challenges like climate change. The tenets of this year’s finalists are aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The winner will be invited to join the Schwab Foundation’s global community of over 350 social innovators. Social Entrepreneurs are driven by their mission to create substantial social change and promote inclusive growth, developing new products and service models that benefit underserved communities.

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