G20 Leaders concluded their summit over the weekend in Brisbane, Australia. G20 summits represent the culmination of a process of preparatory work and discussion that lasts a whole year. Concerns about weak prospects for global growth and job creation took center stage in the G20 agenda this year. Economic recovery in advanced economies has been slow and uneven and growth in the faster-growing emerging economies also has slowed. There is a growing recognition that restoring more robust global growth requires not only addressing the legacies of the global financial crisis but also implementing deeper, structural reforms to raise potential growth.
Against this background, all G20 countries were asked to prepare medium-term growth strategies to provide a systematic framework for addressing policies and priorities in the growth agenda. The strategies that have been prepared are comprehensive in scope, spanning macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth. They have a particular focus on four policy areas that the Australian G20 Presidency emphasized as key elements of the growth agenda, namely, investment and infrastructure, employment, competition and business environment, and trade. The emphasis in the strategies on investment and structural reforms is appropriate: while the proper calibration of macroeconomic policies is important to support aggregate demand in the short term, in the medium term it is the productivity-enhancing structural reforms and investments that will drive strong and sustainable growth. The strategies have benefited from an extensive process of discussion and peer review within the G20, supported by technical assessments prepared by international organizations. Final versions of these strategies were released yesterday together with the Leaders’ Communiqué and the Brisbane Action Plan (which provides an overview of these strategies).
Last week I had the privilege—and pleasure—of delivering a lecture series at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management. The KDI School is an educational arm of the Korea Development Institute, Korea’s leading and highly regarded economic policy think tank. I was much impressed by the KDI School’s program, which aims to foster leadership in economic development and public policy. Course participants are drawn from a variety of public institutions in emerging and developing economies. The School’s philosophy places a strong emphasis on the sharing of development experience among participants, peer learning, and dissemination of best practice. Korea’s own development history is rich in lessons for public policy, which the program seeks to share with participants drawn from across the globe. The School has positioned itself as an international hub for sharing knowledge on development among policymakers and practitioners, and its mission receives generous support from the Korean Government.
The G20 Ministers of Finance and Central Bank Governors met in Sydney over the past weekend. An important outcome of the meeting is a commitment to lift G20’s collective GDP (which accounts for about 85 percent of world GDP) by more than 2 percent above the trajectory implied by current policies over the coming five years. This will amount to over US$2 trillion more in real terms. The higher growth would help generate significant additional jobs.
The targeted increase of more than 2 percent is based on a report prepared by the IMF with inputs from the OECD and the World Bank Group (WBG). The WBG contributions were prepared by a team drawn from various units and led by the Development Economics Vice Presidency. The report finds that with a feasible set of policy reforms, an increase in growth of that order of magnitude is achievable.
Much of the G20’s agenda following the global financial crisis has been focused on crisis response—on short-term crisis management and recovery. In the aftermath of a major crisis, economic stabilization of course is the first order of business. And the G20 has done reasonably well in that respect. But economic stabilization alone will not restore strong and sustained growth, as global growth faces deeper structural challenges.
In advanced economies, some of the structural weaknesses have accumulated over time, such as the labor market rigidities in Europe, the deficiencies in tax and expenditure structures and associated fiscal problems in a broad range of advanced economies, including the US, and the challenges arising from ageing populations. The global financial crisis has added to these challenges by causing supply-side disruptions that lower potential growth, including the destruction of capital stock, financial sector dislocations, and increases in structural unemployment—as well as adding to the fiscal woes. Challenges also arise from a changing pattern of competitiveness and comparative advantage as emerging economies increasingly penetrate global production and trade. So future growth in advanced economies will require not just supporting a recovery of demand but also a reallocation of resources to new sources of growth—new products, new services, new jobs.
As Russia begins hosting the G20, I thought readers might be interested in my Reuters interview earlier this week making the case for proactive monetary and fiscal policy coordination. There has been a lot of talk of currency wars. I believe that what we are witnessing now are best described as currency skirmishes. The trouble is that a skirmish can easily segue into a war. That is what makes it imperative for nations to have conversations and coordination on monetary and fiscal policies. Skilled interventions are needed on multiple fronts, from managing government debt levels to financing long-term investment in developing countries. My hope is that leaders in Moscow will be attentive to these and might also turn their minds to interventions for the poor, whether they live in far corners of Russia’s great expanse, the townships of South Africa, the favelas of Brazil or the rural hinterlands of China and India.
This is the central message of a report World Bank staff prepared as an input to the G20 Los Cabos summit held from June 18-19. The summit comes at a precarious time for the world economy. The Euro Area is facing a relapse into recession, with potentially large losses of output with global repercussions if current risks to stability and growth are not addressed forcefully. Recovery in other advanced economies is weak and faltering. Growth is also slowing in emerging economies that have been the drivers of global growth in recent years. Against this background, the Bank report, entitled Restoring and Sustaining Growth, conveys the following main messages:
In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, many observers thought that the G-20 had a chance to succeed in the development arena where the G-8 foundered. Expectations were high that the G-20’s wider legitimacy and fresh remit would result in breakthrough solutions to knotty problems, from health pandemics to global warming. Yet the reality was that the G-20 Working Group on Development was pragmatic and selected a somewhat narrower range of priorities to focus on and many of the issues were ones that grew out of regional or national priorities. That is how the real world works—by consensus and stakeholder collaboration.
At the book launch for Postcrisis Growth and Development: A Development Agenda for the G-20, Moisés Naím and Arvind Subramanian, both astute observers of trends in globalization, expressed disappointment that the G-20 development agenda didn't devote more energy to big ‘global public goods’ issues. Moreover, they noted a failure to grapple with the biggest risks facing the development community, such as illicit financial flows or climate change.
Muchos observadores predicen que la cumbre del Grupo de los Veinte (G-20) que se lleva a cabo esta semana en Seúl será recordada principalmente como un baile de alta diplomacia destinado a persuadir a sus miembros para que se abstengan de una devaluación competitiva de sus monedas y regulen los desequilibrios excesivos en cuenta corriente.
Si la mayoría de los titulares de Seúl se refieren a disputas sobre divisas y a quién pertenece el déficit o superávit más perjudicial, entonces los líderes se habrán malgastado la oportunidad de llegar al fondo de la cuestión.
En efecto, ese resultado sería un revés para los países en desarrollo y afectaría posiblemente la legitimidad del G-20 como agente de inclusión de la cooperación económica y financiera en la economía mundial.