I can’t remember a time when so many people were so familiar with something so obscure as the Group of 20. Leaders from these 20 countries will meet in London this week. Just about anyone who takes any interest in news knows this important group will be trying to breathe new life into the world economy before it’s too late.
Until this latest crisis unfolded, economic meetings were usually held by the Group of 8 which was made up of the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia. The G20 was relegated to obscure meetings once or twice a year at finance minister and central bank level. The top dogs never got together.
However since some of G8 countries are amongst the biggest to be affected by this latest economic crisis, it has long been felt that a better group to sort out this mess is the larger 20. The G20 represents more than 80 percent of the world’s economy. It is the most comprehensive economic group that exists and includes countries still growing strongly such as China and India. Plus it has representatives from South America, like Brazil.
The G20 isn’t actually made up of representatives of 20 countries. The 19th country is actually the European Union in its own right. And even then there will be more than 20 in the room, because the IMF and World Bank also attend, along with one or two extra invited guests such as Spain and the Netherlands.
The leaders last got together for November’s Washington Summit – held in the dying days of the Bush administration. A long agreement was reached that shoved everything into the future – which, of course, has arrived! Now President Obama fires up Air Force One to cross the Atlantic on his first transatlantic visit as Big Chief.
The leaders arriving will find the G20 family less than amicable. There are significant differences of opinion over what the next moves should be to drag the world economy kicking and screaming back into growth. Some want additional money to be spent, others say enough is enough. And still more want to engage in the blame game of how we got here in the first place.
The only certainty is that the costs have so many zeros they are telephone numbers and we will be paying it back for generations to come. Governments are collectively borrowing sums of money that – frankly – are worrying
Should we be downhearted? Not a bit of it! The truth is the situation is so serious that like any family having a tiff, they will have to agree on something, because doing nothing is not an option. We can not afford failure. Never has the saying “we are all in this leaking boat together been more true.
For the rest of us, while the G20 meetings take place, let’s celebrate the spring, smell the blooms and be as cheery as we can – it’s the only hope we have!
Richard Questis a CNN anchor and correspondent who reports on business travel issues. Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT to catch Richard’s new show, “Quest Means Business.