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World Bank meet: G20 agenda should add development
  • | AP | June 04, 2010 05:17 PM

The Group of 20 leading economies should seek to support growth in the developing world to help ensure a sustainable long-term global recovery and fend off a relapse into crisis, World Bank officials said Friday.

Managing Director of the World Bank Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the G20 Summit Il Sakong and Trevor Manuel, South Africa's National Planning Minister (L-R) attend a joint news conference as part of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Busan June 4, 2010.

Top finance ministers from advanced and developing economies, meeting in this South Korean port city, face myriad demands as they work to set priorities for a G-20 summit in Toronto later this month.

"The G-20 needs the rest of the developing world for reasons of self-interest," Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a World Bank managing director said at a conference on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting.

"G20 countries need new sources of demand. The developing world has the potential, and it has the people," she said. "The G20 must recognize this and give development the central place it deserves in its agenda," she said.

With European growth stymied by a sovereign debt crisis and growth in the U.S. still relatively weak, economists warned that the world faces a real risk of a "double dip" back into recession.

The G-20 financial leaders face pressure to shape a consensus on how to reshape the global financial system, while also working to fend off disruptions like the European debt crisis, which has triggered slides in global financial markets and the euro.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday praised the steps Europe is taking to deal with the crisis but said the challenge was in the execution.

"They have laid out a very strong program and they are starting to put that in place and it is starting to get a little more traction," Geithner said in an interview with CNBC while en route to Busan.

Managing the European debt fiasco has recently overshadowed longer term efforts to reform banking regulation and set up financial safety nets for countries emerging from crisis.

"This crisis presents a new threat to the global economy. Just when we thought we have turned the corner, there are new clouds on the horizon," said Okonjo-Iweala.

The G-20, founded in 1999, evolved into a global crisis management forum with the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers and the resulting turmoil in financial markets. It now needs to set an agenda that will promote sustainable long-term global growth, said Asian Development Bank chief economist Jong-Wha Lee.

He and other speakers said the big economies can generate jobs by channeling investment into filling the gaping need for better infrastructure in developing countries, while also ensuring they rebalance growth at home to help make capital more affordable for crucial productive uses.

Justin Lin Yifu, a World Bank chief economist and vice president, said that requires support from governments for risk-averse private companies, which can find lucrative opportunities in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, where growth is forecast to average 6 percent this year — twice the rate for rich countries.

Okonjo-Iweali called for the financial leaders to support efforts to recover funds from corruption, a major loss of resources for the developing world. Aid for trade and greater market access for poor countries to sell their goods and services in richer countries are other key priorities, she said.

Experts pointed to South Korea, a country that emerged from poverty to become a technology and industrial powerhouse, as an example of how such efforts can transform an economy. South Korea, which assumed the rotating G-20 chair this year and will convene a summit in November in its capital, Seoul, favors having development included in the G-20 agenda.

Plans for a meeting Friday of top financial officials of China, Brazil, Russia and India, ahead of the G-20 talks, further reflect the rising profile of emerging and developing economies in the forum, and their desire for a greater say in how the world economy is managed.

The finance ministers, who last met in Washington in April, are looking to shore up confidence in financial markets and in a nearly $1 trillion bailout plan for ailing European economies, hoping to stave off any wider damage to the world economic recovery.

They are preparing a communique to be issued Saturday at the conclusion of their meeting.

But agreement is far from certain on proposals for a bank tax, for setting new standards on how much capital banks need to protect against a future financial crisis and erecting "financial safety nets" to help emerging economies vulnerable to financial flows.

The U.S. and Europe favor a bank tax to pay for future bailouts, but others such as Canada and Australia oppose it given that their banks weathered the global crisis intact.

Geithner declined to say if the U.S. wants the G-20 to adopt a global target of 12 percent of an institution's assets being held as a capital reserve — one option being considered. That would represent an increase from a current U.S. target of around 8 percent.

"We want to find a balance between making sure that these firms run with much more conservative, much stronger cushions against loss in future crises," he said, refusing to say what target was being considered.

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