G20 to set target for global growth

February 23, 2014 - 2:53:11 am

US Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen (left) with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the opening session of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Sydney yesterday.

SYDNEY: The world’s top economies may agree to set an ambitious target for faster global growth at a weekend meeting in Sydney, where major central banks are also being urged to coordinate policies to avoid “surprises” that could further roil emerging markets.

Opening the two-day meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers yesterday, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said support was building for setting a firm goal for growth.

“I have a great sense of hope that this G20 meeting will be able to lay down a real and tangible framework for an increase in the growth of the global economy over the next five years,” said Hockey, who is hosting the Sydney gathering.

If adopted, the plan would be a departure for the G20, as previous attempts to set fiscal and current account targets have faltered. And while Canada’s central bank chief Stephen Poloz called the goal “aspirational” and doubts remain about its implementation, it would give the group fresh focus and mark a sea change from recent meetings where the debate was all about growth versus budget austerity. France’s finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, welcomed a goal of lifting world growth by a total of 2.5 percentage points over five years, calling it ambitious but “not unrealistic”.

A G20 source said Germany had dropped its opposition to setting an overall target, as long as there were no goals imposed for individual states. However, not all the German camp seemed to be happy, with Jens Weidmann, head of the country’s central bank, calling  quantitative targets “problematic”.

And Nhlanhla Nene, South Africa’s Deputy Finance Minister, said the target would be meaningless unless issues faced by emerging economies such as inequality, high unemployment, and volatile global financial conditions were addressed.

The plan borrows wholesale from an International Monetary Fund paper prepared for the Sydney meeting which estimated that structural reforms would raise world growth by about 0.5 percentage point per year over the next five years, boosting global output by $2.25 trillion.

The IMF has forecast global growth of 3.75 percent for this year and four percent in 2015.

The laundry list of reforms run the usual gamut of liberalising product and labour markets, lowering barriers to trade, attracting more women into the workforce and boosting investment in infrastructure. 

Still there were no details on how or whether the G20 would police each country’s progress on the reforms, many of which would likely be politically unpopular at home.

Olli Rehn, European Union’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, said the bloc would back the growth target for the G20 group that accounts for 85 percent of global economic output provided it came with a firm commitment to bold reforms.

He suggested that reform progress could be monitored by the IMF and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and that EU’s policy coordination and surveillance could serve as a model.

The onus would be on the rich nations to pick up the baton on growth from the developing countries, who had carried the world economy in the wake of the global financial crisis.Reuters

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