G20 final thoughts

The NEPAD (Meles Zenawi) press conference was canceled so we were saved from hearing a tirade of meaninigless waffle however the South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe’s went ahead.

What he said
Overall he said he was pleased with the broad outcomes and global response to the financial crisis and agreed with what he described as the “central pillar of recovery” which was saving jobs and the recognition that developing and emerging countries represent an opportunity for growth.

He was happy that NEPAD and the AU Commission were invited as together with South Africa this was a significant representation. On aid he is satisfied the IMF is to inject $6billion through the African Development Bank over the next two years which would. Further monies will go to the most needy countries from the $100billion Trade Finance fund which Gordon Brown outlined in his speech – I understand this to be part of the $250 billion in increase in funding. On NEPAD which apparently is not dead – the peer review mechanism would go a long way towards creating and maintaining stability as well as act as a watchdog over corruption. On trade between African countries he felt that this was contingent upon improving the continent’s infrastructure particularly roads but felt that the three Africa regions were engaging in regional trade. Finally on South Africa participation at the G20 he said this was because it was seen as an “emerging economy” and not as a representative of Africa though the views of “sister countries” were sought and SA articulated those views. He added that the 2010 World Cup has given a huge boost to the development of SA’s infrastructure and overall financial growth.

My thoughts – I’ve found it very difficult to decipher much of the jargon and finance speak being delivered by politicians, TV news, some print journalists and even some of the bloggers. So often the simple is made complicated and I don’t think this is necessarily by accident, on the contrary it is done to confuse and exclude the discussion from ordinary people. We don’t have to be spoken to like fools but there is a balance between technical language and baby talk.

There are a number of disappointments though not surprises in President Motlanthe’s statement and response to questions. Throughout the day the role of the IMF has been repeated over and over in press conferences and meetings. Motlanthe’s willingness to accept the central role of the IMF in the so called “solution” of the crisis along with the lack of reform of the IFI’s. For example there is no change in the overall governance and procedures used by the IMF which would allow for far more input and voting rights from developing countries and leaves control in the hands of the US and Europe.

His statement on NEPAD’s role in “peer review” is completely flawed. It has failed in both reviewing and monitoring corruption and in promoting and maintaining stability across the continent. Whilst it is true that trade between African countries is limited by the lack of infrastructure particularly transport. It is also true that there are IMF conditions and pressures from the West which put African counties in competition with each other and do not favour intra continental trade. The failure of African countries to come to a consensus on the free movement of people which would allow them to trade across border areas is also a contributing factor. SA has not been welcoming to displaced people particularly Zimbabweans and those in need not to speak of the growing poverty, social inequality amongst South Africans and ever increasing violence against women.

One of the questions he was asked which he failed to address was what lessons are there for Africa given that the financial crisis was not started in Africa but that Africans like everyone else are feeling the impact. He did concede that jobs were being lost in SA for example in mining and car manufacturing but failed to mention how this would be dealt with locally. He also missed the opportunity to outline some ideas on a new set of development strategies which would begin to bring about a meaningful shift in Africa’s relationship with the West. I felt his statement that SA was not at the Summit as a representative of Africa but there in it’s own right as an emerging economy was in a way distancing himself from sister countries and was a contradiction because he twice mentioned NEPAD and it’s role in Africa of which SA is one of the main proponents of NEPAD in the first place. Whilst he did say he had consulted with other African ministers and leaders I felt he could have made more of this rather than distancing SA and taking a rather arrogant approach to his presence at the Summit.

Final thoughts.
There are three key questions to ask of the Summit? Why was it convened and who benefits the most; has climate change been adequately addressed has there been any significant power shifts in the global political economy. In answer to the first, Gordon Brown’s statement that the G20 Summit has saved the world economy (capitalism) from collapse might be true in the immediate short term but it was never really about the world but about the US and Western Europe and saving themselves. The “saving” of the rest of the world from a crisis they did not create is really only incidental to the interests of the West. On the contrary the real opportunity to save the world was completely sidelined as climate change and developing green led policies were hardly addressed. The prominence given to the IFI is hardly democratic and is a continuation of the same old aid driven debt creating policies.

On power shifting, emerging economies like China, India and Brazil may have experienced huge growth in their economies but this has not be translated into decreasing poverty. Again on the contrary the gap between the rich and poor is on the increase whilst human rights are ever more under threat – SA is particularly guilty when it comes to back tracking on human rights. Also we should not forget that India and Indonesia are important Western allies in the war on terror whilst Brazil is an ally in the midst of countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela which have all chosen in varying degrees to move away from the inherently exploitative and unsustainable capitalist system.