Thursday, 13 November 2008

G20 must put fight against poverty at the center

The G20 must avoid small-scale tinkering and instead take immediate, aggressive action to tackle poverty while laying out an ambitious vision for reforming the world economy at its Financial Crisis Summit. In a new report, If Not Now, When?, international relief and development agency Oxfam says that people living in poverty will be hit hard by the financial crisis unless urgent action is taken, adding that the poor should not have to pay for rich countries’ mistakes. The International Labor Organization estimates the number of workers living on less than one dollar a day may increase by 40 million and those living on less than two dollars a day could increase by more than 100 million.

According to Oxfam, there is a risk that recessions in rich countries will lead politicians to take the short-sighted approach of cutting aid. Given the tiny amounts of money involved compared to rich country economies, this would do little more than offer symbolic budget savings, but at huge human cost. Aid to all developing countries last year was $104bn. In comparison the US and EU mobilized nearly 30 times this – around $3trillion – in the last few months to help bail out their banks.

In "If Not Now, When?" Oxfam says that global leaders should immediately develop a new international regulatory institution with teeth, to prevent future financial crises and protect the interests of workers, consumers, and the environment. This includes taking on the secretive tax havens which undermine regulations and rob poor countries' of vital revenue that could be spent on schools and hospitals. It also calls for leaders to build a new representative global governance structure to tackle the economic, climate, food and energy crises. Reform must include far greater roles for developing countries as well as the poorest. Rich countries are going to have to concede some power on governing bodies like the G20 because they are desperate to get their hands on the huge financial reserves held by emerging markets.

Oxfam urges global leaders to see the opportunity to develop a new 21st century political and economic system that puts people and planet before profits. Oxfam calls on the G20 leaders to do three things:

1. Honor the OECD pledge not to cut development assistance, and increase aid instead by an additional $140bn necessary to meet the UN target of 0.7 percent of GNI immediately. In addition, urgently extend credit to emerging markets facing liquidity crises.
2. Rewrite global financial rules and regulations, including tackling tax havens and moving towards a more stable exchange rate system, in order to make the market work for all and not just for the few.
3. Build a new representative global governance system that can effectively tackle the economic, food, and energy crises.

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