Monday, 6 April 2009
G20 stands for ‘pollution, traffic jams and white noise’
What comes to mind when a large-scale political bigwig summit takes place?
I don’t know about you, but I think of their carbon footprint.
I mean, the only thing that can be taken for granted when it comes to summits like London’s recent hosting of the G20 talks, is that the heads of state and their delegations will cause an inordinate amount of pollution by flying large numbers of people across the world, not to mention motorcades and mountains of wasted paper; they will then cause traffic jams as their security details completely ignore the fact that these summits are held in inhabited areas and other people need to get about too; and they will finally produce endless amounts of white noise – long words that sound right until you string them together, when they tend to mean that the leaders agreed on the significance of the matters on the agenda but could not reach agreement on specifics (read: actual solutions) but we shouldn’t worry our pretty heads as their staffs will sort out all the ‘detail’ (read: actual solutions) at a later date.
By its conclusion, the summit has caused pollution, traffic jams and white noise.
Was this one different?
We’ve definitely had pollution and traffic jams. And white noise.
As for substance, I don’t think anyone really expected much in the first place.
Just take a look at who the G20 actually are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US and the EU.
See what I mean?
What are the chances of that lot agreeing on a solution to a problem that affects them in fundamentally different ways, largely because of each other?
Of course it would be lovely if they all agreed on a set of real solutions. The world would suddenly go cinemascope and we would all live happily ever after.
But the hope that the G20 would unveil a great new initiative had died a death before the leaders even started arriving in London. Or, if truth be told, no one ever expected much more than pollution, traffic jams and white noise.
So what did we get?
A new name for the Financial Stability Forum – now called the Financial Stability Board. More regulation for all financial institutions, instruments and markets. That’s good, of course. But also expected. And as the ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ are, predictably, left to be worked out at a later stage, it all boils down to white noise.
Don’t hold your breath while waiting for change to happen, everybody.
Tough new rules for hedge funds, pay and bonuses and new accounting standards were promised and a ‘shared approach’ was announced. You guessed it. Detail and implementation to be fleshed out at some other point by less important people.
Meanwhile the leaders wagged a finger at tax havens that don’t share information readily. That will teach them.
Oh and more money will be poured into the IMF – three times as much money coming to approximately $750bn.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Yeah. We (the Long-Suffering Tax-Payers' Club) just paid for a summit that simply repeated what we already knew. Couldn’t we have just skipped the party, pollution, traffic jams and white noise and spent the money on cash injections directly?
I can see you are yawning already but there’s a little more I’m afraid. A little more white noise.
The G20 supports increased lending for developing nations, you’ll be pleased to hear – more debt that our erstwhile leaders can then act surprised at in a few years’ time. Trade assistance, export credit, investment agencies all meet with G20 approval. Blah blah on how the rich will help the poor. Meanwhile the rich are floundering just as badly if not worse than the poor and nobody can help them. Not even each other. And how they will help the poor when they can’t help themselves is anybody’s guess.
So the white noise continues. Pledges to resist protectionism and protect free trade. Pledges to notify the WTO if any children don’t play nice. White noise promising more white noise. Oh and a request that the WTO produce their own white noise in the form of regular reports. Now that’s reassuring.
And there is no new fiscal stimulus. There is but there isn’t. Trust Gordon Brown to come up with that one.
And although all leaders were triumphant at the end of the summit, I have to wonder whether things would have been better had they stayed at home. Since they said nothing new, they failed to really address let alone solve anything, they did not alleviate anything or punish anyone all we got was pollution, traffic jams and white noise.
So they should have stayed at home. They came all this way to bore, anger and disappoint us. Well they could have done that from their respective capitals and they would have, at least spared, the environment.