How this commentary gets around to addressing poverty if the latest statement from OXFAM. The world anti-poverty fighting group is calling on the G-20 to establish a bailout package for the poorest countries to prevent many more from slipping into poverty during this recession.
Writer Sanjay Suri says that meetings such as this are only measured by how many dollars they put into helping the rest of the world.
The G20 as a grouping of rich and emerging economies seems to represent wealth and new influence. It is expected now that countries like China and India must pay towards a reformed International Monetary Fund, in which they would then have greater say. The countries are spoken of as the new emerging entities, with little substantive thought for the hundreds of millions of the poor within them. The countries seem not to occupy the nowhere space of rich or at least now richer countries with poor people.
There is of course an acknowledgement of poverty around the world and that the G20 must do something about it – such a gathering could hardly be complete without statements of that kind. But the G20 meeting can expect to be measured by the number of dollars that are attached to those words, amid fears that the G20 meeting will be rich only in statements of the right sort.
Putting numbers to words, the international charity Oxfam has asked G20 leaders to produce a 580 billion dollars a year rescue package for poor countries made up of an immediate fiscal stimulus for the poorest countries of at least 24 billion dollars, debt relief, and fulfilment of existing pledges to increase development aid.
That sounds like a lot of money, but is a fraction of 8.42 trillion dollars promised by rich country governments to bail out banks, Oxfam says. This kind of bailout package, it says, would be enough to end global extreme poverty for 50 years and a massive step towards ending it forever.
"When you look at the amount of money that has been found for banks it seems inconceivable that G20 leaders will stand aside and allow the economic crisis to destroy poor peoples lives," Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking said in a statement. "Developing countries are reeling from dramatic declines in trade, remittances and foreign investment. Rich governments whose policies contributed to the crisis have a responsibility to help those who cannot afford their own bailouts."
Without urgent action, she said, "hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people will fall further into poverty. Losing your job is devastating wherever it happens but for millions people in poor countries, without benefits and health services to fall back on, unemployment will push them into destitution."
And yet, nobody is expecting anything like that kind of money coming from the G20, or even a small fraction of it. Or even much acknowledgement that different policies are needed for different countries.