Thursday, May 13, 2010

Inviting poor countries to the G-20

With the G-20 meetings coming up, more people are demanding that the poor nations be included. Especially with the recent global recession, the poor nations should have a say in how the world gets out of the recession. For too long, the rich nations have talked about what to do for the poor, without hearing from the poor themselves.

To his credit, the current chairman of the G-20 has made steps in the direction of giving poor nations a voice. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invited Malawi and Ethiopia to attend the Toronto meetings in June.

From the IPS, writer Isolda Agazzi attended a recent United Nations conference that had many calls for poor nations to participate.

"LDCs face a double challenge: they have to absorb the impact of the economic and financial crisis, but in the resolution of the crisis itself they have a very marginal role to play," stated Debapriya Bhattacharya, special advisor on LDCs at UNCTAD.

"This is not only a question of transparency, but also of inclusiveness and accountability. How to address these issues? Do we need new platforms or do we have to improve their participation in existing ones?" he asked.

Mothae A. Maruping, ambassador of Lesotho to the United Nations in Geneva, pointed out that LDCs have been devastated by the economic crisis, contrary to the initial forecasts of the Bretton Woods institutions. The Bretton Woods institutions are the two international financial institutions called the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

LDC external trade has declined; remittances have dropped; official development assistance has been jeopardised; and foreign direct investment has slowed down or declined, with some countries even experiencing disinvestments, said Maruping.

Bhattacharya indicated that aid flows increased in 2008 – 2009 but remained below the level needed to reach the MDGs (millennium development goals). "In terms of its composition, if one takes out humanitarian aid there has not been a substantial increase. Also, aid goes to social sectors with little reaching productive sectors."

Maruping agreed that poor countries won’t achieve the MDGs: "In the aftermath of the crisis, LDCs are experiencing fiscal imbalances and destabilised monetary policies. They have relapsed into unsustainable external indebtedness and widespread and deeper poverty.

The World Bank and the IMF have special programmes for LDCs, but these are bound to so many conditionalities that they are almost unaffordable, he argued. On the World Trade Organisation (WTO) side, the Doha Development Round has stalled.

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