As crisis fades, G20 tries to get its mojo back

Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:01pm EDT
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By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top officials for the world's biggest economic powers get nostalgic over how they mobilized to save the world from economic collapse in 2008. They are not nearly so glowing about their current muddle.

At meetings held in Washington last week, there was a sense that the Group of 20, which brings together policymakers who oversee the vast majority of global output, has grown bogged down by a sprawling agenda no longer focused by crisis.

"It's very difficult to coordinate and to come up with meaningful results," said Ksenia Yudaeva, a deputy central bank governor for Russia, which organized this year's G20 meetings.

"Every step in right direction gets smaller and smaller."

Gone are the heady days of 2008 and 2009 when leaders at G20 summits hashed out major deals on fiscal stimulus and trade policy to counter a global financial crisis that threatened worldwide depression. In 2010 and 2011, the group was a forum for prodding European officials to come up with a plan to keep the euro zone from breaking up.

Since then, the list of issues on the G20 agenda has ballooned. It now includes everything from climate change and food security to youth unemployment, as if the body were a mini United Nations.

"What's happened is that the objective of the G20 has become confused," said Martin Parkinson, Australia's treasury secretary. He said the body needs to focus more squarely on its core mission of making the global economy stronger and more stable.

Some of the challenges before the group are so great they will not be resolved anytime soon.   Continued...

G20 finance ministers and central bank governors gather for a photo at the start of the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank fall meetings in Washington, October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst