Exclusive: Poor nations a ray of hope for crisis-weary G20

Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:20am EDT
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By Paul Hoskins

LONDON (Reuters) - Simple reforms would eliminate much of the risk of investing in poor countries, unleashing billions of dollars of pent up cash and providing a welcome boost to the world economy, a report to be presented at this week's G20 summit will say.

Tidjane Thiam, charged with pulling together the report, believes world leaders will seize on a plan to spur infrastructure investment in developing countries that includes reform of The World Bank and its regional counterparts but does not tap crisis-weary taxpayers.

"We need growth. We're not going to get out of this by just cutting deficits," the Franco-African engineer who runs Britain's biggest insurer Prudential Plc told Reuters before heading to the Cannes summit.

"At one point it was important to convince everybody we needed to cut deficits and we got there, and now everybody is really thinking 'what's the positive message and how do we get the public out of just thinking about cuts and cuts and cuts?'"

Thiam, a former Ivory Coast planning and development minister, says the G20 High Level Panel for Infrastructure Investment which he chairs has at least part of the answer.

The idea is a simple and symbiotic one.

Rich nations may not be generating much new wealth at the moment but they are sitting on trillions of dollars of accumulated wealth that is earning little in the way of returns and not doing very much to foster a global economic recovery.

"There's no yield in this world, no yield anywhere, and there's not going to be any for quite a while," Thiam said in an interview at his London office last week.   Continued...

<p>Prudential Group Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam speaks during an Asian investment forum in Hong Kong March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>