Does anyone read G20 communiqué’s anymore? In case you missed it, the G20 finance ministers yesterday released a statement saying they are “committed to a strong and coordinated international response to address the renewed challenges facing the global economy.”
The statement cites as evidence the promise by Europeans to implement the steps they set out on July 21, and the recently proposed U.S. package of stimulus and tax cuts. It further notes the need for a “collective and bold action plan.”
So where is it? None of the items the Group lists as proof of action is credible. Markets have already moved past the July 21proposed actions in Europe, and there is a general consensus that even with new powers to buy bonds on secondary markets, the facility is simply too small to do much good. To this we add the stipulation by Finland it will demand collateral for any further bailout funds, and the German court’s decision that any further action is probably unconstitutional, and suddenly things look complicated. The US’s second spending and tax package won’t pass Congress as proposed, and right now the body is incapable of agreeing to keep funding a continuing resolution so the government can stay open.
It’s debatable whether a statement of this kind helps, hurts, or simply doesn’t matter. My view is that it shows, again, a dismal lack of leadership by the group that anointed itself the steward of the global economy, and by the United States and Europe, in particular. This is principally a north Atlantic crisis, and it falls to the developed economies to dig themselves out (potential promises of Chinese support for Italy notwithstanding). To again miss an opportunity to put forward a clear plan that, even if not immediately implementable would at least show coordination and resolve, will only further damage already battered confidence.
At the end of the day, much of the current crisis is about lack of confidence by businesses, banks, consumers, and market actors that policymakers can do their part to aid a return to economic growth. Yesterday’s statement won’t do anything to change their minds, nor will anything short of “collective and bold action.” It’s time for our political leaders to show us what that looks like.
Alexei Monsarrat is director of the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program.