The G20 countries meet each year. Normally their meetings are full of fine words resulting in little action. But at a summit in London on 2 April 2009, the fear of a deepening global recession focused minds and a package of measures worth over $1 trillion was agreed to stimulate trade and growth. This included $750 billion for the IMF to help economies in severe difficulties, $250 billion for financing world trade and $100 to multilateral development banks (such as the Asian Development Bank) to provide extra aid to the poorest countries.
The extra money for the IMF would include $500 billion of loans from member countries and £250 billion in new money – a form of international quantitative easing. This new money would be in the form of ‘special drawing rights’. These are denominated in dollars and are created by the IMF to be drawn on by countries in difficulties.
There was also agreement to tighten financial regulation and to resist protectionism. A ‘Financial Stability Board’ would be set up and work with the IMF to design a strengthened regulatory system for banks and other financial institutions and for financial markets and instruments.
The following articles look at the agreement and its likely effects.
‘This is the day the world came together to fight back’ Independent (2/4/09)
G20 communiqué: Point by point analysis Telegraph (2/4/09)
G20 summit – leaders’ statement. Full text of the communiqué Guardian (2/4/09)
G20: Economic summit snapshot BBC News Online (2/4/09)
G20 leaders seal $1tn global deal BBC News Online (2/4/09)
G-force The Economist (2/4/09)
World leaders declare war on risk Sydney Morning Herald (3/4/09)
Postscript (Sept 2009)
G20: What progress has been made? BBC News (23/9/09)
G20: Pledge by pledge BBC News (25/9/09)
- What will determine the success or failure of the G20 agreement to revive the world economy?
- Identify any multiplier effects from the agreed measures.
- Why did the French and German governments object to any further fiscal stimulus packages?
The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire was the location for a historically significant meeting in the summer of 1944. John Maynard Keynes was part of the British negotiating team at a meeting to plan the post World War II economic order. As a result of the meeting an adjustable peg system of semi-fixed exchange rates was developed and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD – now part of the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were also born. As a result of this meeting the small rural location of Bretton Woods has moved into the economics lexicon. The institutions born out of this meeting have been subject to considerable criticism in recent years and in the first article linked to below, George Monbiot argues that it is unfair to attach this criticism to Lord Keynes. With a recent meeting of the G20 having been dubbed as Bretton Woods II, the original meeting and its outcomes have been thrown back into the limelight.
Keynes is innocent: the toxic spawn of Bretton Woods was no plan of his Guardian (18/11/08)
How Bretton Woods reshaped the world Guardian (14/11/08)
Shaping the world: Bretton Woods 1944 Guardian (14/11/08)
It takes two Guardian (5/12/08)
- Write a short paragraph summarising the outcomes of the Bretton Woods conference in 1944.
- Explain the role in the world financial system of (a) the World Bank and (b) the IMF.
- Assess the possible validity of the criticisms that have been levelled at the IMF. See particularly the George Monbiot article.
- Using diagrams as appropriate, explain how the system of semi-fixed exchange rates negotiated at Bretton Woods worked to maintain economic stability.
- Examine the principal reasons for the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system.
The G20 Leaders Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy took place on November 14–15, 2008, in Washington DC. Many commentators dubbed this meeting ‘Bretton Woods II’. Bretton Woods – Mark I was a meeting in the summer of 1944 that set out the foundations for the post World War II economic order. It set up a system of semi-fixed exchange rates and led to the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Bretton Woods Mark II was perhaps less historically significant, but the world leaders agreed a plan to boost the world economy through tax cuts, higher public expenditure and lower interest rates; something Lord Keynes, the principal negotiator for the UK at Bretton Woods Mark I, would have wholeheartedly approved of!
G20 to back global tax cuts Times Online (16/11/08)
This week, our leaders have a chance to make the world anew Guardian (9/11/08)
A dangerous free-for-all Guardian (11/11/08)
Bretton Woods II – five key points on the road to a new global financial deal Guardian (14/11/08)
G20 summit: ‘The world economy is broken and they need to reflate’ Guardian (14/11/08) Podcast
Doubts raised over prospects of success for ‘hasty summit’ Guardian (15/11/08)
Our chance for a working regulatory regime Guardian (15/11/08)
- Write a short paragraph summarising the outcomes of Bretton Woods II.
- Assess the extent to which the fiscal and monetary stimulus agreed by the G20 leaders will be successful at minimising the depth of the global recession.
- Discuss the need for regulatory reform of the world financial system (as considered at Bretton Woods II).
- The G20 “signalled a determination to press on with the completion of the Doha world trade round”. Assess the extent towhich this is likely to be successful.
The article linked to below from the Guardian by Larry Elliott argues that there are significant global imbalances in the world economy and that the IMF has to an extent ignored these imbalances. He argues that the sub-prime mortgage crisis, exchange rate movements and the rapid rise in oil prices are creating significant problems for the world economy.
||Explain the main global imbalances identified by Larry Elliott in the article.
||Analyse the likely impact of these imbalances on the global level of economic growth.
||Explain the statement in the article: “Like many other countries in the region, the lesson China learned from the Asian financial crisis of 1997 was that it needed to build up a war chest of foreign exchange reserves that could be deployed in the event of a speculative attack.”
The World Bank and the IMF are no strangers to criticism. Both organisations have pursued controversial policies in their attempts to improve the lot of people in developing countries. Recent events at the World Bank have heightened criticism of the organisation and in the first article below Naomi Klein (author of No Logo – nologo.org) argues that the behaviour of Paul Wolfowitz is symptomatic of a wider hypocrisy in the behaviour of the World Bank around the world. In the second article George Monbiot writes a criticism of the behaviour of the IMF and its approach.
||Use the web sites of the IMF and the World Bank to write a summary of their roles.
||Assess the validity of the arguments of (a) George Monbiot with respect to the IMF and (b) Naomi Klein with respect to the World Bank.
||Discuss possible changes in World Bank policies that would help address Naomi Klein’s criticisms.