G-20 summit opens in Australia; growth tops agenda

World leaders got down to the business of cementing plans to drag a sagging global economy out of the doldrums.

By: Associated Press | Brisbane | Published: November 15, 2014 5:35:14 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Australia to attend the G-20 summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Australia to attend the G-20 summit.

As G-20 summit host Brisbane sweltered through a blistering heat wave, world leaders on Saturday got down to the business of cementing plans to drag a sagging global economy out of the doldrums.

The leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies are under pressure to take definitive action at this year’s summit, rather than simply producing a set of vague, unmeasurable goals. The International Monetary Fund has warned about a “new mediocre” for the world’s economy, and the G-20 – which represents around 85 percent of the global economy – has vowed to focus on a plan to add $2 trillion to world GDP.

US President Barack Obama touched down in Brisbane early Saturday to join the other leaders, with talks scheduled to begin in the afternoon.

The summit will conclude on Sunday with the release of an official communique, a rundown of what the countries have achieved and want to achieve in the future. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repeatedly stressed that the main focus of the gathering is to show progress on a previously-announced plan of lifting the global GDP by 2 percent above predicted levels over the next five years. Each country is expected to present a comprehensive plan at the summit on how they will achieve that goal – but whether the communique will reveal any of those details is unclear.

Rights groups, meanwhile, are concerned that the country’s growth plans will focus on tough austerity measures, such as axing unemployment benefits, to hit the target, rather than proposing initiatives that would invest money in health, education and job growth. The Civil Society 20 group, or C20, wants assurances that the poor will benefit the most from the plans, estimating that the additional growth could lift 1 billion people out of poverty if it was poured into the poorest 20 percent of G-20 households.

“We know there’s a whole lot of pressure just to produce a two-page communique,” C20 chair Tim Costello said. “What we really need to know is the country by country plans and are they passing the sustainable test – the test of benefiting the bottom 20 percent of households in each G-20 country.”

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said reducing inequality is a concern in nearly every developing country he has visited. Still, he suspects next year’s G-20 host, Turkey, would focus more heavily on developing country issues.

Meanwhile, the thousands of delegates and media that have descended upon the capital of Queensland – aptly dubbed the “Sunshine State” – have been greeted by a crushing heat wave, with temperatures expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Some of the sweat-stained police officers blanketing the city by the thousands have taken to dumping bottles of water on themselves to cope with the blazing sun.

More than two dozen protests have been planned to coincide with the event, on everything from inequality to corporate tax evasion to Aboriginal rights.

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