G20 split on stimulus but united on maternal health
Published Thursday, June 24, 2010 10:00PM EDT
The G20 will approve Canada's plan to pump billions of dollars into maternal health programs in poor countries, CTV News has learned, but leaders are still struggling to find common ground on all-important economic measures.
Heading into this weekend's high-level meetings in Toronto, G20 leaders are still split on how best to promote long-term economic growth and nurture a fragile recovery from recession.
While some nations want to continue stimulus spending, others want to see across-the-board deficit reduction.
CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said that even a Canadian half-measure -- which would see developing nations slash deficits in half by 2013 -- is facing stiff resistance from some countries.
"Right now, it's slim," said Fife, referring to economic consensus among the G20 leaders.
Agreements on climate change and financial regulation reforms are also up in the air.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's maternal health plan will get the green light from the world's most powerful economies, despite earlier criticism from family planning advocates who complained that no specific funds were allocated for abortion.
Instead, the G20-funded project will allow each nation to allocate the funds as they wish, which opens the door for abortion funding by countries which deem it necessary, Fife reported.
"Each nation will develop their own plans," he said Thursday night, adding that Canada will pump $1 billion into the plan.
Meanwhile, there appears to be no easy way to deal with a schism about how best to maintain economic health, as nagging debt issues in Greece and other Euro-zone nations threaten to pull the global economy back into recession.
Some countries, such as Britain and Germany, want to cut spending and balance budgets, while other nations say that stimulus spending is still needed.
Canada will continue stimulus spending through to March. U.S. policymakers also believe that since the world economy is still fragile, cutting deficits sharply could lead markets back into recession.
Gary Rabbior, president of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, said it's unlikely that total consensus will be reached on stimulus spending.
"I don't think you're going to get a unified series of actions," he told CTV's Power Play Thursday.
Rabbior added that fear and uncertainty are the real problems facing the G20, and leaders should instead be focusing on ways to stabilize jittery markets.
"I would like them to deal with the global fears that I think are really holding back the world economy ... Uncertainty is the worst thing for recovery."
However, the disagreement highlights growing tensions within the bloc of countries.
During the first G20 leaders' meetings in Washington and London, the group reached consensus on the need to pump public money into the economy. Nearly a year ago, in Pittsburgh summit, the leaders agreed on a framework for long-term growth.
But the growing unease appears to be sinking that tradition of co-operation.
However, perhaps some common ground will be found -- if only to show that the G20 is still a working body.
"You will see commitments to deficit reduction of some kind," said former ambassador Derek Burney.
He told Power Play that countries do need to reign in debt, and by agreeing to do so, the U.S. and Canada will maintain the political goodwill which resulted from previous G20 co-operation.
"It's important for global governance that that momentum be maintained."
Bank tax flap
However, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the tax issue is taking attention away from more important economic issues.
Rather than concentrating on the controversial tax proposal, Flaherty stressed that leaders should be finding common ground on a way to promote long-term economic growth.
"Is there going to be a global bank tax? No," Flaherty said Thursday at the Toronto Board of Trade.
"Why not? Because the majority of countries in the G20 don't want it. "
Some G20 countries, such as the U.S. and England, have been pushing for a universal bank tax, but the idea is unpopular in countries such as Canada, which did not have to use public funds to bailout the banking sector during the 2008 crash.
Nonetheless, Flaherty said that Canada is in a good position to influence the rest of the world, given the stability of banks and financial institutions here at home.
"We are the envy of the world," he said.
Flaherty said that countries which favour a bank tax are welcome to bring one in -- but only in their own countries.