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September 8, 09

NEWS / G20 Ministers Say Stimulus Measures to Stay for Now

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — Finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s largest economies have agreed that until there is a sustained economic recovery led by the private sector, multitrillion-dollar stimulus measures taken earlier this year will remain.

“The financial system is showing signs of repair. Growth is now under way,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said September 5 at a G20 ministers meeting in London. The meeting was held in part to assess where the global economy is now and where it is likely headed as officials prepare for the Group of 20 Summit to be held September 24–25 in Pittsburgh.

The ministers met to set the agenda for the summit and to determine what actions may be needed in tandem with stimulus measures — now estimated at $5 trillion — pushed through earlier this year to turn around the deepest global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“We need to provide sustained support for growth and financial repair until we have in place a strong foundation of recovery,” Geithner said.

At the White House, President Obama said in a statement September 8 that “the steps that we have taken to jump-start growth have also been coordinated with our partners around the world. Industrial production throughout the G20 has either stabilized or is growing. Global trade is expanding.”

“Stresses in financial markets have significantly abated and our financial institutions are raising needed capital,” Obama said. But he said it is necessary for the leaders of the largest economies to blunt the cycle of bubble-and-bust with effective regulation and oversight.


Geithner told the ministers at the London meeting that national unemployment rates are unacceptably high — 9.7 percent in August for the United States — and that private demand to sustain a recovery has not yet been established.

“The classic errors of economic policy during crises are that governments tend to act too late with insufficient force and then put the brakes on too early,” Geithner said. “We are not going to repeat those mistakes.”

But stimulus actions must be reversed as conditions permit, Geithner said.

“This means our strategies will need to evolve as we move from crisis response to recovery, from rescuing the economy to repairing and rebuilding the foundation for future growth,” he said in remarks released by the Treasury Department in Washington.

At the same time, Geithner said, it is essential to begin establishing a more secure and safe international financial system. He said it is important to create stronger regulation on risk taking and to provide comprehensive oversight of key institutions and critical financial markets — such as risk-heavy derivatives. Also needed, he said, is reform of securities markets and to put in place measures to wind down financial companies that fail.

“The fundamental test of reform is to make the system resilient enough to withstand future storms,” Geithner said.


Geithner said the ministers agreed to develop by the end of next year stronger capital requirements for banks to dampen future credit and asset price bubbles, which directly contributed to the current global economic crisis. Financial activities that carry the most risk should have higher cash-on-hand requirements, he said.

Coupled with that would be higher and more demanding standards for those financial institutions that may present the greatest risk of systemic crisis, Geithner said. One measure that will be further refined for the G20 Summit is greater change to compensation and bonus practices for commercial banks. Many nations regard current compensation practices as excessive.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said there is broad agreement on what to do, but now the plan needs to move beyond agreement to specific measures.

“We are seeing the third wave of the crisis, which is rising levels of unemployment,” Strauss-Kahn told reporters. “The first two waves were the financial crisis and the consequent global economic crisis.”

“Imagine the worker in Germany or France who will lose his job in the months ahead. For that worker, the crisis is not behind him, but still ahead,” he said at a press conference following the G20 ministers’ meeting.

The G20, which was formed in 1999, encompasses Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The Pittsburgh Summit is a follow-up to a similar meeting held in London in April and an earlier summit held in Washington in November 2008 as the global recession was expanding.

In addition to the IMF managing director, the World Bank president and the chairmen of the IMF’s Financial Committee and Development Committee participate in the G20 meetings. The G20 countries represent about 90 percent of the gross national product globally and nearly 80 percent of world trade. They also represent two-thirds of the world’s population.




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