We live in interesting times… Interesting as in the old Chinese curse: “May you live during interesting times”! Everywhere one looks there is something “interesting” going on, as for example the activities of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) if you prefer; the Ukraine crisis; climate change; the Ebola virus epidemic; almost daily terrorist attacks; African warfare and Asian warfare… And the list goes on with famines, rapes, murders, cannibalism, religious fanaticism, random shootings, abductions, kidnappings, etc, etc.
Granted that some of these events are local and have always occurred in the background right throughout human history, and the only way they achieve notoriety now is because of the internet and the ready dissemination of information (and misinformation!). However, one cannot deny that there is a constant escalation of all sorts of critical events around the world, each one of which could possibly have global consequences. The Ebola virus outbreak in Africa in one example, and we have already seen imported cases of the disease in Western countries, which rang alarm bells around the world.
The G20 summit is about to begin in Brisbane, Australia. Just in case you’ve just come out of a coma and you don’t know what G20 (Group of 20) is, it is a forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies, including 19 individual countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States; and the European Union (EU). The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the ECB.
The Brisbane G20 agenda outlines that action on tax avoidance, free trade, economic growth, tax avoidance and other economic issues will be discussed. There is growing scepticism that G20 meetings fail to achieve tangible outcomes and simply deteriorate into talkfests and a host of junket type activities for attendees (brothels in Brisbane are expecting a roaring trade).
In 2008 when the global economy was in crisis, the G20 was in panic mode, trying to find solutions. In the six intervening years since then it has become better known for the protests it attracts than the progress it has made on its central goals of promoting growth and strengthening international economic institutions. The leaders meeting in Brisbane this weekend will be under pressure to achieve something real and achievable for the gathering to prove its relevance, in times when the G20 risks losing focus. Climate change may be raised, but to its shame Australia wishes to avoid this thorny issue.
More importantly, the G20 summit has to shed its elitist, paternalistic and capitalistic image. There is a strong perception that the G20 is there to make the rich of the world richer and develop continuing economic well-being in Western type countries. That major banks are involved is reason enough for many people to doubt the intentions of the group as “global do-gooders” for all people in the world. Scandalously high annual salaries ($2 to $4 million) for top bankers and obscene “golden handshakes” on retirement find little sympathy amongst the common people who struggle with mortgages (if they are lucky enough to be buying a house), or even worse, those who are trying to scratch out a living in famine-ridden lands.
How much will be discussed in relation to developing countries in this G20 summit? Precious little, I should think. The G20 nations wish to preserve their supremacy, the bankers wish to grow their profits even more, the world leaders wish to strengthen capitalism, grow big business further and maintain the status quo in terms of the worker ants milling about slaving away and busily making the rich of the world richer. The G20 is indeed pursuing its interests wearing a set of prodigious blinkers that amplify the tunnel vision that characterises their activities.
Meanwhile, up in the heavens we’ve landed on a comet. On November 12, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander made history. The lander successfully made it to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Scientists confirmed the landing at a little bit after 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT). A huge technological and scientific step for humankind, but one has to wonder on its broader significance and its impact on the millions dying of famine, in wars, due to economic hardship, as a result of terrorism?