G20 betrays commitments to world’s poor

The latest G20 summit in Toronto scandalously cost an estimated $1 billion! An incredible sum of money and an even more incredible slap in the face for the unseen, unheard victims of the economic crisis – the millions of unemployed, homeless and poor.

The G8 were also forced to admit that they were failing – miserably – to meet their commitments to doubling aid to the world’s poor, particularly to Africa. These ‘world leaders’ had promised in 2005 that they would increase annual development assistance to the world’s poor by $50 billion per year, with $25 billion going to Africa. Those figures, adjusted for inflation should be $60 billion and $30 billion respectively. Falling far short, total aid has only increased by roughly $40 billion with only $15 billion going to Africa.

The summit did pledge $224 million in development grants for agriculture in Bangladesh, Rwanda, Haiti, Togo, and Sierra Leone. This highly generous sum amounts to about one fifth of what was spent on security for the summit!

And what exactly did we get from the G20 for $1 billion dollars? A radical plan of action to deal with the banks and financial institutions that created this crisis? No. A cutting edge solution to third world hunger or climate change? No. Agreement on how the rich and powerful can make sure the working class pays for their mess? Not quite.

While there is of course agreement on the fundamentals of who should pay, (In fact, at the G20 there was a chance for ministers to receive advice from “an exclusive group of high-profile business leaders from around the world” – the B20. A clear indication of whose interests are being represented) stark divisions are emerging, particularly between Germany and the other European powers on the one hand and the US on the other.

The Obama administration is wary of the European style austerity measures, for a number of reasons e.g. such savage cuts could lead to low growth or recession in Europe which would jeopardise US export markets, but also because Obama faces midterm elections in November and in reality requires not cuts but a new stimulus package to stave off defeat.

However the outcome of the summit saw the European agenda prevail, with the final communiqué calling for governments to slash their deficits in half by 2013. In the US for example this would mean a massive cut of $781 billion. With absolutely no intention of looking to multinational  corporations or banks for this money the idea is for the working class to foot the bill. Whether this will be through tax increases or cuts in public spending or both, it will mean a monstrous  assaulton living standards worldwide.

In reality, this is the only solution capitalism can provide us with. What is needed is a continuation and an escalation of the movements taking place across the globe in response to the crisis. Workers and young people in the US, Europe, China and beyond have been resisting the attacks and displaying their potential power in the process. A political alternative must be built alongside these movements in every country to lead the workers in struggle beyond the misery of capitalism, beyond the rule of big business and their puppets in the G20.