Goal to boost global growth in five years within reach

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br IMF-_0412_11 Reuters IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, centre, joins Bank of France governor Christian Noyer, left, and Britain's Finance Minister George Osborne on Saturday as they wait for the start of the IMF's international monetary and financial committee meeting. Photo: Reuters

Washington - Finance officials from the world’s major economies believe an ambitious goal to boost global growth by $2 trillion (R21 trillion) in the next five years is within reach despite a variety of threats, including rising tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

In a statement on Friday, finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 (G20) wealthy and developing nations avoided substantial differences in areas such as interest rate policies and tougher penalties against Russia.

Their talks resumed on Saturday with meetings of the policymaking committees of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

In the G20’s statement, officials pledged to keep working on economic reforms that could increase growth by 2 percent over the next five years. But they acknowledged the political difficulty in the changes needed to reach that goal.

“We remain vigilant in the face of important global risks and vulnerabilities,” the statement said. “We are determined to manage these risks and take action to further strengthen the recovery, create jobs and improve medium-term growth prospects.”

Australia’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, said officials knew that hard decisions awaited regarding overhauling labour market policies and dealing with budget deficits.

“It is hard but that is the only way we are going to grow the economy,” Hockey, the G20 chairman this year, said after two days of discussions.

Next up is a September meeting in Australia, ahead of a G20 summit on November 15 and 16 in Brisbane that US President Barack Obama and other world leaders will attend.

Finance officials said they were monitoring the situation in Ukraine and were “mindful of any risks to economic and financial stability”. The G20 includes Russia.

But on Friday, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew insisted there was strong support for harsher penalties, saying that Western allies “stand together in asking Russia to step back”.

The US and various European nations have imposed an initial round of penalties aimed at punishing Russia for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

The US is raising the prospect of tougher sanctions if Russia attempts to annex parts of eastern Ukraine. European officials have been hesitant to go further, worried about possible economic retaliation by Russia.

Also missing in the G20 statement was a lengthy section from its February statement concerning the need for continued low interest rate policies by central banks.

Britain’s Finance Minister George Osborne said: “I would not read too much into that.” He joked: “We’re trying to keep the communiqué much shorter.”

He noted that the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England were moving cautiously to reduce stimulus efforts as the US and British economies improved.

The US came in for criticism for the failure of Congress to approve funding for the IMF that is needed to put in place a reform programme that the 188-nation lending agency adopted in 2010. – Bloomberg


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