Can the G-20 Save the World?

"The world needs a coordinated reaction to the crisis," says Michael Burda, a Berlin-based American economist. US Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow argues that "a uniform worldwide financial policy" is needed, while fellow economist Joseph Stiglitz calls for the "dangerous global imbalances" to be "diminished."

What the economists expect is nothing less than a coordinated strategy against the crisis. They would like to see the two dozen heads of state and government declare, in a joint statement, how they plan to cushion the worldwide recession, loosen up frozen credit markets and offset imbalances in the world economy -- and all of this without driving their own economies into new, long-term debt traps.

It would be tantamount to a stimulus program if world leaders were to resume the interrupted world trade talks, channel the flow of investment into developing nations and transfer a portion of their power to international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The Need for Joint Action

Most of all, however, they must develop rules for the international capital markets to ensure that a fiasco like the financial crisis of recent months will never happen again. Improved control of hedge funds and derivatives would be needed, as well as regulatory agencies with the authority to take action and greater protections against credit default and rate fluctuations.

All economists agree on the need for concerted and joint action, because the world is already no longer recognizable in the wake of so many failures, including the failure of banking regulators, politicians, critical journalism and even common sense.

Last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced its prediction that total global trade would decline by close to 10 percent this year. Globalization has shifted into reverse. It affects every country, industry, sector and business.

Despite that fact, the governments of the industrialized countries, faced with a crisis of such proportions, have returned to pursuing their national interests. They condemn protectionism while erecting new trade barriers at home. They invoke international cooperation while manipulating the value of their currencies. And they declare their solidarity with developing countries while allowing the crisis to affect the Third World more harshly than any other part of the world.

But the most dangerous fact of all is that they have yet to come up with an approach to combat the causes of this unprecedented economic decline. The international credit and banking crisis is still unresolved. At the same time, bad news appearing almost daily weighs heavily on consumers, businesses and the political establishment. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) predict that the entire global economy will shrink, for the first time since World War II.

Vestiges of an Outmoded Reality

It would seem that it is high time to set aside egos and vanity. Never before has the world changed as quickly as it has in the 12 months since March 2008. At the time, Germany's DAX stock index was at 6,578 points. Germany was the world's leading exporter, and the Economics Ministry expected growth of 1.2 percent.

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