The G20's bubble and squeak initiatives

The initiatives announced by the G20 were nothing more than repackaged, old or already-agreed measures presented to the world as new ideas.

It's "easy to be cynical" about the G20, says Jeremy Warner in The Independent. New Labour has an irritating habit of repackaging old or already-agreed initiatives and presenting them as new, and this was no exception. The $5trn fiscal stimulus was achieved by pooling together every conceivable global stimulus measure; the 'new' $1.1trn is "largely a regurgitation of pre-agreed measures", including finance for the IMF which was bumped up from the expected $500bn to $750bn.

Even so, the summit marked a "breakthrough moment" in rebuilding the world's confidence: stockmarkets soared across the globe. The degree of consensus achieved on regulatory reform was impressive, tax havens and banking secrecy have been consigned to history, and the degree of unity may "presage international cooperation and policy coordination across a much wider range of issues".

Agreement was achieved and Gordon Brown got the best press of his life, but "in policy terms it was a failure", says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Brown and Obama didn't achieve a new global fiscal stimulus. They didn't reopen world trade or truly close tax havens. There was no agreement on stimulating demand or on measures to cut unemployment. What we got were G8-style promises of "more loans to poor countries through the IMF, which may never be used". True, says Alan Beattie in the FT. And let's not forget that breaking those G8 promises didn't inflict major political damage on anyone. Given past disappointments, the "burden of proof" is on G20 governments to show their pledges mean something. There is a "critical distinction between a binding treaty and a group hug".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/mw70aro6gl1676370748.jpg

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

But "apparently empty words" aren't meaningless, says the Independent on Sunday. Our global financial system depends on confidence; the summit provided a boost. The fact that the leaders accounting for 80% of the world's economy put their names to a declaration against protectionism will "help to hold the line against countries seeking advantage by doing down their neighbours". Credit where credit's due, agrees Steve Richards in The Independent. Brown's view that the global economic crisis can only be resolved by a co-ordinated response has been proved right. The changes and additional sums of cash may not prove extensive or speedy enough, but are far "better than a vacuum in which leaders act separately".

But the majority of the "eye-catching plans" will do the UK very little good, says Edmund Conway in The Daily Telegraph. Proposals to overhaul the regulation of financial markets are "highly significant but are not designed to cushion economies through the recovery" and "nothing agreed will prevent unemployment climbing to the highest levels since the mid-1980s, or the recession enduring beyond the year". Of course it won't, says Jenkins, but Brown's failure is a good thing. It's put global fiscal stimulus back in the "statist box" and proves he can't get us out of this mess. Nor will talk of $1.1trn mean anything to voters, says Matthew D'Ancona in The Sunday Telegraph. We "stopped trusting Labour statistics years ago". When the time comes to vote, the figure we're likelier to remember is the £10 Jacqui Smith had to repay to the taxpayer for the porn films her husband watched on expenses.

Emily Hohler

Emily has worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.