Issue :   
January 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       January 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:January' 2018


Forum turning farce


The G20 Summit held in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Summits are essentially political platforms. Are not always good ones for addressing vexing global economic issues. This message came out loudly in the latest G-20 Summit held in Argentina.
In the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, G- 20 finance ministers conclave was elevated to heads of governments Summit at the initiative of US and Britain. It was supposed to work for coordinating policies to deal with global financial and trade issues.The first one hosted by Washington offered some pious hopes but soon US Federal Reserve diverged. The current American President makes no bones about single mindedly pursuing his ‘America First ‘ policies.
In Buenos aires, out of the 20 heads of heads of governments attending, only the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey’s president Erdogan were present in the first Summit held ten years back. That was the only fact offering any continuity in G-20 deliberations, otherwise marked by divisions and diversions.
The US- China trade and tariff war had cast its shadow. The US- Chinese presidents met and decided to resolve their disputes and stole the headlines. The Russian and US presidents shook hands on the sidelines but did not have any formal meeting.The shadow of Russian intervention in Ukraine and recent seizures of Ukraine’s ships, US sanctions against Russia loomed over the Summit.Turkey President and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Salman avoided each other as the two countries are engaged in a tense dispute over the killing of Saudi journalist Khashogi ( a critic of Salman) in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Who shook hands with, or smiled at Saudi crown prince became more newsworthy than the G 20 Summit final communique.
As if to de-emphasise the importance of G20 and its focus on multilateralism, a major trilateral agreement between US, Canada and Mexico was signed during the Summit for replacing NAFTA -the regional trading pact unilaterally terminated by President Trump. Reportedly, both China and US fought over the wording of the final communique. Very significantly, this document began by saying that the ‘dialogue continued in search for common ground’. The Climate Change agreement or Paris Pact was a sore point; the communique pointedly recorded the US dissent on the subject by saying that the US reiterated its decision to withdraw from this Pact.International Trade under WTO was another item that put China against US.The Communique barely managed to state : ‘ the multilateral trading system is falling short of its objectives..we support the necessary reform of WTO to improve its functioning ’. Perhaps, G -20 was doing a better ,purposeful job when it was a low profile forum of only finance ministers.

‘Shadow banking’

The G-20 watchdog on the global financial system- Financial Stability Board-set up in 2009, has issued a grave warning about the threat posed by ‘shadow banking’ .The term refers to non-banking firms such as the collapsed ILFS of India that lend money but do not come under any regulatory scrutiny.According to FSB, the assets financed by shadow banking worldwide- has touched $99 trillion or about 30 per cent of such assets. Unless all countries make concerted effort to regulate their operations, they could trigger the next financial crisis worse than the one experienced in 2008,opined Paul Krugman,the Nobel- Laureate economist in a media interview.

Where few are prosperous

The Gulf nation's Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi The tiny gulf state of Qatar made news by announcing its intention to exit from the 15 nation OPEC on the eve of the latter’s meeting in Vienna for considering a cut in oil output from its members amidst falling global crude oil prices. One does not know whether Qatar -a minor oil exporter but a substantial natural gas marketer-took this strategic step as a tool of President Trump who has been putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, the main oil producer, to maintain oil supplies and stable prices.From a high of over $100 a barrel, the global oil prices are now ranging between $50-70,helping oil consuming nations to rein in

inflation and central bank interest rates. The US president has managed to weaponize oil and US dollar to further the interests of US oil producers as well as American diplomacy against Russia and Iran.
Qatar hosts a US military base, has a huge state-owned (sovereign) fund from which it has lent money to Greece and Italy-both members of European Union but defying EU’s central bank. In 2017, Saudi Arabia ousted Qatar from the gulf state alliance demanding in vain that Qatar should halt Al-Jazeera TV broadcasts and severe ties with Iran.
India-Qatar bilateral trade is about $10 billion, of which LNG and oil Indian imports account for about $9 billion.Interestingly, after the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar in 2017, India’s exports of food related goods jumped by 50 per cent.
Qatar is one of the few countries with highest per capita income. But out of its 2.6 million people only a population in excess of 300,000 enjoy prosperity.

Eco-cost of what we eat

In the recent past, no week passes without a warning Beef has the biggest climate impact : from scientists about the adverse effects of global warming on our daily lives.Given below is an info-graph of what we choose to eat and at what eco-cost:

The author has been Distinguished Civil Servant and thinker of India.