Small cheer for the poorest countries at the G20

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Rather heartening at the end of a day when the G20 felt more like a blow-by-blow account of the troubled career of Greek Prime Minister Papandreou than a conference on fixing the global economy, President Sarkozy chose to talk a lot about the poorest countries in his final press conference.

Understandably, there is still a lot of attention on the threat to the Eurozone, but it was encouraging to have headlines about innovative financing, and particularly the Financial Transaction Tax which he described as feasible, financially necessary and morally unavoidable (my rough translation).

This is largely because of the high profile report by Bill Gates to the G20 on financing development, which among other things calls for an FTT, legally binding transparency requirements for extractive companies so that developing countries can better tax their activities, and taxes on transport industries.

Of course, we always look for more and better – CAFOD, for example, is seeking country by country reporting by all multinationals to be enshrined in international accounting standards – but that global leaders are talking about new sources of finance and targetting them at eradicating global poverty and adapting and mitigating the impacts of climate change is a welcome development.

Perhaps these announcements would not stand out so much if we had had the G20 we hoped for when President Sarkozy set out his amibitious agenda last year. Development issues and key issues of global financial regulation remain largely unaddressed or have unambitious, watered down proposals.

But the G20 is an unlikely forum to deliver such things. It has proven to be too responsive to the financial sector, in particular, and too exclusive – with nominal input from civil society and indeed from those poorest countries that President Sarkozy was so concerned about.

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