Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 19:32 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 19:32 | SYDNEY

How to make the G20 irrelevant


Stephen Grenville

27 January 2010 16:11

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, has made good contributions over the years to the debate on international financial institutions (the International Monetary Fund, World Bank etc). But an aside in his latest speech is off-track.

King observes that the G20 is the best forum for international economic cooperation (addressing external imbalances, for example) but that it is unrepresentative. He suggests this could be fixed 'if the G20 were to metamorphose into a Governing Council for the IMF, and at the same time acquire a procedure for voting on decisions'.

If he is saying that the G20 should respond to the equal-weighted votes of the 186 IMF member countries, most of which have no 'skin in the game' and nothing to contribute to the debate, this makes no sense. Anyone who has spent time at meetings of the IMF's International Monetary and Finance Committee (the IMF's current governing body) knows that this sort of universal inclusiveness is a recipe for irrelevance. In a different context, Copenhagen has just demonstrated this again.

A better way to go would be for regional bodies (such as ASEAN or the East Asia Summit) to discuss and digest the opinions of individual members. Then those members which also belong to G20 can bring these ideas to the G20 table. Mark Thirlwell and I argued this in a recent paper. Distilling diverse opinion at this more disaggregated level, then bringing the digested views to the global level, stands a chance of getting hard issues resolved.

Photo by Flickr user Downing Street, used under a Creative Commons license.