November 17th, 2008
08:01 AM GMT
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WASHINGTON D.C. –- It was always going to be tough meeting the expectations at the G20 on Saturday. Talk of Bretton Woods II before the meeting inevitably raised hopes that would be near impossible to fulfil.

The fact that 20 nations, representing 90 percent of the global economy were present, merely gave the cynics cause to say nothing could get done - even President Bush admitted as much in his closing statement. Everyone expected an anodyne declaration giving something to everyone; thus nothing to anyone.

But the 10-page declaration proved us all wrong. It is considered, detailed and, yes, it sets out short and medium term goals for the G20.

Let’s remember the salient points: fiscal and monetary stimulus from those nations who can; immediate reform of accounting rules to conform to a global standard; new regulations for derivative markets and better early warning of crises; reform of the IMF and World Bank adding weight for the developing world; and a college of supervisors for cross-border investment companies.

These are not just platitudes. They mean business. Why? Because from what I can see the world leaders are angry and frustrated. Despite the cynics, most leaders go into politics to do some good. They don’t want to spend billions of dollars bailing out banks which should be building hospitals, roads and making life better for the electorate. They are furious that they’re stuck with the worst financial crisis in decades and they’re going to wreak revenge on those behind it.

However, there is an overriding hypocrisy that I found too much to take.

In defining the causes the declaration says “policy makers, regulators and supervisors in some advanced countries did not adequately appreciate and address the risks.”

Policy makers? Some advanced countries?

Surely not George Bush, who has been president for eight years? Or Gordon Brown who was Britain’s finance minister for over a decade and is now prime minister? Even Nicolas Sarkozy was France’s finance minister in 2005! The list of the complicit runs much deeper once you take into account officials in finance ministries and central banks who are still in office.

This is a breathtaking case of “someone was to blame” for the crash, conveniently forgetting they were the people either at the wheel or reading the map.

All I wanted to hear was one word: just one.

Sorry.

My Question: Did the G20 actually make a difference?

Or alternatively: Have the guilty politicians got away with the biggest financial swindle of our time? Watch The Economist's Philip Coggan answer your questions



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