G-20 must retain focus on growth, reforms: PM

G-20 must retain focus on growth, reforms: PM
Singaporean students taking a photo with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a reception for Singaporeans living in Brisbane yesterday. PM Lee was in the Australian city to attend the G-20 Leaders’ Summit, which ended yesterday.

The global financial crisis that led to the first G-20 summit in 2008 is mostly over, but the grouping of the world's largest economies must not lose focus of its core mandate of getting global growth back on track, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

In closing remarks at the two-day Group of 20 summit, he reminded world leaders that "we have not solved all the structural issues" that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

"The panic has subsided, but given time, the problems can come back in a slightly different form to hurt us," PM Lee cautioned at a working lunch towards the end of the Brisbane meetings, in which issues such as climate change and the Ebola outbreak edged in on host Australia's growth-focused agenda.

Each country must, therefore, undertake structural reforms and work together to improve trade freedoms, multilateral institutions and infrastructure investments, PM Lee added.

"We have to deal with our own domestic constituencies to build support for reforms, be it in trade and labour markets, or rules for domestic and financial institutions," he said. "Without national reforms, no amount of global cooperation or consensus will succeed in boosting growth."

G-20 leaders yesterday signed off on about 800 measures to grow their combined economic output by an extra 2.1 per cent - or about US$2 trillion (S$2.6 trillion) - by 2018. They also agreed to create a Global Infrastructure Hub in Sydney, as part of an initiative to better match infrastructure projects with private investors, and to push forward with the stalled Doha free trade talks.

Apart from promoting trade and infrastructure, progress must be made on reforming the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to give emerging countries more heft, PM Lee said. He joined the G-20 leaders in urging the United States to ratify the IMF reforms.

Focusing on all these economic issues will leave global leaders "a bit of energy and time to discuss other issues", he added. Elaborating on this in an interview after the lunch, PM Lee told reporters that while the G-20 should also talk about "urgent" matters such as Ebola, it "ought to focus on its core mission".

For instance, it cannot become a "super security council" for the United Nations, he said.

The summit was shadowed by tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine and the downing of Flight MH17, which had been carrying 38 Australians.

PM Lee also highlighted the continuing importance of the G-20 as a forum for dialogue about and coordination of global economic issues, since the grouping strikes "the right balance in terms of focus and inclusivity".

He added that the Brisbane summit - the ninth G-20 summit since 2008 - was a valuable occasion for small countries like Singapore to have their say.

Singapore is not a member of the G-20, which comprises the world's biggest economies representing nearly 90 per cent of global economic output. But the Republic was invited to Brisbane by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in recognition of its role as an international financial centre and convenor of the Global Governance Group (3G), PM Lee said.

The 3G is an informal coalition of smaller and medium-sized UN members. This is Singapore's fourth time at a G-20 summit.

fiochan@sph.com.sg


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