Wednesday, January 19, 2005


G8 agenda - what should be on it?

There is some uncertainty about what should be a priority for the G8's agenda.

Matters that all deserve attention include the lessons of Iraq, creating order in the international economy, big cuts in public spending in order to make national economies competitive, the future of the G8 etc, etc.

The need for stability in Iraq is certainly a priority of the US, and it is the theme of an article in this month's 'Foreign Affairs'. In essence the article says that the US should try to persuade the United Nations (who they're currently vilifying) to arrange the necessary stability.

"As an initial step toward a regional consensus on Iraq, the United States should ask the UN to convene a consultative group with the five permanent members of the Security Council, Iraq, and all its neighbors, modeled after the Peace Implementation Council on Bosnia or the group of two great powers (Russia and the United States) and six neighbors (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) that was gathered to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan."

"Washington should seek to restore a transatlantic consensus on Iraq, launching quiet and informal talks with its principal partners and critics in Europe, including London, Paris, and Berlin. Whatever can be settled by these governments could then be sold to NATO, the EU, and the G-8 group of highly industrialized states plus Russia; whatever cannot be settled will never find support in any wider forum."

"The transatlantic discussions should first focus on devising a common approach to Iraq. . . Washington will have to redefine its goals in Iraq in terms that the populations and governments of the region can identify with. . . it should take the lead in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement."

Saturday, January 15, 2005


G8 - the difficulty of cutting public spending

There is growing pressure to make economies more competitive, by cutting public spending.
But cuts are politically unpopular. In the UK, for example, the Taxpayers' Alliance (TPA) has recently reported poor value for money of £81 billion - about 8% of GDP and nearly 20% of total government spending.

"At least £81bn of taxpayers’ money was wasted or spent on useless projects by the government in 2004. We have identified and listed 500 examples of spending that can be cut without closing a single hospital, firing a single teacher or cutting pensions."

"Returning the wasted £81bn to its rightful owners by slashing taxes would make each household in the country on average £3,326 better off – a real boost to millions of families."

"The Tories think just [£1,640] of your money is wasted – and might give some of it back to you. . . But Labour say they only waste £900 of your money and they won’t give any of it back to you anyway."


Priorities - the economy

Effective governance of the global economy was once a must for the UK (see below), but looks like it has fallen out of favour. It's not yet on the UK's 'wish-list' for the G8's agenda. The European Union no doubt take issue with the UK's change of heart - especially because of the disorder in exchange rates.

But the UK has its own worries. Effective governance of the UK economy is a more pressing need. Public sector reform, for example, is proving difficult - for all political parties wanting votes. Is the economy really a priority (Lisbon agenda)?

>Business has expressed scepticism about the "very ambitious" Tory plans to generate public sector savings of more than £30bn to fund tax cuts of about £5bn which Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, will announce on Monday.<

>The CBI said it needed "to be convinced that the scale of these numbers can be achieved in the first year [of a Tory government]" because both governments and opposition parties had an "indifferent track record in realising such big numbers in such a short time". <

>"Setting targets is one thing. Seeing detailed working out is something else. And seeing implementation of it is something else again."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Common foreign policy

There is no common foreign policy for the European Union (see below). Consequently, it looks as if the EU won't have an agenda for the G8 in 2005. This leaves the governments of the UK, France, Germany and Italy free to pursue their own separate priorities at the top forum.

One of the UK's priorities for the G8 is climate change. Two months ago a strategy paper was published: "The United Kingdom’s national security depends on preventing the damaging effects of climate change, and on maintaining secure energy supplies at an affordable price."

In order to deal with this threat to national security, the government recommend that multilateral governance is adapted to respond better to the growing influence of non-state actors, such as business. Because business provides, directly and indirectly, all of a nation's income there is certainly an argument for giving it a say formally - nationally and internationally.

More involvement of business in governance? Perhaps the EU member countries could be encouraged to come to the G8 table with a joint position on climate change and energy?

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