Opening the two-day meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers on Saturday, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said he was optimistic that the meeting would formulate some amibitious targets for world economic growth.
“I have a great sense of hope that this G20 meeting will be able to lay down a real and tangible framework for an increase in the growth of the global economy over the next five years,” Hockey said.
Before the meeting, Hockey said support was building for the setting of specific goals, though he admitted that some finance chiefs – notably from Germany – were opposed to the idea.
“I understand that there is some reluctance from some to have a goal or a target or an ambition, but we need to reach high to deliver more, ” he said.
“There needs to be a tangible plan presented by each jurisdiction that helps to achieve our collective goal,” he added.
Hockey’s goal-setting idea found support from France’s finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, who called the goal of boosting world economic growth by 2.5 percent over five years ambitious, but “not unrealistic.”
However, Germany remains more skeptical, with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann saying that quantitative targets were “problematic.”
Hockey’s plan derives from an International Monetary Fund paper prepared for the Sydney meeting, which estimated that if structural reforms were implemented, the global economy could grow by about 0.5 percentage points per year over the next five years.
It has forecast global growth of 3.75 percent for this year, going up to 4 percent in 2015.
The structural reforms needed to reach this growth, according to the IMF, include liberalizing product and labor markets, lowering trade barriers, bringing more women into the workforce, and boosting investment in infrastructure.
However, the paper gave no details on how or whether the G20 would police each country’s progress on the reforms.
OECD data released on Thursday showed growth in advanced economies slowed down slightly in 2013 to 1.3 percent from 1.5 percent in 2012.
Previous attempts to set fiscal and current account targets at G20 meetings have failed, with recent gatherings focused more on weighing up growth versus budget austerity as ways out of the global financial crisis.
The G20, which represents some 85% of the world’s economy, will be holding its main annual meeting in the Australian city of Brisbane in November.
tj/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)