IMF and World Bank: Marching to a G20 Tune?

This year, the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting on October 12-13 overlapped with the IMF-World Bank annual meeting on October 13-15 in Washington, D.C.

As of December 1, 2017, Argentina becomes G20 President with the past and future Presidents (Germany and Japan, respectively) as part of the G20 Troika.  At the October G20 meeting, Argentina announced that its two key G20 Finance Track priorities will be the Future of Work (shared with the Sherpa Track and possibly looking at automation, education, and womens’ entrepreneurship as well) and Infrastructure Financing, especially through financializing infrastructure as an asset class. The priorities of the Argentine Sherpa Track will be announced at the final German Sherpa Meeting on 9-10 November in Berlin.[1]

The individual G20 member countries hold the overwhelming majority of votes at the IMF and World Bank, so it is not surprising that G20 priorities are often identical to those of the institutions they dominate.  For example, infrastructure financing has been a G20 development theme since 2010 and a powerful Finance Track theme since 2014, except under Germany, when infrastructure issues were dealt with by the Sustainability Working Group and under the Compact with Africa.

Since 2010, the G20 has focused urging the Multilateral Development Banks to standardize, scale-up, and replicate mega-projects, especially public-private partnerships (PPPs) in emerging and developing countries.  Indeed, the G20 encouraged the strengthening of existing and start-up of new Project Preparation Facilities (PPFs) with the capability of accelerating mega-project preparation — especially for trade facilitation in the energy, water, transportation and ICT sectors.  In each geographical region and subregion, Master Plans for Infrastructure in these four sectors have already been designed.

Especially since 2014, the G20 has tried to solve the problem of how countries can attract private investors, particularly long-term institutional investors (pension and insurance and mutual funds and sovereign wealth funds) which hold over $100 trillion in savings. While the G20 and the MDBs have not succeeded in mobilizing much additional financing for PPPs from investors, efforts to overcome remaining obstacles are described in Boxes 1 and 2.[2]

Until the German Presidency, there was no effort to promote infrastructure that would be environmentally and socially sustainable.  Even under the German Presidency, the officials leading the powerful Finance Track said that sustainability is the job of the (less powerful) Sherpa track.  Infrastructure contributes approximately 60% of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted to the atmosphere; therefore, it is crucial that urgent steps be taken to curtail infrastructure that locks-in carbon-intense technology and ensure that infrastructure meet criteria for mitigation of GHG and adaptation to the effects of global warming.  At present, all such criteria are voluntary whereas the rights of investors are legally protected in trade/investment agreements and the PPP contracts that include investment provisions.

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[1] At the final German Sherpa meeting on November 9-10 in Berlin, the Argentine Sherpa will announce the priorities for the 2018 Presidency.  The Germans have chosen 7 topics for this meeting: 1) a review of outcomes of the Hamburg Summit (Trade, Migration, Anti-Corruption, Terrorism, and Digitalization); 2) the Climate and Energy Action Plan; 3) the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity; 4) Main Outcomes of the Finance Trade, including the Compact with Africa; 5) G20 Governance; 6) We-Fi/Business Women Leaders’ Taskforce; and 7) Health.

[2] For descriptions of financialization, see an article by Nick Hildyard of Corner House and a blog by the World Bank Group’s Chief Financial Officer.

 

This article has been categorized in IMF & World Bank.

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