G-20 finance chiefs discuss exit strategies from COVID downturn

Feb 18 , 2022. 18 hours ago – 15:27 KYODO NEWS

Screenshot from Indonesia’s state-run TVRI shows President Joko Widodo delivering a video speech at a meeting of finance chiefs from the Group of 20 on Feb. 17, 2022. (Kyodo)

JAKARTA – Finance chiefs from the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies kicked off their two-day meeting Thursday to discuss strategies to exit from the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The talks of the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors are being held in a hybrid format amid worries the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus and rising inflation could cloud the outlook for the global economic recovery.

In his opening speech, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said, “A severe winter is indeed coming” for the global economy, which is “struggling” with the pandemic “far from over.”

“During this situation, no single country could recover alone. All countries are interconnected,” he said. “The rise of a region would trigger the rise of other regions. On the other hand, the collapse of a region would result in the collapse of others.”

The president warned against “rivalry and new tensions that could affect global recovery, let alone jeopardize the world peace as we’ve currently seen in Ukraine,” referring to a crisis over a possible Russian invasion of the Eastern European country.

The International Monetary Fund has projected that the global economy will grow 4.4 percent this year, weaker than the 5.9 percent expansion in the previous year.

The discussions among G-20 finance chiefs are expected to include a long-term economic recovery strategy for better prevention, preparedness, and response to potential future pandemics.

“Managing the economic and financial impacts of the pandemic and improving equitable vaccine access remain a priority,” Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said in her keynote speech.

She warned that an asynchronous recovery poses near-term risks and if not dealt with properly, it could increase the risk of not being able to anchor inflation expectation well and impede recovery.

The minister also said unless efforts are made to address problems such as high unemployment rate, weak investment and low productivity, they “are bound to leave long-lasting scars” on the economy.

Debt restructuring assistance schemes for low-income and vulnerable countries to strengthen their financial resilience will also be one of the agenda items of the meeting.

From Japan, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is attending the meeting online while Masato Kanda, vice finance minister for international affairs, is participating in the Jakarta meeting on behalf of Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki.

The G-20 groups Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.