Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meet Tomorrow To Discuss Global Crisis

Neville de Silva Diplomatic Editor Asian Tribune

London, 06 October, ( Finance ministers of the 53-nation Commonwealth begin a crucial two-day meeting tomorrow against the backdrop of the global financial crisis.

The economic meltdown threatening several key global players including some in the Commonwealth, will be a priority issue when the ministers meet in St Lucia on October 7 and 8 to decide what collective steps could be taken to halt the slide into a major economic recession that could hurt the poorer and smaller countries of the Commonwealth even more than some of the others.

Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Director Economic Affairs of the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat told a discussion group on the even of his departure to St Lucia that from the perspective of the Commonwealth the meeting has a number of advantages.

"The whole development spectrum is reflected one way or another" because the ministers would be looking at several issues that trouble the world today from the impasse at the recent Doha Round of talks of the World Trade Organization to the acute problems facing small states, many of which are in the Commonwealth.

Dr Coomaraswamy was speaking at a forum organized by the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit (CPSU) which is a part of the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

He said this meeting is particularly important as the recommendations of the Commonwealth on reforming international institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) will be fed into the annual meetings of these financial institutions that will be held in Washington shortly.

Speaking on the Commonwealth and the way forward, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma told the Royal Commonwealth Society that the St Lucia parley will work out a road map for the inclusive reform of the IMF and the WB.

Last June, 11 Commonwealth leaders met at a mini-summit in London to discuss how the IMF, WB and other international institutions should be changed to fulfill the needs of the 21st century and to give the global south a more equitable voice in the Washington twins.

As Dr Bevlyn Olima of the CPSU said the "reform of international institutions is currently one of the most pressing economic and development concerns."

Last November Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kampala, Uganda recognized the urgent need to make these institutions more relevant so as to reflect the challenges of the new century.

But the reform of these institutions, as important as it is, is overshadowed by more urgent international developments that are becoming critical for the economic survival of several Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth nations.

That is the challenge posed by high food and energy prices which are particularly hurting countries that are net importers.

"The impact of soaring energy and food prices on countries worldwide, while not entirely ‘schizophrenic’, has been very different depending on whether they are net importers or exporters of food and energy. For low income countries on the wrong side of the ‘ export divide’ there has been a double shock of increasing costs of oil and food imports, while for those providing food and fuel to the global economy, increased profits have also come with mounting inflationary pressures and difficulties in managing resource wealth in an optimal manner," said a briefing paper prepared for the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit.

"What makes this policy conundrum even more complex is the tightening nexus between food and energy policy. Clearly, energy prices have always been linked to some degree to food prices by virtue of input costs across the agriculture value chain. This can be seen in cultivation, refrigeration, shipping and distribution ,as well as soaring costs of pesticides and fertilizing driven by energy price rises," says Matthew N. Hulbert, the author of the briefing paper.

This is why the Finance Ministers have as a special theme the subject: Meeting the challenges of high food and energy prices, high up on its agenda.

- Asian Tribune -

Share this