Philip Green

Infrastructure is top of the agenda for G-20 summit

G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors gather for a family photo after their meeting during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington on Oct 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors gather for a family photo after their meeting during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington on Oct 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

In the depths of the global financial crisis it was the G-20 that emerged to chart a course away from economic catastrophe.

Six years later and in 10 days' time, on Nov 15 and 16, leaders of the G-20 economies will once again meet.

The leaders who will assemble in Brisbane no longer have a major crisis on their hands, but their task is no less important.

Australia, which will host this summit, has put forward an agenda to boost collective G-20 growth by more than 2 per cent above "business as usual" by 2018. This will deliver US$2 trillion (S$2.6 trillion) to global gross domestic product and generate millions of jobs. The goal is ambitious, but we are confident it can be delivered.

This is why we have invited skilled and thoughtful friends such as Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to attend and provide input on how this will be achieved.

Infrastructure is front and centre of the agenda.

The G-20's Global Infrastructure Initiative will help drive quality infrastructure investment right across the G-20 and beyond.

Strongly influenced by a recommendation for an infrastructure hub by the B-20 group of global business leaders, the initiative will allow for greater knowledge sharing.

A consolidated database of infrastructure projects will help match potential investors with projects, building on members' individual national growth strategies to improve the climate for investment.

It will build on, not replicate, the work of the World Bank's Global Infrastructure Facility and other bodies. In a world where many infrastructure-focused institutions are being established and proposed, it will provide an important piece of the puzzle.

We have valued Singapore's strong support, which acknowledges the nation's role as a leader in infrastructure policy.

The equal economic participation of women is also high on our agenda.

The aim is to cut the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by 2025. This could bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, significantly increasing global growth and empowering women, who represent the majority of the world's poor and vulnerable.

Concluding our core agenda, the G-20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane will also focus on building global economic resilience. Australia has called for leaders to ensure the circumstances that led to the crisis are never repeated.

Finance ministers and central bank governors have made substantial progress to strengthen financial institutions and foster stability. Now, the focus will shift to implementing recommended reforms and identifying new risks.

The G-20 is also on track to deliver on its two-year work plan to address tax avoidance. This will ensure the international tax system keeps pace with technology and changing business practices.

Companies should pay tax in the country where they earn a profit. A rapid implementation plan for the automatic exchange of tax information will help identify and catch tax evaders.

The agenda ahead of leaders in Brisbane acknowledges that substantial progress has been made. Yet, we are facing an increasingly complex economic situation that threatens to undermine our gains.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation have again revised their global economic forecasts down. The International Labour Organisation too has said that 2013 global employment was 62 million jobs lower than it should have been had pre-crisis trends been restored.

The G-20 is the right body to steer the global economy back on the path to strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Its membership covers over 85 per cent of the world economy and its actions reverberate in every corner of the globe.

Through the 2 per cent target, we're striving to create an environment that is conducive to growth, because stronger economic growth is the key to addressing almost every problem.

This means removing impediments to private sector growth, enabling free trade, creating the platforms to build more infrastructure and lifting participation and employment - particularly of women and young people.

We are committed to making a real change for the better at the Brisbane Summit. With days to go, we are implementing an agenda that will drive prosperity for all. The crisis may be over, but the G-20's work isn't.

stopinion@sph.com.sg

The writer is the Australian High Commissioner to Singapore.