G-20 to spur growth by using 'all policy tools'

Top 20 economies to consult closely on currency markets and avoid competitive devaluations

Officials pose for a group photo at the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Shanghai, on Feb 27, 2016.
Officials pose for a group photo at the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Shanghai, on Feb 27, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

The world's top 20 economies have pledged to "use all policy tools" - monetary, fiscal and structural - on their own or collectively, to boost sluggish growth even as they urged multilateral lenders to step up infrastructure spending.

But there was no pact to intervene in currency volatility, despite calls to do so, with the Group of 20 (G-20) finance ministers and central bankers pledging instead in their communique to "consult closely" on currency markets and avoid competitive currency devaluations.

The grouping, which accounts for two-thirds of the world's population and 90 per cent of the global economy, held its two-day meeting in Shanghai amid concerns over China's slowing economy, global currency volatility and a plunge in commodity prices.

Yesterday, it cited more risks, such as escalated geopolitical tensions, a potential "Brexit" from the European Union and a growing influx of refugees in some regions.

Responding to calls for policy coordination or stimulus measures, the G-20 said it agreed that "we need to do more to achieve our common objectives for global growth".

Elaborating on the need for a suite of policy tools, it said monetary policies "will continue to support economic activity and ensure price stability" but these alone cannot lead to balanced growth.

The group will "use fiscal policy flexibly" to strengthen growth, create jobs and boost confidence, while enhancing resilience and ensuring debt as a share of the economy "is on a sustainable path".

On structural policies, it called for "faster progress on structural reforms to bolster potential growth in the medium term and make our economies more innovative, flexible and resilient".

The G-20 called on multilateral development banks to present concrete actions by July on boosting infrastructure investment, as it proposed ways such as catalysing private-sector funding and deepening cooperation among the lenders.

The ministers also warned of the need to combat "loopholes and deficiencies" in the global financial system to fight terrorism as it pledged more efforts to tackle "all sources, techniques and channels of terrorist financing" and urged the Paris- based Financial Action Task Force to do likewise.

Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke at the meeting, touching on subjects such as the digital economy and attracting private investments in infrastructure projects.

Singapore was invited by China, which holds the G-20's rotating presidency this year.

Speaking to Singapore media yesterday, Mr Heng said the Republic sees opportunities to contribute to the global economy, like working with the World Bank to beef up infrastructure capacity in the region.

Similarly, he said there are opportunities despite China's slowing economy, adding that Chinese policymakers still have room for stimulating investments in certain areas.

Mr Heng said Chinese central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan made a "very important" point on Friday about the need for balance between growth, reforms and risks in the Chinese economy.

"I don't envy the task of the Chinese policymakers. It's like changing the tyre when the car is moving," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 28, 2016, with the headline 'G-20 to spur growth by using 'all policy tools''. Subscribe