Saturday June 15, 2024

The reunion of the elite

By Abdul Sattar
September 15, 2023

While the announcement of a new economic corridor at the recently held G20 summit may have created a ripple of excitement, it also indicates that rivalries between major economic and military powers are intensifying.

The way India has projected itself as a regional and global power shows that the rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing is gaining momentum. The participation of Western leaders, including the US president, at the G20 seems to have strengthened India’s position in a region that is marred by territorial conflicts and old enmities.

It is believed that the economic corridor initiative has been taken to counter the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which was launched by China a few years ago to boost trade and cooperation among 60 countries. At the time of its launch, it was said that the BRI would attract an investment of over $960 billion, connecting Africa, Europe and Latin America to Asia.

The India-led G20 meeting seems to have come up with a new plan to connect countries from various continents. The conference that was held in New Delhi from September 9 to 10 also invited the African Union to join the bloc. This invitation clearly indicates that the group wants to expand its influence and will welcome the inclusion of more countries into the body of 20 states, perhaps except Pakistan.

It is unfortunate that amidst the turmoil in Ukraine, an environmental crisis in several parts of the world and skyrocketing inflation in the Global South, a powerful bloc of the world has chosen to further intensify their rivalries by coming up with another economic and investment initiative that is likely to create more tensions between major powers.

This is not the first time that efforts are being made to counter the BRI. The Group of Seven (G7) richest states in June 2021 also sought to counter China’s growing influence by offering developing nations an infrastructure plan that could rival Chinese President Xi Jinping’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative. US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders had expressed hope that their plan, known as the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative, would provide a transparent infrastructure partnership to help narrow the $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035.

In June last year, the leaders of the same group created an impression that they would translate their dream of countering the BRI into a reality, pledging to raise $600 billion in private and public funds over five years to finance infrastructure in developing countries. This financing seems to be part of the greater B3W that was meant to prove that Western countries are still the master of the world and that their hegemony cannot be shaken easily.

Many wonder that if the major powers want to divide the world into different blocs why did they create the UN, which is supposed to tackle global issues in an amicable way. It may be argued that because of the politics of blocs, the global body seems to be losing its relevance. Every region has come up with its own organization to discuss issues related to a certain continent or area. The EU has its own sphere of influence. The three North American countries interact with one another to sort out the issues being faced by these states while an organization of South, Central and North America has also been guarding its interests for decades now. In addition to that we have other regional organizations like Saarc, African Union, Asean, OIC, Shanghai Cooperation and others.

It is estimated that billions of dollars are squandered every year merely on the convening of these conferences, meetings and sessions. For instance, the Indian government is being accused of spending over INR40 billion on the G20 summit, which is over $300 million. During the G7 Summit in 2021, the UK spent GBP70 million on policing alone deploying more than 6000 cops to provide security at the venue of the summit. Canadian taxpayers had to shell out over $600 million for the G7 meeting in 2018.

This is just the amount that was spent on the arrangements of these conferences by the host countries. If we add up the expenses of leaders who attend such conferences – chartered planes, extensive security, etc – the total bill would be unimaginable. G7 was formed in the 1970s. On average if one summit costs a country $500 million, around $20 billion have already been spent in the 40 meetings of the G7 only. This is what only host states might have spent.

It seems that these conferences, summits and meetings have become a new way of squandering taxpayers’ money in poor and rich countries alike. Missing from these summits are the most important global issues that affect the majority. For instance, these meetings never discuss in an effective way the effects of poverty that is killing 12 children every minute globally. They do not talk about the more than 258 million people in 58 poor countries that face acute hunger. According to Oxfam, droughts and conflicts have left 36 million people facing extreme hunger in East Africa alone.

Such conferences also do not discuss the global inequality that has grown exponentially in recent years. For instance, only G7 states are home to 1,123 billionaires with a combined wealth of $6.5 trillion. Oxfam claims their wealth has grown in real terms by 45 per cent over the past 10 years. It believes a wealth tax on the G7 countries’ billionaires, starting just at 2.0 or 5.0 per cent could generate $900 billion a year. It is also asserted that the fortunes of the world’s 260 food billionaires have increased by $381 billion since 2020.

Synthetic fertilizer corporations increased their profits by 10 times on average in 2022. According to the IMF, the 48 countries most affected by the global food crisis face an additional $9 billion in import bills in 2022 and 2023.

Whether it is G20, G7 or other elite clubs of the rich and emerging economies, none of them bother to discuss the promises made by these prosperous countries regarding reducing the suffering of people in the Global South. For instance, in 1970, rich countries agreed to provide 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income in aid. Since then, G7 countries left unpaid a total of $4.49 trillion to the world’s poorest countries – more than half of what was promised. The seven richest countries also failed collectively to meet a long-standing promise made by rich countries to provide $100 billion per year from 2020 to 2025 to help poor countries cope with climate change.

It seems that these blocs and elite clubs are not concerned about the plight of the majority who are condemned to live a life of misery and poverty. Their economic plans are designed to benefit a few, degrade the environment and turn the lives of billions of people into a living hell by fanning rivalries.

Therefore, people should demand reparations for enslavement, colonial plunder and ruthless exploitation of 85 per cent of the world that was under the subjugation of the global elites in 1945 from today’s rich countries.

Those that claim a share in such plundering like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and others by collaborating with the Western capitalist world should also pay their due share of reparations which is estimated to be around $131 trillion. Going beyond the G20 summit and demanding the due right is the way forward.

The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: