|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
14 - 20 May 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Closing Southern ranksLeaders of the world's16 most promising developing economies concluded their eighth summit in Cairo yesterday after three days of deliberations over ways of promoting their economic interests in a global system which is inherently prejudiced in favour of industrialised nations.
Final resolutions dealt with the dimensions of the Asian financial crisis, increasing inter-group trade and combating international terrorism as well as the social dimensions of economic reform. Participants aimed to send a clear message from their part of the world to the North, ahead of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) ministerial meetings and G-7 summit scheduled for next week.
G-15 recommendations stated that one way to deal with the Asian financial meltdown is through maintaining "liberal and open world markets." While countries like Indonesia and Malaysia blame currency speculators from the West for the region's crisis, the statement said that the blame should be "appropriately and equitably shared between private lenders, borrowers and governments." G-15 members also called upon international financial institutions to "increase their role in providing specialised assistance and strengthening cooperation among their members with a view to promoting international financial stability."
According to the statement, the 16 developing countries called for more and better organised help from global financial institutions to avert financial crises because, in an increasingly global and interdependent financial market, no country is safe from sudden monetary fluctuations. The summit also accepted Sri Lanka's bid to join the group, bringing the number of members to 17.
G-15 plus 1 members include Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Senegal, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and the newest member, Kenya. At its creation in 1989 as an offshoot of the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77, the G-15 was intended to be a closely-knit Third World economic cluster, to counterweigh the G-7 of industrialised nations. G-15 members account for 30 per cent of the world's population and 39 per cent of the total gross domestic product of all developing countries.
The summit closely scrutinised the Asian financial crisis and sought to give emerging economies a louder voice in world trade arrangements. Participants also deliberated ways of improving South-South and South-North dialogue, imperative if better terms for capitalising on economic cooperation are to be ensured. Group leaders believe that by coordinating their economic policies, they would make a formidable economic bloc.
The G-15 summit, held ahead of the G-7 plus 1 of industrial nations and the WTO meeting, was a good opportunity to acquaint the world with the concerns of emerging economies. Before the Cairo summit began, President Hosni Mubarak spoke by telephone with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country currently chairs the EU and G-7, to impress upon him the necessity for the North to "hear the voice" of the South at the G-7's upcoming meeting.
The grouping is plagued, however, by numerous global and domestic shortcomings, as member states struggle to keep astride with international economic developments. Most developing countries believe their interests lie with industrialised nations, which continue to deal with them in an uneven-handed manner.
Answering a question by Al-Ahram Weekly at yesterday's news conference, Mubarak said: "We have the experience of cooperating with both North and South, but we find it much more convenient to start with good South-South cooperation. At the same time, we have to continue the dialogue between North and South because we are all in one boat."
Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, responding to the same question, said: "We believe in continuing our interest and our relation with the North because they have the market and the money and the technology. At the same time, we realise that the North has always been interested in investing and using the markets of the South. It follows, therefore, that the South too can make use of their own markets in order to develop their own economies, which is why the G-15 was formed."
Businessmen, meeting on the sidelines of the summit, announced the creation of a federation of chambers of commerce as a new G-15 body. Inter-group trade accounted for only nine per cent of its members' $800 billion foreign trade in 1996.
Since its inception, the group has launched a number of economic and technical cooperation projects which are open to all developing nations. Projects are functioning in various fields, including environment, technology, education, trade and investment.
Currency collapses, bankruptcies and stock market crashes have swept across south-east Asia since last year, often as a result of defaults on short-term debts. The worst affected countries are Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia's Prime Minister has said that his country will not seek help from the IMF to overcome the effects of economic turmoil because "conditions for such help are too onerous."
Indonesia, on the other hand, said it is cooperating already with the IMF to reform its economy. "Indonesia must implement a series of integrated reforms in the economic, financial and monetary fields, including those already underway in cooperation with the IMF," Indonesian President Suharto told the summit's opening session.
As the summit came to a close, Jamaica's Prime Minister PJ Patterson was named chairman of the G-15, which will move its next summit in February 1999 to his capital, Kingston.