For three days (June 25–27), Toronto was turned into an armed camp. An estimated 15,000 police and other forces were mobilized to provide security for leaders of G20 countries to talk about the world’s economic problems.
For three days (June 25–27), Toronto was turned into an armed camp. An estimated 15,000 police and other forces were mobilized to provide security for leaders of G20 countries to talk about the world’s economic problems. A huge security fence was erected around the conference center and police were given vast powers to arrest those that came within five meters of it without identifying themselves. The three-day event cost $1.2 billion. How fiscally responsible is that? It was preceded by a one-day G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, to tell the world how these leaders plan to fix the global economy they had messed up in the first place.
It was such hypocrisy that drew tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Toronto in pouring rain to denounce the meeting and demand discussion of more pressing issues: funds to alleviate poverty, improved healthcare and protection of the environment, ravaged by greedy multinationals. Despite largely peaceful protests, heavily armed riot police used tear gas, dragged people on asphalt even though they did not resist and were sitting when the police pounced beating them viciously. The message was clear: even peaceful protests in designated areas would be tolerated only at the pleasure of the police carrying out orders of their political masters; so much for freedom and democracy. There were similar scenes of police brutality at last September’s G20 meeting in Pittsburg.
The G20, formed in 1999 to augment the G8, has assumed a higher profile. From a “mechanism for informal dialogue,” it has become the major vehicle for global financial management in the wake of the 2008 Western economic meltdown. Not all economies were affected equally; China, Turkey and India, for instance, emerged largely unscathed. Countries not part of the G20, such as Iran and Lebanon, also weathered the financial tsunami because they were not exposed to the derivatives virus that had spread through much of the Western financial system.
But the G20 is not so much a financial forum as it is a political sop to countries to circumvent demands for expansion of the UN Security Council from its current five permanent veto-yielding members to a more representative body. Western powers are not prepared to accommodate such demands, hence a new forum where other players, notably India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina and Indonesia are given a place at the table but little say in formulating global financial policy. Those are managed through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, two institutions dominated by the Europeans and Americans. China with the second largest economy and largest reserves in the world has demanded greater voting power in the IMF (currently it has 3.7 percent vote compared to the US’s 17 percent). Venezuela has gone further: it wants the IMF abolished altogether and Ecuador has defaulted on Odious Debts. More countries must join such demands to bring about real change, not return to the old ways of neo-liberalism that has caused so much havoc in the world, after the current tsunami is weathered.