A Saudi man adjusts his head cover ahead of a meeting of Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 18, 2020. – Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 summit Saturday in a first for an Arab nation, but the scaled-down virtual format could limit debate on a resurgent coronavirus pandemic and crippling economic crisis.
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images
G-20 nations have deployed an unprecedented $11 trillion so far to accelerate an equitable and sustainable economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, according to a report released ahead of the G-20 leaders’ summit in Saudi Arabia this week.
“G20 members adopted immediate and exceptional measures to address the pandemic’s impact, including the implementation of unparalleled fiscal, monetary and financial stability actions,” the release said.
The total spending to date, by way of comparison, is more than twice the gross domestic product of Japan. G-20 nations also spent a combined $21 billion to enhance pandemic preparedness and response, the statement added.
Saudi Arabia’s summit, conducted mostly online, is focusing on restoring growth and safeguarding the global economic recovery, while addressing the protracted global health and humanitarian crisis created by the pandemic.
“We have an opportunity to recover stronger and more sustainably from this pandemic, with greater social and economic inclusion,” said Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, who is playing a key role in shaping the agenda for the summit on Nov. 21-22.
“Through a united global response, the G20 is determined to continue tackling the major challenges of our time and work towards finding solutions,” he added.
Collectively, G-20 (Group of 20) members represent around 80% of the world’s economic output, two thirds of the global population and three quarters of international trade. The group includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.
Saudi Arabia’s G-20 presidency has been dominated by the need to address the deep wounds created by the coronavirus. Just days after the first finance ministers and central bank governors meeting held in Riyadh in February, markets and the global economy began to plunge dramatically as countries imposed strict lockdowns through March and April to curb the spread of the virus.
While aggressive stimulus and monetary policy countermeasures have supported a tepid resumption of growth and stability within the financial system in the second half of the year, the long-term impact of the Covid-19 shock is still materializing. The United States and Europe are confronting renewed spikes in infections and climbing death tolls. New and prolonged lockdowns to protect lives and livelihoods will also delay the recovery trajectory.
Saudi Arabia has hosted hundreds of ministerial meetings, working group meetings, workshops and side events through the year leading up to the summit in order to shape a collective response. The G-20 is likely to outline a range of measures and recommendations aimed at addressing structural inequalities and debt repayments, among other policies, in its joint communique at the conclusion of the summit.
The G-20 has championed a debt service suspension initiative (DSSI) to provide the most vulnerable countries with urgent and immediate liquidity relief from official bilateral creditors, releasing $14 billion to assist indebted countries to fight the pandemic.
Multilateral development banks have also provided $75 billion from April to December 2020 to DSSI-eligible countries as part of a broader $230 billion package for emerging and low-income countries. A collective effort to boost IMF (International Monetary Fund) funding for poorer countries is also being discussed.
“There is no blueprint for how this recovery must occur,” said Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, UAE minister of state, a G-20 sherpa, and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Global Market — the international financial center of the UAE’s capital city.
Saudi Arabia invited the United Arab Emirates in its capacity as chair of the Gulf Cooperation Council to engage in the 2020 G-20 processes. “The Saudi presidency set itself a very ambitious agenda before the start of the year,” Al Sayegh added.
“The onset of Covid-19 and the need to coordinate a global response only lent more importance to the G-20 forum as the year progressed.”
Al Sayegh indicated the G-20 is likely to emphasize the importance of improving global cooperation and multilateralism as a means to enhance the economic recovery.
“We need to see more respect applied to international cooperation and international organizations,” he said, saying this approach had been “under attack” in recent years. “You will not be able to recover on your own, without opening trade and opening cooperation and resolving issues that have emerged in the past four to five years,” he said.