G20’s first key meeting kicks off with debt, inflation, slowdown

As officials from 40 countries gather Sunday to kick off the first Sherpa track under India’s G20 presidency, the global economy faces a number of challenges, such as rising debt, job losses, runaway inflation, and slow growth.

Officials said Udaipur was chosen for the first official G20 event because it would be mentally rejuvenating and spiritually energizing. Discussions would be about “looking beyond the crisis” to develop new ways to improve livelihood and move towards a development strategy that’s inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented.

“The world is in a tumult – we’ve got a big challenge ahead. Europe is going through a massive geopolitical crisis, which we are all witnessing. At the first panel discussion on ‘Transforming Lives: Accelerating Implementation of SDGs’, India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said, “We’ve seen global supply chains break down, we’ve seen global debt in 70 countries, we’re seeing a huge climate action and climate finance crisis, and we’re seeing literacy, health, and vast segments of the population going below the poverty line.”

In Udaipur, Amitabh Kant attended a meeting. (PTI)

There’s inflation, there’s a slowdown in global growth as well. India is taking over as the G20 takes over in the middle of a crisis. “We believe every crisis is an opportunity, and leadership is finding pathbreaking solutions even in the middle of it,” he said.

Sherpas’ biggest responsibility will be to look beyond the immediate to see how a new world can be shaped, he said. From Monday, the Sherpas will hold formal meetings for four days.

The term sherpas come from Nepalese guides who serve as personal representatives of leaders of member countries at international summits.

Over 200 meetings will take place in 50 cities during the Indian term, involving ministers, government officials, and members of civil society, leading up to the final summit in September 2023. Having the summit before the 2024 general elections is crucial.

On Thursday, the G20 logo was projected on the Shankaracharya temple in Srinagar. (Decan Era File Photo)

There are 13 working groups that will discuss energy, trade, investment, development, employment, tourism, agriculture, digital economy, health, education, culture, environment, anti-corruption, and more on the Sherpa track, which will set the agenda for the G20 leaders in September next year.

It’s been 20 days since I shared the issue notes with the member countries, and we’re getting ready to talk about them, including the two new groups India brought into the forefront during its presidency — Disaster, Risk and Resilience Group and Startup20 Engagement Group.

It’s an opportunity for India to showcase its work in digital transformation and sustainable development goals, especially in health, education, and women’s empowerment, an official said, since the presidency is shifting from a developed country to an emerging economy.

The Indonesian President Joko Widodo hands over the presidency of the G20 group of nations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bali. (Photo: Reuters)

The official said that representatives of other countries will also be discussing India’s Covid efforts under the CoWIN platform and vaccination.

For one year, the presidency steers the G20 agenda until September. Taking over from Indonesia came during geopolitical instability and uncertainty over the Ukraine war and the post-pandemic economic turnaround. South Africa will take over in 2025 after India.

Finance and Sherpa tracks run parallel at the G20: Finance is led by Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, and central bank governors lead Sherpa.

Indian’s G20 theme is ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, which means ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future, as well as ‘all government’. Two informal discussions will also be held in the Sherpa track’s first event, “chai pe charcha”, a term made famous during the 2014 election campaign.

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