From the TUC

The G8 slap themselves on the back

11 Jun 2013, by in International

The G8 has released an Accountability Report in advance of the Loch Erne Summit next week in Northern Ireland. In an assessment based on the now familiar traffic signalling analogy (which, by the way, DFID has termed “innovative”!) the Report documents progress made by G8 nations in catalysing action, influencing global policies and mobilising resources. The Report, on the whole, is self-congratulatory, verging on complacency.

The scoreboard looks good and even impressive in some respects. Good progress is reported on six out of the nine commitments under review. Even where progress is manifestly lacking, the authors rate them satisfactory. Curiously, the Accountability Report points out that some commitments have been “off-track”. Yet, they, too, have been rated either good or satisfactory.

In sum, it is good that G8 nations have at last persuaded themselves to track progress on the commitments they made at previous summits with much fanfare. It would be better still if they could be more ambitious, and above all, more candid in gauging their performances against them.

The Report boasts that the G8 has dished out Overseas Development Assistance (ODA, usually called aid) worth $780bn since 2003, but fails to mention that none of the G8 countries has yet fulfilled their promise to devote 0.7% of GNI to ODA (the UK is likely to reach this target in this financial year, assuming DFID doesn’t underspend massively again.) In fact, net ODA as a % of GNI dropped from 0.31% in 2011 to 0.29% in 2012 – a 4% decrease in real terms – not to mention that some G8 nations have fobbed off loans at low interest rates as ODA.

Good progress is reported also on economic development. Surely, G8 leaders started off with expectations on the low end of the scale? They seem to have ended up patting themselves on the back for the meagre progress achieved since their last meeting. There is no hint of their failure to tackle the growth and employment crisis at home and the inevitable spill-over into fragile economies in the developing world or the four million who joined the ranks of the unemployed in 2012.

Both USA and Japan have reduced the much-vaunted aid for trade while the EU contribution has shown only a marginal increase. We do appreciate the UK contribution in this regard and hope it will continue to show progress.

But it is a pity that very little progress has been achieved in reducing the cost of remittances borne by migrant workers. In 2012, according to the World Bank, remittances to developing countries rose by 6.5 % to some $406bn. A cursory look at the chart in the Report reveals that it must have cost migrant workers some $37bn (about 9% of their hard-earned money) to get the funds across to their families.

And on duty-free and quota-free access for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), strangely enough, the USA which still maintains tariffs averaging roughly 3%, and yet secures the same score as Canada, EU, Japan and Russia. The EU and the other countries concerned have reduced the tariffs significantly and now impose zero or near-zero tariffs on imports from LDCs.