29 January 2009
Far too crowded. Probably 500 people over the top. Last year 2000 was heavy, 2600 is too many. Some can’t attend sessions even having tried to book online from home. Participant numbers should be reduced.
Security is also very tight, aggravated by the crush. There are heavy lines and queuing, especially early in the morning. On the other hand, this is not surprising with 40 country leaders present, many with large convoys.
I participated in a “no way back” session on CNBC. There doesn’t seem to be too much understanding of the impact of the scale of public, government and hence taxpayer money on regulation and government interference. Protectionism may also raise its head, as a result. I am not sure on the basis of the conversation that the change in attitude to corporate responsibility will be sufficient to neuter or remove government intrusion.
The Chinese premier, on the other hand, was motivating and says we should look on the bright side. He worries about protectionism and free trade, and is keen that China should develop food self-sufficiency and security.
In his formal speech he emphasised that the year of the ox represented diligence, sacrifice and plenty. He outlined four programmes – a government spending and tax cut worth 4,000bn rmb or 16 per cent of GNP; frequent cuts of interest rates and financial support; industrial restructuring; and innovation in science and technology. He even mentioned the need for west to start saving.
He feels the Chinese economy is in good shape on the whole, with 9 per cent growth in 2008 and CPI stable. He’s full of confidence. Objectives are for a steady, fast economy; harmony and stability; and reform and co-operation on free-trade with reform of the international financial system.
The premier believes developing countries should be protected by developed countries and that there should be international co-operation on risks and regulation. His final vision was for a better world focussing on climate change and environment with peaceful, open and co-operative development.
The G20 looks set with positive signals for president Obama, despite Tim Geithner’s comments. The economy will turn from harsh winter to spring – 8 per cent growth for 2009. A tall order but the premier is confident. The Chinese financial system is good, having seen signs of recovery late last December. Prices are up, inventories down. Consumption is still up at 20 per cent, while there are massive savings of $4,600bn. The premier reiterated that prompt, forceful, targeted measures are needed.
He is committed to climate change and offered friendly messages to US. Thirty years of peaceful and harmonious growth in the G20 is in world’s interest. He offered co-operation over the crisis.
All-in-all impressive sessions – thoughtful, comprehensive, fact-based, and technocratic. State-directed capitalism seems to work and the premier reads Adam Smith. I wondered how many of his audience do.
Sir Martin Sorrell is chief executive of WPP, the advertising group