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Sakong Il, left, of South Korea, chairman of the presidential committee for the G20, talks with South Africa's Trevor Manuel during a joint press conference at the meeting in Busan, South Korea, of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Sakong Il, left, of South Korea, chairman of the presidential committee for the G20, talks with South Africa's Trevor Manuel during a joint press conference at the meeting in Busan, South Korea, of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Finance Ministers

G20 leaders signal move from aid to business Add to ...

Key G20 leaders are pushing for a new, business-focused approach to Africa and the rest of the developing world that would mark a clear break from the aid-focused pledges that dominated the agendas of the now-fading G8.

The G20 finance ministers who met in Busan this weekend agreed to make "substantial" increases to the budgets of groups like the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank in an effort to shift more donor cash to private-sector projects.

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They are expected to announce details of the new funding project when they meet in Toronto later this month.

Citing its own economic rise as an example, South Korea says it will use its chairmanship of the G20 this year to ensure development issues aren't crowded out by the pressing concerns facing wealthy economies.

"We should now move away from the previous aid-oriented focus [of the G8]and move toward expanding the private sector's capacity," said South Korea's Sakong Il, chairman of the presidential committee for the G20, during an opening news conference Friday at a two-day summit of G20 finance ministers and central bankers.

Dr. Sakong warned that the credibility of the G20 hinges on its approach to development given that the format leaves out 172 United Nations countries - many of whom are among the world's poorest.

Two years ago, the G20 emerged as the main forum for world leaders to discuss and manage the global economy.

But the G20's push into development issues will likely raise further questions regarding the relevance of the G8.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that during a private one-on-one meeting here, South Korean Finance Minister Jeung-hyun Yoon also raised the topic of the G20's role in development.

"I supported his view that as part of the discussions in the second half of this year, it's important that we look at some of the development issues," Mr. Flaherty told Canadian reporters Friday. He added that both the G20 and the G8 are "useful" places to discuss development.

South Korea and Canada played host to the G20 finance ministers in Busan over the past weekend, and Seoul will play host to the G20 leaders in November. The G20 leaders summit in Toronto this month is essentially an interim step toward resolving a series of contentious issues - including new rules to limit high-risk banking and investments - in time for the meeting in Seoul.

South Korea was once a foreign-aid recipient, but a persistent focus on skilled jobs - particularly in electronics and the auto sector - proved a major success.

Here in Busan, debate over banking regulations and the European credit crisis continue to dominate. What has gone less reported, however, is that the G20 is also in the midst of a major reform of such decades-old institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that are specifically aimed at helping the developing world.

The fact that the IMF had to step in to bail out Greece this year makes the reforms all the more pressing.

Some leaders in Busan say the G20 should turn to Africa as a source of much-needed economic growth at a time when traditionally strong economies are reeling.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director of the World Bank and the former foreign minister of Nigeria, said that many people think of Africa only in terms of aid, yet her organization will release a report next week showing developing countries will expand by 6 per cent in 2010 - double the growth of high-income countries.





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