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Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Adrian Wyld)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Adrian Wyld)

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Canada, a fiscal poster child, urges G20 leaders to slash Add to ...

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Harper, Obama urge G20 measures Prime Minister Stephen Harper is urging his G20 counterparts to agree to deep cuts in their deficits. One of the few world leaders who can boast what markets see as a strong fiscal standing, Mr. Harper said in a letter to G20 countries, who will meet in Toronto this month, that he wants advanced economies to cut their deficits in half by 2013 and have their overall debt-to-GDP measures stabilized three years later. "Advanced countries must send a clear message that as their stimulus plans expire they will focus on getting their fiscal houses in order," Mr. Harper said. "This requires credible plans for fiscal consolidation to dispel the uncertainty and financial volatility that can impair future growth prospects."

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Canada has won global praise for its economic outlook and its handling of public finances, which has drawn investors into the Canadian dollar, which puts Mr. Harper in a strong position to give advice.

Separately, President Barack Obama urged his summit counterparts, also in a letter, to pledge continued "policy support" for the economic recovery. Mr. Obama said that "we should reaffirm our unity of purpose to provide the policy support necessary to keep economic growth strong ... we should be prepared to respond again as quickly and as forcefully as needed to avert a slowdown in economic activity."

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Europe's governments cut back European governments are in the midst of a sweeping overhaul of their finances, which includes changes to social programs that have sparked anger and protests among their citizens. From raising retirement ages and other fixes to pension systems, to cuts to public sector costs, Europe is changing what for years has been a certain way of life for many.

Bloomberg News provides an interesting look at Greece's pension system, seen as a major problem for its government as it scrambles to slash its deficit. It has been criticized on many fronts, and is a target of the cutbacks. The news agency looks at one woman as an example, Sophia Constantinidou, a teacher at a private school in Athens who, because she is not married, gets €400 a month from the government that is part of the state pension of her late mother. As the only surviving child of the late public servant, she gets that money for life as long as she remains single.

Bloomberg notes that there is one pensioner in Greece for every 1.7 workers, and more than 600 occupations the government deems arduous enough for earlier retirement, including steam bath attendants, car washers and hairdressers. While those appear to be the examples on the extreme side, it's no wonder that Prime Minister George Papandreou is cutting back on early retirement.

Short euro, Barclays says Here's a vote of confidence: Barclays PLC analysts say investors should short the euro in anticipation of a fall. "We are prepared for an erratic corrective rally," they said in a research note, according to Bloomberg News.

Russia seeks key economic role Russia aims to be part of the "new world economic order." Already the 'R' in the BRIC countries - the emerging power economies that also include Brazil, India and China - Russia will push ahead with free market policies to build a "modern, prosperous" country, President Dmitry Medvedev told an international forum today. "We understand that international competition is the decisive stimulus for our modernization," the president said. "Russia should become an attractive country to which people from the whole world will come in search of their dreams," he said.

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