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I’m clearly not much of a prognosticator. In highlighting, with skepticism, the World Bank’s new Global Infrastructure Facility as a major G-20 Brisbane outcome on infrastructure, I missed far more of the actual agenda than I should have.
As we approach the G-20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, it is worth giving credit to Australia for its robust presidency, and particularly the attention paid to the G-20’s development agenda. Sandwiched between the Russian and Turkish presidencies—countries considerably more controversial these days in the West—Australia faced the difficult task of generating sufficient goodwill among the membership within a year to make some progress on a sprawling work plan.
Whether future historians remember last week’s G-20 Summit in Cannes will depend on what happens in the weeks and months ahead. If the eurozone problems spiral out of control, Cannes will be to the coming crash as the 1933 London Economic Conference was to the Great Depression: a lost chance to avert calamity. If Europe muddles through, the brief association of Cannes with the G-20 will be soon forgotten and the resort will again be famous for its film festival.
The wake-up call came as a bit of a shock. Ernesto Zedillo, the highly regarded former president of Mexico and director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, was discussing the record of international institutions and the powerful countries that run them. On their response to unprecedented international cooperation and coordination challenges, he was in no mood to mince words.