In fact, the G-20 leaders displayed a marked sense of acute collective amnesia when it came to the crucial area of global financial regulation of the out-of-control banking industry, and the inherent weaknesses in neo-modern crony capitalism, wealth disparities, and the growing international poverty indices that carry with them all manner of future social and economic ills. So in the end the G-20 Summit was a look good, feel good session, played out in the media in Orwellian fashion intended to tell the world's people to "smile everything is going to be all right."
Political escapism and an almost complete blanket of anti-globalization protesters outside of the summit created a sort of serene, "we're all on the same page" atmosphere akin to a group of opium smokers caught up in a hazy fog of unreality and altered perception of what really was happening around them. No hard questions were asked. No hard issues explored and no real lasting solutions offered so that any new round of economic melt-down would not be as bad as the last one in 2008.
At the end of the Summit news commentators were gushing wildly about what dress, outfit or gown did President Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, wear and if her fashion statement upstaged and outdid that of the chic French first lady, Carla Bruni. The cheerful smiles, back-slapping and public preening for the rest of the world was an exercise more along the lines of circus showmanship than in real, mundane and pragmatic agenda setting and solution-finding that is supposed to be the work of the G-20 and its erstwhile leaders.
The G-20 is a forum for cooperation and consultation on matters pertaining to the world's financial system, among other things. It leaders, members and staff are supposed to be among the brightest minds on the planet charged with finding solutions and reaching consensus on such things as how to tackle climate change and global warming, put in place safeguards to prevent the kind of acute global recession that we saw in 2008, and how to help emerging market countries along economic lines.
When the summit ended and the anti-globalization protesters dispersed after police experimented with a new crowd-control weapon -- a sound stun-gun -- the world waited for the usual communique and end-of-session press conference. The Iran blip on the TV screens around the world sparked some interest as President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy all condemned Iran for developing a secret nuclear plant. This well-timed diversion shoved the Summit off the screens as tough-sounding speeches and saber-rattling rhetoric beat out the staid financial press releases.
At the end of the day this is all what the G-20 could come up with in a nutshell. International banks and financial institutions will be asked to increase capital with enforcement left to national governments and specifics left to a Working Committee (perhaps made up of financial ministers, investment bankers and financial managers). Salaries and bonuses for top bank operatives and executives will conform to performance and will be restricted. The performance matrix will be for a three years period. But here's the rub: monitoring and enforcement will be left to national governments and again the specifics will be worked out by a Working Committee.
Interestingly, these rules will come into effect in 2013 (after US Presidential elections). It does not take a rocket scientist to deduce that this "window of opportunity" allows top bankers, investment barons, and other managers to gorge themselves financially for the next four years when there is no regulation.
Finally, there was some talk about trade imbalances and surpluses that only pertained to China, Japan and Germany in their trade relations with the United States. And for the first time the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global financial institutions' top leadership will be opened to admit members from emerging nations. Things were rounded out with the news that that G-20 will replace the G-8 and will hold meetings annually instead of bi-annually.
For me, putting caps on bankers and investors bonuses and pay does very little to improve financial and economic stability. If the system that allows for these kinds of excesses is not regulated and strong controls and monitoring devices put in place then another recession may be around the corner. The Summit's language was deliberately careful and timid so as not to enrage the people who caused the global economic crisis in the first place. That is because money has become "the mother's milk" of politics and no matter what global leaders say and feign anger and indignation the people with the big bucks are the real political puppet masters they answer to.
The G-20 cooperates closely with various other major international organizations and fora, as the potential to develop common positions on complex issues among G-20 members can add political momentum to decision-making in other bodies. The participation of the President of the World Bank, the Managing Director of the IMF and the chairs of the International Monetary and Financial Committee and the Development Committee in the G-20 meetings ensures that the G-20 process is well integrated with the activities of the Bretton Woods Institutions.
The G-20 also works with, and encourages, other international groups and organizations, such as the Financial Stability Forum, in progressing international and domestic economic policy reforms. In addition, experts from private-sector institutions and non-government organizations are invited to G-20 meetings on an ad hoc basis in order to exploit synergies in analyzing selected topics and avoid overlap.