After George Papandreou’s surprise decision to ask the Greek people if they would prefer five years of austerity or five years of austerity with a side order of chaos, Nicolas Sarkozy’s best-laid plans for Cannes have had to be, well, canned. He launched his presidency of the Group of 20 leading nations with calls for a wholesale reconstruction of the international monetary system and a global plan for renewed growth. These grand aims, some of which were unrealistic anyway, will now inevitably take second place to the eurozone’s worsening agonies, and the visiting Americans and Chinese will inevitably spend time calling on the Old Continent to get its act together.
That is unfortunate, and Mr Sarkozy should try to wrest at least part of the agenda back on to the longer-term issues. Something could be rescued from the wreckage. Of course there will have to be a general commitment to sustaining economic growth. It will only be of value, however, if it is buttressed by specific commitments to strengthen the resources of the International Monetary Fund (and the European financial stability facility) to provide help to the walking wounded, whose problems threaten to derail the summit and, more importantly, the global economy. There is a clear common global interest there, and sometimes peering into the abyss, as the summiteers are now doing, can shift entrenched positions. Continue reading »