Japan to brief finance chiefs on austerity measures at G20 meet

by Shinya Ajima

Kyodo News

Financial chiefs from the Group of 20 advanced and major developing economies were to gather Friday and Saturday in South Korea to discuss measures to ease tensions in global financial markets caused by the debt crisis in the euro zone.

Preventing a recurrence of the banking crisis is also high on the agenda. Financial chiefs appear likely to debate whether to introduce a global tax on banks and force the financial institutions to bear the costs of future bailouts. However, positions among major economies are clearly divided.

The meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Busan is expected to lay the ground for discussions at the summit of leaders from the G20 economies later this month in Toronto.

The finance chiefs are expected to confirm signs of a global economic recovery in the wake of the 2008 downturn, due mainly to rebounds in major developing economies, particularly China.

But they are also likely to maintain the view that conditions differ from one economy to another, and that extraordinary measures, introduced during the recent crisis, should be maintained until the recovery is firmly driven by the private sector.

Some euro-zone countries are increasingly under pressure from the financial market to reduce fiscal deficits and reform their economies.

Representatives from the European Union are expected to explain the rescue package for Greece, recently agreed to by the 27-member bloc and the International Monetary Fund.

It is uncertain whether the G20 meeting will focus on sharp falls in the euro against the dollar and the yen recently. Among other currency topics, China’s possible revaluation of the yuan is also a subject of speculation by market participants ahead of the meeting.

The sovereign debt crisis in Greece has brought to light the importance of reducing budget deficits in some of the G20 economies.

Japan, one such economy, is expected to brief its peers on its austerity measures, including a medium-term fiscal plan due this month.

In order to prevent a future banking crisis, many economies are taking their own steps in ways that reveal gaps in thinking among some developed members. The idea of a bank tax is a prime example.

At an April meeting, the G20 finance chiefs said the IMF is required to work further on options to ensure banks bear the cost of any government bailout in the future. The lack of specifics in their joint statement added to the view that the idea had not been greeted unanimously.

A Japanese official said after the meeting in Washington that the division is between those eager to impose a “punishment” on some financial institutions that played roles in triggering the crisis with reckless investments, and others seeing little need for radical regulatory reforms, given the limited impact of the turmoil on their economies.

The official said the former groups the United States and some European countries, while the latter includes Japan, Australia and Canada.

Japan is not aggressive about the proposed bank levy, as the country has already established a safety net, under which a state-backed entity collects premiums from banks and reimburses insured depositors in the event of failures by those banks.

The tax idea is “politically popular in some countries,” another Japanese official said.

But the official rejected the prospect that the G20 would introduce the levy in a coordinated manner, saying, “We don’t think it’s necessary, for Japan at least.”

Kan may skip meet KYODO Finance Minister Naoto Kan is expected to cancel his trip to South Korea, where financial chiefs from the Group of 20 advanced and major developing economies will gather Friday and Saturday, a ministry official said Wednesday.

Kan, also deputy prime minister, is widely seen as the front-runner to succeed Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who expressed his intention to step down earlier in the day. Their ruling Democratic Party of Japan is expected to select a new leader Friday.