G20 Reform Built on Uneven Foundations

G20’s four pillars for agenda reform built on uneven foundations, says ACCA

The global body for accountants, ACCA (the Association for Chartered Certified Accountants) has responded to last week’s G20 meeting by saying that its “pillars for agenda reform” are built on shaky ground.

The G20’s first pillar – a strong regulatory framework, and the third pillar – resolving issues to do with financial institutions in crisis – are particularly unsteady and lack real global co-ordination, says ACCA, highlighting the fact that no decision was agreed on a global bank tax.

Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, says:

“There was a clear message from G20 leaders that taxpayers should not be stuck with the bill when banks fail. But the communiqué says that individual nations will decide for themselves about how to deal with the banks. A common tax on banks – which was opposed by Canada, Japan, Brazil and Australia – will not now happen. This means that any tax introduced in Germany, France and Britain will have to be modest as banks may move their operations to more favourable regimes. This sends an indecisive message.”

The second pillar – effective supervision with stronger rules, more effective oversight and supervision – also fell short, and ACCA is disappointed at the lack of any reference to the previous pledge for a 2011 deadline for international agreement on accounting standards. This risks losing high-level impetus on this crucial area of action to facilitate international business.

The final pillar – transparent international assessment and peer review, strengthening their commitment to the IMF/World Bank Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) and supporting robust and transparent peer review through the Financial Stability Board – means that the G20 is looking to review issues, discuss them and be vigilant. ACCA says that consultation is vital in the coming months.

Despite the shaky foundations, ACCA is particularly pleased that the G20 examined sustainable public finances, emphasising the need for countries to put in place credible, properly phased and growth-friendly plans for fiscal sustainability.

Helen Brand says:

“Real co-ordinated action was missing from the Toronto meeting; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that an unintended consequence of this lack of real co-ordination could mean the loss of millions of jobs and $2.25trillion in global output being at risk.”

Helen Brand adds:

“Stability is crucial ahead of the next meeting in Seoul later in the year and there is a real risk that complacency could plunge the global economy back into danger. ACCA recommends that while recent indications of economic expansion give cause for cautious optimism, it is too soon to abandon stimulus programmes. Before any withdrawal of stimulus, there must be a complete exit strategy in place.”

ACCA also notes that current demand in many major economies is sustained by exceptional policy measures. While this unprecedented intervention averted a much worse crisis, governments must now devise credible, medium-term plans to address the shortfalls in public finances arising from reduced tax yields and their necessary erstwhile support.

Helen Brand concludes:

“ACCA believes G20 leaders must make best use of the information available to them to assess the current economic conditions and carefully consider the need for further global fiscal stimulus.”

The next summit is in Seoul, Korea, on November 11-12, 2010.

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