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G20 soft pedals on debt consolidation in favor of growth: Russia

Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov attends a news conference, part of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors' meeting, i
Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov attends a news conference, part of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors' meeting, i

By Lidia Kelly

MOSCOW (Reuters) - G20 policymakers have soft-pedaled on goals to cut government debt in favor of a focus on growth and how to exit central bank stimulus with a minimum of turmoil, Russia's finance minister said on Saturday.

The final communiqué from Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers addresses fiscal consolidation less strongly than had been expected, with discussion focusing chiefly on spillover effects from the withdrawal of monetary stimulus by developed countries, Russia's Anton Siluanov told Reuters.

"(G20) colleagues have not made the decision to take responsibility to lower the deficits and debts by 2016," Siluanov said on the fringes of the G20 meeting in Moscow. "Some people thought that first you need to ensure economic growth.

"You can of course, expect growth, but it may not come anytime soon and debt will keep piling up," Siluanov said, adding that fiscal consolidation should remain a priority.

"The communiqué addresses (consolidation) more softly, nonetheless we will raise this issue at the leadership level (in September)."

The G20 did not discuss at length Friday's move by China to start interest rate reforms, but Siluanov and other countries will monitor how the reforms are being implemented.

Beijing removed a floor on the rates banks can charge clients for loans, which should reduce the cost of borrowing for companies and households.

The U.S. and the European Central Bank said during the meeting that their policy of low interest rates will continue, Siluanov said: "The question is about the quantitative easing program, for how long this process will continue."

SPILLOVER EFFECTS

The spillover effects on developing countries from the withdrawal of quantitative easing policies by developed nations, and the United States in particular, dominated the weekend's discussion.

"There were no arguments but there was discussion," Siluanov said. "Emerging countries are very concerned about the predictability of (those policies), how it will all continue.

"We have agreed that coordination is needed, exchange of information is needed."

The G20 also discussed long-delayed reforms to the International Monetary Fund quota system. The governance reform is languishing as the United States, the IMF's largest shareholder has not given a green light to it.

The Obama administration wants Congress to shift $63 billion from an IMF crisis fund to the IMF's general accounts in order to maintain U.S. power at the international lender and make good on an international commitment made in 2010.

Congressional approval of the IMF funding changes is necessary to complete reforms at the lender that the international community has already agreed including reform of voting shares, known as quotas, to boost the power of emerging economies.

"There is a feeling that the process has stalled," Siluanov said.

(Additional reporting by Maya Dyakina. Editing by Mike Peacock)

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