G20 not just about 20 largest economies but transforming the world: Amitabh Kant
India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said he has constantly emphasised on the Global South at the G20 meetings “because we have to take care of the 70 countries which are suffering from a debt crisis” and a debt crisis in one part of the world has a spiralling impact on other parts
UDAIPUR: Smaller and developing countries will be hit hardest if there is a lack of peace and harmony on the international stage and that is one of the factors driving India’s decision to act as the voice of the Global South during India’s G20 presidency, the country’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said in an interview.
Speaking in between sessions involving all the G20 Sherpas and representatives of international multilateral institutions at the first meeting organised by India under its G20 presidency, Kant also highlighted India’s desire to share its experiences in creating digital public infrastructure and direct benefit transfers with the world.
As you set the ball rolling for the first meeting of G20 Sherpas under India’s presidency, you mentioned that the needs of the Global South are the greatest. What has prompted India to act as the voice of the developing countries?
I have constantly emphasised on the Global South because we have to take care of the 70 countries which are suffering from a debt crisis. Now, if the debt crisis happens in one part of the world, it’ll have a spiralling impact on other parts of the world. Therefore, it’s very important that we are able to be the voice of the Global south.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said we should be the voice of the Global South. That is the real challenge for us. What has happened is that if we are able to figure out all the concerns of the Global South, then it gives you that much more. You know you are caring for the citizens of the world.
G20 is not just about the world’s 20 largest economies. G20 is about transforming the world. Secondly, Sherpas are representatives of the leaders and the Sherpas have to take care of the citizens. That is what we brought out very sharply and in the “chai pe charcha” with the G20 Sherpas [on Monday], there was a lot of focus on peace and harmony. It was strongly felt that without peace and harmony, economic growth will not be able to bounce back.
Without peace and harmony, it will be very difficult for the smaller countries. Global supply chains will remain disrupted. Global debt will worsen. And therefore, everybody felt it was necessary that we focus on peace and harmony.
As the Sherpas start setting the agenda, what will be the focus of the message India will send out?
There are several things India has achieved that can benefit the world – in digital public infrastructure and the technological transformation. The vast amount of firstly, [creation of] digital identity. Secondly, opening of bank accounts in large numbers. Thirdly, data empowerment of citizens. Fourthly, fast payments. A detailed presentation was made on what India has achieved. Between 2015 and 2018, 55% of bank accounts opened across the world were opened in India. Every second bank account was opened in India. That we’ve been able to bring bank accounts to 460 million people and we were able to transfer benefits of over 600 schemes of the government straight into the bank accounts.
We brought out that in fast payments, we’ve been way ahead of other countries and that we account for seven times the payments of America and Europe, and three times what China does.
So, there was a lot of interest and a lot of appreciation for what India has done. Everybody said this model needs to be replicated, just about everybody said so. I think that is one story which we will definitely take forward in a big way in the subsequent rounds.
And we’ll work very closely with the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) and the finance ministry to take this forward.
At the G20 Summit in Bali, India and Indonesia worked overtime to bring everyone together amid deep divisions. Do you see that cooperative spirit continuing for India’s G20 presidency?
That will continue. India will continue to work with Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, all of them together. We’ll continue to work together to take this movement forward. Without that group, it will be very difficult to [achieve] consensus with everyone. So, we will work as a group. Actually, we will work across groupings. We don’t want to form a group, but we’ll work with the emerging markets. We will work with the developed world. We are confident enough to work with Africa. We are confident enough to work with all groupings.
There is also talk about climate action and the developed countries not committing as much as they should be doing?
That issue was raised [on Monday]. Climate finance and the issue of multilateral institutional reforms was also raised not only by us, but in the presentation made by finance secretary on the finance track issues. What we are trying to say is that India’s priorities on the Sherpa track, finance track and engagement group track will all converge and integrate towards India’s interests.