Gee Billion

Well, it’s G-20 Summit week in Toronto. I understand the city is pretty much under martial law since dragging these 20 extremely important people into town for a few days makes Toronto the target city for hordes of protesters, terrorists and attention seekers – some of whom might possibly be dangerous.

So, the whole of downtown Toronto is locked-down and turned into a fortress with– 10,000 uniformed police and 1,000 private security guards, snipers and fleets of Canadian Forces personnel conducting air, water and land surveillance.

Fences, barricades, checkpoints and a lot of other barriers have been constructed. Streets around the perimeter of the Convention Centre and nearby hotels have been closed and encircled with a double layer of unscalable fencing. All garbage cans, post boxes, and anything else where a bomb or a person could be hiding have been removed. Cell phone signals have been jammed.

Travel agencies are offering Torontoeans Escape the Summit getaway deals so they can get the hell out of Dodge to avoid getting caught in any crossfire.

Oh, and Gay Pride Week has been postponed!!

The price tag for this 72 hours of fun is over One Billion Dollars – more than the last nine G-20s put together – more than 17-days of the winter Olympics in Vancouver. I can’t even wrap my head around a figure like $1 billion. To give it some perspective, that money represents:

  • The combined annual incomes of 25,857 average people; or
  • The combined lifetime incomes of 312 average people; or
  • The combined lifetime incomes of 2,402 people living in poverty.

That’s a hell of a lot of money, isn’t it? All the slashes Harper made back 2006 to social programs, employment, adult literacy, status of women, youth employment investments, etc. only totalled $160 million, but devastated a lot of departments’ programs.

And what momentus stuff is actually going to happen with 20 people sitting around chatting for a few days? From what I understand, almost nothing has been accomplished over the last ten years of these summits. These people are supposed to be sorting out the global economy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the global economy is far from sorted – especially in light of the little financial meltdown we’ve been experiencing over the last few years.

Also, I don’t understand how these 20 countries can decide policies that are going to affect the entire world. Developing nations don’t seem to have any sort of input into these proceedings and yet are going to be hugely impacted.

Actually, as I understand it, it’s the host country gets to decide what is going to be discussed – so the whole G20 is really all about Stephen Harper’s agenda and what he thinks is important?

Funding for safe access to abortions in developing countries isn’t going to be discussed even though (or maybe because) most member countries are in favour?  Harper has also fought tooth and nail to keep an even bigger bone of contention – the imposition of a world bank tax (Financial Transaction Tax or FTT) – off the agenda.  I’m the furthest thing from someone who understands world finances or even my own finances, but from what I’ve read, the FTT is a small levy on world banks, the money from which would be pooled together:

The FTT would earn a very substantial amount of money each year.  Something in the order of $650+ billion per year.  Half of the funds raised would remain in domestic hands, and could be used in the event of another financial meltdown, or to shore up domestic social programs.  The other half of the funds would go into a global fund to aid development in the world’s poorest countries and to help developing countries adapt their economies to the realities of climate change. 

Ya, that does sound terrible.

But anyway, here’s a question for those of you who regularly attend business meetings. How much gets accomplished when 20 people with very different perspectives sit down for a few hours and talk?

So, what are these G20s/G8s really all about?