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?


32 responses to “Gee Billion

  1. My best guess is that people who feel like they are important, but really have no great power in the grand scheme of the whole world, have a need for special events that make them feel like they are doing something important regarding the grand scheme of the whole world. Or something to that effect.

  2. It would *break my fucking heart* if a small asteroid hit the Convention Centre during one of the meetings.

    Just big enough to level the place, without causing any damage outside.

    Know what I mean?

  3. PS – to answer your question, “How much gets accomplished when 20 people with very different perspectives sit down for a few hours and talk?”

    Not very much.

    Usually because the people in these meetings got to their positions of power not due to their intelligence or vision, but because of their self-serving intentions and backstabbing abilities.

    I have to say, sadly, that most of the people entrusted to do this seem quite “simple minded”.

    I wouldn’t personally trust any of them to walk my dog at night, for fear they might sell the dog, or eat him.

  4. Man, am I glad I moved. I used to work across the street from the Convention Centre.

    “How much gets accomplished when 20 people with very different perspectives sit down for a few hours and talk?” A lot of egg salad on white and ham on whole wheat sandwiches are eaten; that’s about it. Oh how I used to despise working lunches!

  5. Here’s a novel idea. Let’s lock the members of all 4 federal parties in a dark room for 72 hours and see what compromises they come up with. Bright side, none of them can generate headlines.

    Okay, now that that’s out of my system…

    Re: bank tax, if the individual countries want to tax their financial institutions, let them. But I don’t see why it has to be global. If our banks didn’t collapse during the recession, why are we paying into a fund that’s not going to benefit us? Neverminding that any tax, levy, precautionary slush fund, insurance, whatever you want to call it that gets passed on to the banks will just be thrown at us anyway.
    Also: China, India, I believe Austrailia are against the tax as well.
    Re: abortion, do any of these developing countries the majority of the G20 want to fund safe access to abortions for actually permit abortions, legally? I’m pretty sure Africa doesn’t. Or do the majority of countries also invision tying foreign aid to whether or not abortion is made legal? I’d be interested in finding out, personally.

  6. Wow, one billion dollars could solve a lot of problems if it was actually used for something useful instead of having a #@!*$#! G20 leaders meeting. And you should know that squirrels almost never speak in strange symbols.

  7. Dr. Monkey – Oh ya? Well he probably doesn’t like you either! Ha!

    Geewits – I reckon it’s something like that for sure – a big political grandstand thing.

    Brett – That’s subversive talk. You know they’re monitoring all internet activity related to this event. Now you’re gonna get it! Also, you know these are the financial wizards of the entire universe you’re talking about here, right?

    Davina – Ha ha hahaaaa! You think they’re going to eat egg salad sandwiches? For a billion bucks, I’m thinking they’ll have a nicer lunch.

    James – Thanks for another perspective on the bank tax. I wasn’t really sure what that was all about – I’m only going by what I’ve been reading. And about the abortion thing; I don’t think we’re going to find out, but I would expect if we’re going to fund maternal health care, we’d also ensure safe access to that health care. I’m sure some places don’t want their women to have contraceptives either.

    LGS – Why squirrel! What very colourful language!!

  8. My favorite is the $57,000 fake lake, for the benefit of the reporters in their $2 Million pavillion.

    In a province that has tens of thousands of REAL lakes, no less.

    I would like to think all my hard-earned tax dollars I generated last year helped contribute towards THAT.

    Either that, or the smoked-salmon canapes they’ll serve on one of the lunch breaks.

  9. When that many people are involved in a meeting you can pretty much bet nothing much, and certainly nothing of real use, will get done. It’s been my experience that the more people that are involved in a business meeting, the less you can actually hope to accomplish.

    One billion dollars is an obscene amount of money to spend on something like this. Maybe they should all consider teleconferencing…Skype is free. LOL

  10. love the skype suggestion!
    they should have my manager running their meetings – she is no nonense and will make you cry if she even suspects you of wasting her/everyone’s time. it actually quite refreshing.

  11. @Xup: You’re probably right. But I’d argue funding options for safe birth control is a little bit different from funding abortions. Abortions are not, in my opinion, birth control or family planning. Contraception is.

    Also, related. If you wouldn’t want your government paying for someone’s abortion locally–see this post by Zoom, why in creation would you want them paying for it in another country? Most especially another country who’s laws don’t actually permit abortions?

  12. Oops. I had that post bookmarked and thought it was more to do with the abortion issue. I was wrong. Still, my response remains the same–if abortions aren’t being funded by our own healthcare system–and, in my view they shouldn’t be unless they’re medically necessary for the survival of the mother, they shouldn’t be funded in another country by our government either. Particularly, they shouldn’t be funded under the same banner as birth control–which it’s not.

  13. The cost of the winter olympics was $3-10 billion depending on the source you find. Most agree it was in the middle somewhere, around $6 billion.

    Also a waste of money, IMO.

    The FTT is a bail-out fund that was thought up to punish countries whose banks, being properly regulated, didn’t fail in the financial collapse. In essence, the US and UK want to burn everyone else and recover some of the money they spent bailing out their banks. Any money left after that will be abused in the traditional ways, propping up dictators in third world, and so forth.

    The FTT is a bad idea across the board.

  14. “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.”

    He also cut funding to the arts, which brings in major tourist dollars. Let’s hope people remember all these slashes during the next election and vote to get rid of him and the Conservatives!

  15. I always found that a meeting is really just a pissing conference. I have had zero use for meetings. I once read that a meeting is called when someone just feels lonely.
    I recall reading once about a meeting that they had in advance of the Manhattan Project. In attendance were people like Fermi, Einstein, Oppenheimer – as Richard Feynman described it – MONSTER minds, and at the meeting each participant made a couple of points about the subject at hand. Even when they disagreed they made their point and kept quiet. Feynman couldn’t believe that these guys weren’t arguing or trying to make their point again and again. At the end of the meeting Oppenheimer said “Well it looks like we are in agreement and we are going to do this…” End of discussion.
    Perfectly civil.
    Mind you these were very smart people and no one was going to take off his show and slam it on the table.

  16. What will be accomplished? As usual not a thing. I sit in on a five person meeting every couple of months to take the minutes. It’s a monumental waste of time because nothing ever gets done. You just go around in circles.

    I can just imagine what happens in a meeting of 20 big-ass egos. It’s all grandstanding.

    A billion dollars. Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work. Imagine what that billion could do in terms of funding social programs and the arts.

    But of course, photo ops by the lake would be lost if the money actually was used for something useful.

  17. Well…

    If I actually had the power to “arrange” for said asteroid, I wouldn’t be too afraid.

    Besides, these are the same “financial wizards of the entire universe” that allowed or caused that wee little blip we saw a couple of years ago.

    For wizards, they’re pretty fucking stupid.

  18. @Lebowski

    Yeah…but those were all Nobel-winning theoretical physicists.

    …slighlty more intelligent, than the garden-variety politician. 🙂

  19. I can’t understand why all you people keep Harpering on the billion dollars. That isn’t the real cost of this photo op that is just the fee for the security. All this and of course just last night the head of CSIS said they have no information that any terrorists are targetting the meetings.
    Harper has of course no problem spending all the money because he knows that there will in fact be invaluable progress made in promoting himself at the summit.
    I’m going to try and count the number of pictures we get in the next week of Harper trying to look important by standing beside the “leaders” of the world and then we can see what sort of earth altering agreements come out of the soiree for the benefit of all mankind.

  20. @dave1949,

    I like the way you put “leaders” in quotations.

    That’s a term they use around here, too – “leaders”.

    My definition of a “leader” is someone I would willingly follow (perhaps, into mortal combat, even) because I believe in that person’s abilities, not because I “have to” due to an arbitrary and artificial power structure.

    I see no “leaders” at the G-20, and I see less than a handful at my workplace.

  21. Friar – In my opinion, the lake is a very small drop in the very, very much larger feeding trough. I think that was just devised to take our attention away from that one billion dollar figure.

    Kimberly – As if they’re going to solve global financial issues in a couple of days around a table. Please. All this is done behind the scenes surely. So this G20 thing is just a big show.

    Meanie – She’ll have to be pretty tough to reduce these characters to tears. But hey – it’s worth a try.

    James – You are looking at this with North American eyes. Here many people are educated about safe sex practices and contraception is readily available and women still get pregnant accidentally. It happens. In 3rd world countries it’s even worse because of the added prevalence of rape. There are always going to be unwanted pregnancies. Are you suggesting it’s just a woman’s tough luck if she gets pregnant and she’ll have to have the child and deal with it? Pregnancy can bring with it a lot of health issues as well, especially for women who are poor, undernourished, infected with HIV or have other health issues. Why are these women not entitled to the same level of health care as women in North America? Is it better to force these women to give birth to unwanted children they can’t hope to raise?

    Squid – I was talking about security costs for the Olympics which was around $850 million. Thanks for the info on FTT.

    Pauline – Sounds like a fine idea, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s still very popular among those who actually vote and there really isn’t anyone else to vote for now, is there?

    Lebowski – My experience of meetings is that they’re a chance for everyone to show off stuff they’ve been thinking about in their big, important heads. Also, it keeps them out of the office so they have a good excuse for not getting all the bullshit paperwork done.

    Jazz – It really is beyond comprehension – that kind of money. Seriously boggles my mind.

    Brett – That’s what makes this all the more hilarious. Perhaps if all that security is as incompetent as those who are being secured….?

    Dave1949 – WELL! If CSIS says it’s all okay then I’m sure we’re all resting more securely in our beds, right? Bwah-ha-ha. Also, Harper has to make up for taking a leak the last time there was a big G – something photo op.

  22. You meant THEM. I had a flashback to when *I* regularly attended business meetings. Plates of wee sandwiches are imprinted in my memory. They were the best part of the meeting.

  23. @XUP

    The fake-lake is a very small drop in the bucket, true. But I think it’s the perfect symbol for this whole summit.

    If the govt. has wilfully paid for useless shit like that…what ELSE have they wasted our money on, bigger stuff…that we havent’ heard about?

  24. @XUP-True, Ignatieff isn’t doing too well in terms of popularity. But at this point I think a trained monkey would be a better option than the Conservatives!

  25. i am in a 15+ person meeting every two weeks. NOTHING is accomplished. it’s a 3+ meeting. as much as no one wants to be there and we all think they are a terible waste of time, the CEO thinks they are essential. so bascially you have 20 CEOs sitting in a room. NOTHING will be accomplished.

    i have a friend who is currently staying at the fake lake. i an’t wait to hear his comments when he gets out of the lock down in a week’s time!

  26. Davina – It’s sad when meeting sandwiches are the best part of your day, isn’t it? I think the G20ers are having diamond-crusted blofish with molten gold sauce or something.

    Friar – Well, I could give you a small list of stuff they’ve wasted a lot of money on, just from personal observation???

    Pauline – I had some slim hope for Iggy when he first appeared. He sounded smart and savvy and worldly. Boy was that ever a disappointment.

    Smothermother – Oh boy! An in to the fake lake. Will you blog about what he tells you? That would be cool.

  27. Wow.
    We were on exactly the same wavelength today… freaky.
    If I’m not on the bus in the morning, assume that men in dark suits wearing earplugs arrived at my door in the night and took me away.
    And I’ll assume the same if you’re not OC Transpo-bound…

  28. I love how you compare the cost of the Summit against all of the cuts to government in the name of fiscal responsibility. It really makes me shake my head.

    I have no problem funding a face-to-face meeting for world leaders if it results in progress on important issues. Getting leaders all in the same room to talk is a logistical nightmare but I do think it can be very valuable. But a fake lake? That takes me beyond shaking my head and into banging it against a wall!

  29. Trashy – Like I said, it will take them a couple of years to do the analysis and process the information and have committee meetings on “next steps” and “best practices” and “forward moving agendas” and stuff, so I don’t think we have to worry for a while.

    Smothermother – Tee hee hee

    Julie – I can’t imagine how they’re going to solve all those big fat problems in a couple of days. It’s not possible. Even in our work meetings, the actual work is done behind the scenes, alliances formed ahead of time, and everyone knows what they’re going to say, how they’re going to vote, etc. so the meeting is just a formality where everyone talks at once and around in circles and when time is up they leave and go do whatever they’d planned to do anyhow. This is just a rubber-stamping exercise.