Key win at G20 was mention of action on economic offenders: Shaktikanta Das

Shaktikanta Das
The two-day annual G20  meeting, held at Buenos Aires this time, ended with most issues rattling the world economy still unsettled. India, however, managed to get its concerns on double taxation of migrant workers for social security included in the final communique for the first time. Subhomoy Bhatacharjee caught up with Shaktikanta Das, India's sherpa at the forum, for his views on the outcomes. Edited excerpts:

In light of the meagre result of the Buenos Aires summit some commentators have called to abolish the G20. How do you assess the commentary?

This is not the first time, this question was also raised post the Hamburg summit last year. G20  has been facing one crisis or another since 2008 like the Eurozone crisis, the taper tantrums and now the challenges on trade. It provides the broad political directions that would not have been available otherwise for all these crises. I would say the Paris Agreement on climate (at COP 21) was also partly fuelled by this forum. On trade for instance, G20  has recognised the role WTO has to play; the trade body has got stymied for the past 15 years which needs to end. Would you say that as an informal arrangement G20  competes with other world bodies, I don't think so.

India had some specific demands at G20 . To what extent were these reflected in the final commentary?

Among our key concerns, the first was on totalisation agreements. (These agreements protect the pension and other benefit rights of workers who divide their working career between more than one country. This means they cannot be taxed by both countries to make contributions to social security pool). The communique says the social security contributions should be portable. So if India has offered, say, an EPF scheme, the G20  acknowledges it should be recognised by other countries to where Indian workers go for employment. It is a force multiplier for our negotiating position on bilateral agreements.

Similarly, there is an explicit recognition of the role of traditional medicines beyond our borders. But of course the big one was the mention of the concerted action on fugitive economic offenders. It required a lot of work from our side to get it in. The European Union had a different position on this issue and we had to explain how this could undermine global financial architecture.

The other was the recognition that countries should fulfil their climate finance commitments which was flagged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has linked its hosting of G20 to its 75th year of celebration of Independence. How does the GOI plan to connect the two?

It is about the signalling. It is an occasion for all world leaders to visit India on the 75th anniversary of the Independence. India can showcase them the strength of our democracy, our model of inclusive development.

There are calls to expand the membership of G20 to African countries beyond South Africa. How do you reflect on this demand?

It was not on the agenda. It is a concern though whether the deliberations would improve with a larger membership, I am not sure. Germany has begun a programme Compact with Africa under the G20  rubric. It is gathering pace.

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