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The G20: Hopes, fears and reality

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin share a moment this past June at the G8 meeting in Enniskillen. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

The G20 summit starts on Thursday and by all accounts, this is shaping up to be one uncomfortable meeting.

The Syrian crisis casts a long shadow over the global economic event. And you thought the glaring was bad between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 in Northern Ireland. Try working on financial growth plans, trust and transparency issues when you've got warships heading toward the conflict zone.

Add to that the downbeat attitude of the general public and you have got one glum summit. The Pew Research Center put out some interesting numbers on Wednesday. Seems as though only 37 per cent of those living in G20 nations actually think their country's economic situation will improve in the next year. And, Pew reports a median of only 39 per cent think their nation's children will grow up better off than this generation.

Unsurprisingly, those in growth nations are more upbeat. Eighty per cent of Chinese interviewed think their country's economy will improve over the next 12 month. Same with surging Brazil and Mexico with 79 and 59 per cent respectively believing things are looking up. But not so in France, where the nanny-state has struggled with reform and low-growth. Only 11 per cent of the French think the economy will get better. And in Italy, it is a meager 19 per cent. The Pew is a non-partisan fact tank that is based in Washington, D.C.

The two-day summit in St. Petersburg is the first G20 to be hosted by Russia and by a member of the BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, notes John Kirton, the co-director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, in a publication in advance of the meeting.

The summit comes at an undoubtedly challenging period in both foreign affairs and global economics. 

"Its big and broad economic hurdles begin with impending monetary policy contraction, rising interest rates and continuing fiscal deficits in a still slowly growing U.S., the ongoing financial crises, recession, deficits and debts in Europe, the ballooning deficits, debt and monetary easing in Japan, and the slowing growth, financial fragility and social instability in the long vibrant emerging economies of China, India, Brazil and Turkey," writes Kirton.

Don't even mention the political and social threats from high unemployment, tax evasion and extreme weather events.

Saying all of that, the leaders and their entourages get full marks for trekking out to Russia and not staying home. Hope springs eternal.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga





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Brazil's growth does not interest G8 nations. Corruption in Latin America favors the developed world because the cash ends up in foreign bank accounts and is then used to finance their needs. Brazil has been engineered to be subdued and under developed. The massive potential of its natural resources scares the developed world. Thus, its development has been deterred by the lack of education provided and the poor infrastructure.

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