Sunday, November 16, 2008

World Leaders Don’t Make an Effective Task Force

About 20 world leaders met in Washington this weekend to try to sort out the global financial crisis. It’s a bold move meant to show how serious they are at addressing the problems. They were focusing mainly on regulatory reform that could eliminate some of the most troublesome transactions and improved transparency that will allow phantom investments to be spotted more easily. That makes perfect sense. It’s an area where they can do some good. The recommendations they came out with, though, are about further study on harmonizing accounting rules, with the possibility of further action before the end of 2009. That is like a bad committee meeting.

There isn’t much they can do because there isn’t any one country that can lay out solutions it has already put into effect, for the others to imitate. As long as no one has a solution to offer, the meeting can scarcely get beyond speculation about what solutions might look like and where they might be found.

If a meeting of world leaders is just for show, then who is really working on the problem? Worse, does the goofing off at the summit meeting set a bad example? The fear is that no one is really working on solving the world’s financial problems, and the people who might be working on it get the impression that it isn’t all that urgent. In truth, of course, there are many people working to keep the world afloat financially, so the question is whether those efforts are enough to overcome the indifference at the top.