India has taken over G20 leadership at a time when the world is going through multiple crises. In this backdrop, India’s focus would be on addressing the climate crisis, slow Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG) progress, Covid, global debt, geopolitical tensions and the ensuing food and energy crisis, Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa of India told FE’s Prasanta Sahu in an interview. With the hosting of 200+ meetings across 55 locations in India, it’s also a unique opportunity to transform city infrastructure and tourism in the country, he said. Excerpts:
India has taken the G20 leadership at a time when there is great economic stress on the global supply chains and strong political polarisation in the world. What are the key outcomes India would like to deliver?
India’s priorities reflect the aspirations of not just G20 countries, but also of the global south. Accelerating progress on SDGs will be a core priority during our presidency. A renewed push for green development and climate finance will be another, with the concept of Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) woven in. Food security, the availability of fertilisers and energy security are also key issues India will aim to address during the year.
Another key goal of our presidency is to give momentum to the dialogue on reforming multilateral institutions (such as IMF, World Bank, etc) to reflect the realities of the 21st century. Reformed multilateral institutions can play a pivotal role in unlocking climate finance for developing countries.
What kind of global growth strategy will likely be pushed by India in the G20?
Echoing the Prime Minister’s words, India’s presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive. Accelerating global growth will be high on the agenda. It is also important to recognise that any growth strategy must keep inclusivity at its core. This is why accelerating progress on SDGs is high on the agenda this year. With the world amidst a climate crisis, accelerating decarbonization and green energy will be crucial to making growth sustainable. Green development will be key. At the same time, it is important to recognise the need for a just-green transition. India will seek to balance these various priorities and ensure that the benefits of global growth reach those who need it the most.
The developed countries have not kept their word on climate financing support. As G20 president, how India could persuade the group to help deliver on this promise by the rich countries?
The investments required for the just green transition or net-zero goals cannot be met through public sources of funding alone, especially in developing nations. There is a need to leverage private capital to ensure that this investment gap is narrowed. India’s priority of reforming multilateral institutions can play a pivotal role in this regard. Rather than direct lending, multilateral development banks can pivot towards creating an enabling environment for private and blended finance flow towards developing countries. Shifting business models towards risk mitigation, credit enhancement services, first-loss guarantees, and building technical and governance capabilities in developing countries can unlock private and blended finance.
Cryptocurrency regulation is dependent on international cooperation. Are we looking at making some progress in this regard in 2023?
Much of the work on this will be driven through the Finance Track. One of our priorities is to develop a global framework for the regulation of cryptocurrencies. We will work together with G20 countries and international organisations such as the IMF, Financial Stability Board, and OECD to debate and discuss how best can cryptocurrencies be regulated. Countries regulating cryptocurrencies in silos is not a sustainable solution, as the finance minister has pointed out.
What are the major achievements India would like to showcase to the world?
We have done phenomenal work over the past few years, especially in the sphere of building digital public infrastructure (DPI), financial inclusion, health and women-led development. For instance, take the case of digital identities. Over 4 billion people across the world have no digital identity, 2 billion remain unbanked and 130+ countries have no digital payment systems. This is India’s opportunity to showcase our model. We opened 400 million new bank accounts since 2015. Importantly, 56% of the bank accounts opened during this time were in the name of women. About 230 million unbanked women now have bank accounts.
Our population has digital identities. In December 2022, UPI processed a staggering 7.82 billion transactions. Not only in financial inclusion, but our DPI has enabled direct benefit transfers worth `5.5 trillion in 2022, plugging leakages and providing better targeting. Leveraging our DPI, we have built a unique digital health architecture as well. We are already running the largest publicly funded health insurance scheme in the world. Through CoWIN portal, we administered 2.19 billion vaccine doses, manufactured in India, which we also exported.
We have 80,000+ startups in India now and are the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world. Our startups are innovating and providing solutions to India’s biggest challenges. We will seek to highlight the importance of innovation, startups, entrepreneurship and technology in solving the world’s biggest challenges.
What will be the spillover impact of G20 on Indian cities and the economy?
We will be hosting 200+ meetings across 55 locations in India. This is a unique opportunity to transform city infrastructure. This will pay dividends not just during G20, but also in the long run, by promoting ease of living and ease of doing business. It is also an opportunity for states to present themselves as investment destinations to the world.
India’s tourism economy stands to benefit immensely as well. India’s strength lies in its diversity, and this is an opportunity to showcase our diverse cultures and cuisines. The global tourism market is worth ~ $5 trillion, and India holds a meagre share of 1.5%. Similarly, the MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions) industry is worth $650 billion, and we can increase our share. Each state in India is endowed with their local handicraft industry, which is globally worth $680 billion. This is an opportunity to transform local industries into global export hubs, leveraging one district one product.
How the initial rounds of G20 meetings have progressed and has any consensus emerged on various issues?
So far, we have had the first Sherpa Track and Finance Track Deputy meetings in December. The Development Working Group (DWG) met during this time as well. India’s proposed priorities saw broad support across both, the Sherpa and Finance Track. We are just in the initial phase of our presidency. As the year progresses, we will firm up the proposed deliverables and build consensus on key issues in time for the leaders’ summit in September.