ON DECEMBER 1, 2022, India assumed presidency of G20, a forum of 19 countries (plus EU) that together represent 85% global GDP, 75% trade and about two-third population. IT will host over 200 G20 meetings over the next several months. Amitabh Kant, the G20 Sherpa or personal envoy of the prime minister who has to oversee G20 events during India’s term, talks about the significance of the presidency and how India’s theme, “One Earth, One Family, One Future,” can make a difference. Interview by Joe C. Mathew.
Can the G20 presidency bring direct and immediate benefits to Indian industry and businesses?
Representatives from G20 countries, nine invited countries  and all (major) international organisations are going to participate in 215 events in 56 cities in all parts of the country. This is the largest ever gathering of G20 countries. Every state and Union Territory should see this as an opportunity to showcase itself to the world. They should take ease of doing business measures, liberalise policies and push investments. This is India’s opportunity to make itself a manufacturing and an export nation. This is a huge opportunity to build the India brand and enhance quality of products and services. There is a massive opportunity to penetrate global value chains. I have requested all industry associations to use this opportunity to get companies to invest in India. The prime minister has told chief ministers and governors that this is an opportunity to clean up cities and improve roads and public transport. This is an opportunity to push culture, handicrafts and cuisine of each state.
What could be the potential benefits?
Global MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) business is worth ₹52 lakh crore today. G20 events offer states an opportunity to showcase their capability to host such events. Similarly, through proactive measures, states can hope for a bigger share of the ₹440 lakh crore global tourism, travel, leisure and wellness industry. Their handicrafts can take a share of the ₹54 lakh crore global handicraft market. Similarly, there is an immense opportunity for Indian tech firms to drive digital transformation in other countries. For instance, 400 crore people do not have a digital identity today, while 200 crore do not have access to banking services. Over 130 nations have no digital payment systems. Partnering with them for their tech transformation is an opportunity for India to reach the world. India’s JAM trinity that enables direct digital payments, Aadhaar authentication, Co-Win system for vaccination, digital taxation system, online education, digital health, e-governance services can all help digital inclusion at the global level. India will showcase all of this.
What will be the focus of India’s G20 presidency?
Our view is that the world is full of crises. There is a crisis of geopolitics, crises of food, fuel and fertiliser, Covid-19 crisis, slow progress of UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs),  climate crisis and crisis of people going below poverty line. The G20 presidency is an opportunity for leaders to sort out some of the pressing crises of the world. India’s priorities are clear — inclusive, resilient, sustainable growth, SDGs, lifting people above poverty line, improving education and health, using digital transformation to leapfrog and showcasing its digital public infrastructure.
The prime minister has been talking about the need to reform multilateral organisations like World Trade Organisation (WTO) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Will this be discussed?
The discussion is not going to be only about IMF or WTO. Institutions like World Bank, WHO and UN were designed for post World War-II, post Bretton Woods period. Many of them have outlived their utility and need to be restructured. For instance, World Bank does direct lending. It does not do a lot of credit enhancement, it does not do blended finance, it does not do first loss guarantee. So, it can do about 15X its current lending if it is modified. All these will be discussed. Creating multilateral institutions for the 21st century is on our agenda.
How important is G20 as a global policy framing forum?
G20 is very important because it is a body of both developed and developing countries. Whenever there has been a crisis, G20 has acted. In fact, G20 was founded in 1999 after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors. The credit for creation of Financial Stability Board as a coordinated response to the global financial crisis goes to G20. Introduction of BASEL-III package, recapitalisation of IMF to increase resources during European debt crisis and suspension of government debt repayment for poorest nations are all G20 success stories.
What are the trade and investment specific issues G20 will take up?
Trade and investment are part of the Sherpa track. There is a working group looking at topics such as trade for growth and prosperity, trade and resilient global value chains, integrating MSMEs in global trade, logistics for trade and WTO reforms. There is also private sector involvement through engagement groups. All of them make their recommendations, which come to the Sherpa. The Sherpa acts as the envoy of the prime minister. We put it together and take it to the leaders. If they agree, we take it forward for implementation.
How can the G20 presidency help start-ups?
This is the first time in G20 that a new engagement group on start-ups is being created. India has been able to build the third-best start-up ecosystem in the world. When we started the start-up movement, there were only 116 start-ups. Today, there are 88,000. We will project the narrative of start-ups, of digital public infrastructure. India’s success stories will be shared. We will push the start-up innovation movement all over the world. We are driving that movement.