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Indonesia: Unity among G20 needed to avoid ‘catastrophic’ crisis in developing world

Indonesia’s finance minister said Friday it is imperative that G20 countries are united in dealing with a looming food crisis caused by the conflict between breadbaskets Russia and Ukraine, or the world’s most vulnerable countries will face disastrous consequences.

During a meeting in Bali, Sri Mulyani Indrawati also told the top finance and economic diplomats from the Group of Twenty counties to schedule a forum of members’ finance and agriculture chiefs to devise a plan to deal with food and fertilizer shortages.

“The unresolved COVID-19 pandemic as well as the unfolding war in Ukraine are likely to exacerbate the already severe 2022 acute food security that we are all already seeing. In addition to that, a looming fertilizer crisis also has the potential to further exacerbate and extend the food crisis even in 2023 and beyond,” said the finance minister of Indonesia, this year’s holder of the G20’s rotating chair and host of the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

“We are acutely aware that the cost of our failure to work together is more than we can afford. The humanitarian consequences for the world and especially for many low-income countries would be catastrophic,” Sri said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, it has blocked all of the latter’s Black Sea ports and cut off access to almost all of that country’s exports, especially of grain. Those moves sparked fears of a global food crisis.

In its April report, the Global Crisis Response Group, set up by the United Nations secretary general, said Ukraine and Russia provide 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley, a fifth of its maize and more than half of its sunflower oil. Russia also is the world’s largest natural gas exporter and second largest oil exporter.

Sri said it was essential to deploy all available financing mechanisms to save lives and strengthen financial as well as social stability.

“The G20 could urgently convene a joint G20 finance and agriculture ministers meeting to improve coordination between finance and agriculture ministers and explore actions to address the growing food insecurity and related issues,” she said.

“This is exactly like we did or what we are doing with joint finance and health ministers when we were dealing with COVID-19 and preparing a pandemic preparedness mechanism.”

Sri kept her comments about G20 unity general, but it’s no secret that the group is split between the West, which has condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and others including China, Indonesia and India, which have refused to do so and continue to maintain ties with Moscow, analysts have said.

So sharp have the divisions been that in April, U.S., British and Canadian finance chiefs walked out of the last G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Washington when the Russian minister rose to speak. The Russian foreign minister reciprocated at last week’s G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali during the top U.S. diplomat’s address.

Media reports said no one walked out on Friday, day one of the two-day meeting, but it remains to be seen whether the forum will produce a communiqué on Saturday.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated online news service.