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Even Bureaucrats Confused by New ‘Group of 24’

January 10, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Even people who understand groups of governments known as ″G-5,″ ″G-7,″ ″G-10″ and ″G-77″ are having trouble with the new ″G-24″ - there are two of them, they do different jobs and they have different member countries.

The new ″Group of 24″ met last month in Brussels, Belgium, to help the governments of Eastern Europe move away from communist systems toward private enterprise. It includes the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the countries of Western Europe.

The old ″Group of 24″ was drawn from the Third World and usually meets in Washington. It first came together in 1972 with countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The present chairman is Finance Minister Jean-Pierre Lemboumba-Lepandou from the western African republic of Gabon.

Christian Obame, speaking for the old G-24, says the new group may seem to slight the Third World gathering.

″It bothers us some,″ he said. ″It seems to be putting us off to one side. We’ll have to find out just what it’s going to do.″

Obame is a permanent representative of Gabon at the headquarters in Washington of the International Monetary Fund and its sister organization, the World Bank. He said Gabon’s finance minister will raise the question of the two G-24s at the end of the month when many of the world’s financial leaders meet in Washington.

The old G-24 has essentially represented Third World needs to the more prosperous members of the bank and fund, members who make up the new G-24.

Though this meeting of the fund’s Interim Committee has not yet been officially set, it is expected to be needed for a decision on how much to increase the $117 billion the IMF has available for lending. Much of the increase would be made available to Eastern Europe, in return for promises of new economic policies.

Michel Camdessus, the fund’s managing director, toured Africa after attending the meeting of the new G-24 to assure senior G-24 members that their needs would not be forgotten in the effort to help Warsaw Pact nations.

All the members of the old G-24 belong to the Third World’s G-77. But don’t be misled by the title: the G-77 has 129 member countries.

Other groups are smaller and more powerful. The G-5 - the United States, Japan, West Germany, Britain and France - has long taken on the major financial and economic decisions, often meeting in secret at dinner.

Those are the nations that agreed in 1985 in New York to drive down the price of the dollar. Usually the member governments are represented by the U.S. secretary of the Treasury and the other countries’ ministers of finance.

Italy and Canada joined those nations in a separate grouping to make up the Group of Seven. Some experts think the G-5 still makes the major decisions and brings the other two in later.

The G-10 includes the G-7, plus Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. That makes 11, since Switzerland joined in 1984, but the old name is still kept. It was set up in 1962 under the IMF to lend the fund extra money when needed.

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