G20: Voices from the frontline
One person from each G20 member tells The Independent on Sunday how the economic crisis is impacting upon his or her life, and outlines what the world's political leaders could do this week to help all of us.
Sunday 29 March 2009
Oscar Subarroca, 57, Cattle farmer and sales broker
"I have raised and sold my own cattle to meatpackers for 30-odd years, since I was 23. I also broker sales for other farmers. The export market did well in recent years, but sales have been slumping for several months, thanks to two recession-induced factors abroad: lower demand for meat and lower prices being paid. It doesn't seem as if a lot can be done for us on a global scale at the G20, except straightening the world economy. Our problems are more linked to domestic policies, such as export quotas and tariffs."
Dianne Gray, 58, Sewing machinist
"Last month, Pacific Brands [a clothing manufacturer] announced it was moving to China, so 1,850 people are losing their jobs. I've worked for the company for 16 years and I just can't imagine not going there any more. All the other manufacturers in my area have gone overseas, and at my age it's very hard to retrain for something else. My husband passed away 12 months ago and I've got a large mortgage to pay on my own. I want the summit to stop these chief executives from having big payouts, because the Pacific Brands CEO got paid A$1.8m [£876,000] last year, and that could have saved a hell of a lot of jobs."
Evelyn Okajima Duarte, 27, Unemployed
"I worked in an electronics factory in Japan for nine years, but they started firing people. I had to come back to Brazil in January with my three-year-old son. I have four sisters; we all had to come back. We are living together at my parents' home. It's been hard to find a job because I don't have a degree or experience in Brazil. I want the leaders who will meet in London to invest to stop unemployment. Our President keeps saying the crisis will not affect Brazil, but if all emigrants come back, unemployment will grow."
Ian Graham, 48, Founder of the Code Factory, a small business incubator
"Banks like to give out umbrellas on sunny days and take them away when it rains, and we are in a downpour. Small start-ups are still doing OK, but a lot of more developed companies are having problems and I see funding tightening. The banking system in Canada seems to be the best in the G20, and hasn't needed the mind-boggling sums of money needed to stabilise the US banks. But it was a surprise to me just how fragile the whole system was. I think if the G20 brings more regulation of the financial industry, then that is a good thing."
Liu Yang, 50, Housewife; used to work for transport company
"The stock market has been good in recent years, so I quit my job and began to invest, and earned money quickly and easily. Everybody was confident, but then last year the market went down rapidly. And after the Olympics, suddenly there was the global economic crisis. My money shrank by 60 per cent. Now I just have to wait. I hope the summit can introduce some concrete economic policies, which should revive the stock market."
Klaudyna Karczewska-Szymkowiak, 31, Photographer and artist
"I and my husband returned to Poland in 2007 after he lost his job in Ireland. Things seemed to be getting worse there. But he quickly found something else here. Now Poland's problems are growing. I hope the G20 focuses not on individual countries, but on helping the whole world. Closing our economic borders will not solve the crisis. The EU will represent Poland and its neighbours at the G20, and I hope it does not argue only for what is best for the likes of Germany, France and Britain."
Hervé Letellier, 57, Importer-exporter of specialist paper
"G20! I expect nothing from this summit. These are the same people who didn't see the crisis coming. Why should we expect them to solve it? These people are all from politics and finance. In my business, I felt the crisis coming from November 2007. Trade fell by 30 per cent. The solution to the crisis will come from real people, but only after a great deal of pain. All I want from the G20 is that it softens the impact for the poorest and worst affected. But do they even know that such people exist?"
Detlef Fendt, 56, Toolmaker
"I have been working since I was 16. Two-thirds of the 1,700 people working at Mercedes-Benz in Berlin are on short time. That means some of us are only working 10 hours a week. If the government doesn't do something to help the German car industry, then I am afraid there will be mass unemployment here. Do I have hopes from the G20? Not really. This is their crisis, after all. They helped create it. I just hope that we as taxpayers will not end up having to bail out the banks in a big way."
Komal Kumar, 38, Shopkeeper and businessman
"My main shop has not been so much affected. I sell basic essentials, and people still need their flour. But I've also got a dry-cleaners, and that has been affected. Since the downturn, developed countries have become more protectionist. If they don't buy goods that people in countries such as India and China produce, we will not have the money to buy their technologies. The meeting needs to give additional money to the International Monetary Fund, so it can help to developing countries more. That means the money will rotate faster and get the system moving."
Subiyantoro, 50, Owner of crafts and furniture factory
"I've had the business for five years. We produce Javan furniture and also miniature ships. Until last year, everything was going well, and I employed 18 people. Most of my products were exported to Europe and America, but recently there have been no buyers, and no orders. My sales have dropped to about 10 per cent of what I had before, and my workers are having to go back to their villages. My message to the leaders at the G20 summit would be: please make the economic situation better, and encourage people to buy developing countries' products."
Suzanna Quaranta, 52, Civil servant
"The crisis would be almost a good thing if it encouraged people to consume less but better, to recycle, to use less energy, because GDP is not a measure of a nation's well-being. But, instead, our government is telling people to consume more and build more. I don't agree that this isn't the right moment to pursue green policies. If the international community put pressure on Italy to pursue more environmentally sound policies, it would be a good thing."
Tomoko Nishigaki, 42, Law secretary
"At the end of this month, my three-month contract ends and I'm worried. My company is experimenting with work-sharing and says I might have only three days a week from April. That pays just ¥150,000 [£1,060] a month. If I didn't live at home with my parents I couldn't survive. I don't have any illusions about the G20. Most of the leaders are rich, so they don't know what it's like for ordinary people. They should listen to the protesters, reverse neoliberal policies and increase welfare spending."
David Mendez Mendosa, 38, Taxi driver
"For 10 years, I lived in the US. I worked hard, as a carpenter, and built a good life. But then they stopped building homes, and suddenly I had no work. First my cars got repossessed; then my home. Finally, my wife and I decided to come back to Tijuana – if you're going to struggle, why not struggle in your own country? Now we're in a tiny apartment. I'm working 6pm to 6am driving the taxi. It's no life, but what can I do? I don't want anything from the G20 except a chance to make a good living."
Ekaterina Rozenbaum, 26, Lawyer
"I graduated from the LSE in London in 2003, and came back to Moscow last year with an international law firm. Until recently Moscow was one of the hottest legal markets in the world. Suddenly, a couple of years later, everything has gone down the drain. Last week I lost my job. I don't think the summit will change anything, but maybe it'll boost morale a bit if positive media coverage comes out of it. I'm going back to London for a while, but I still think there are more opportunities for me to find work in Moscow."
Bander Khaled Al-Otaibi, 31, Unemployed bank cashier
"I was planning to get married in a few weeks, but recently I was sacked without prior notice. There was no compensation, and finding another job is almost impossible. I survive on loans and charity from my extended family, and have had to cancel my wedding. The government claims it is not affected by the international financial crisis, but that is not what I and many others are experiencing. Saudi Arabia is party to many international arrangements such as the G20, but I do not have much hope that the meeting in London will benefit me."
Ronnie Tichareva Zibani, 29, Science student
"Whenever Western leaders screw up the world, they try to redeem themselves by making dishonest promises to help Africa. Remember the G8 summit at Gleneagles? Not much of the aid ever materialised. It will be the same with this latest junket. We are likely to have more lofty promises about how the West can shield Africa from a financial crunch caused by the Western leaders' own incompetence. I won't ask what they can do for Africa, because they won't do much anyway. The question is what Africa can do for herself to weather this devastating world financial crisis."
Bomee Kim, 20, Student
"Our family is not wealthy, but I took the chance to study abroad [in Australia]. However, the value of the Korean won has dropped rapidly, and many firms have cancelled their scholarship offers. Last month, my dad sent me money that used to be worth US$1,000, but I only received US$450. This autumn, I will start to look for a job, but so many companies are not willing to hire people. I really hope the G20 leaders can come up with solutions to stabilise the exchange rate, and to create more jobs for young graduates like me."
Engin Baser, 35, Head of a small production and PR company
"I set up my company in 2007. Things went well at first, but we felt the effects of the slowdown about three months before the media began talking about it. Clients stopped paying me. I couldn't pay my staff – it was a horrible situation to be in. Friends were kind enough to lend me money; the banks have had it with me. Our Prime Minister told us this crisis 'will pass us by'. I hope the G20 summit comes up with a more realistic diagnosis. This crisis has hit small businesses like mine the worst. We're the ones who need backing."
Ellis McNorthey-Gibbs, 20, Performing arts student
"I live in Brent [London] with my mother and hope to become an actor. But the economic climate is tricky, and it might have an impact on my career prospects. The G20 will never agree on big issues such as the world economy, let alone the smaller things. They should agree to make public transport free for everyone – that would be a big benefit to the environment and also help people to explore their surroundings. There should be free healthcare, because this would stop the spread of major diseases around the world and help people live longer. The redistribution of wealth through trade should be a top priority."
Andrea Villanueva, 32, Lawyer
"I was let go from a large international accounting firm in December last year. It would be nice to think that with this financial crisis happening around us, the world will start to reinvent itself. The most important thing for the G20 at the moment is for governments to make sure that financial institutions are regulated more closely in the future. It's unfair the way some people were speculating on things that turned out to have no real value, while the rest of us were working our asses off. And they were getting bonuses for that?"
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