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Global business leaders push for infrastructure funding overhaul
July 16, 2014 / 5:20 AM / in 3 years

Global business leaders push for infrastructure funding overhaul

SYDNEY, July 16 (Reuters) - International business leaders are lobbying the Group of 20 bloc of advanced and developing countries to tackle a $57 trillion shortfall in global infrastructure, pressing for changes to funding rules they say would help big projects move ahead.

This week’s Sydney summit of the Business 20 group will push for lighter financial regulation and improved access to capital for businesses as it sets out a corporate blueprint for the world’s top economies to meet ambitious growth targets.

G20 finance ministers agreed in Sydney in February to draw up “real and effective plans to lift the global economy” by more than 2 percent “above the trajectory implied by current policies” over five years. They meet again in Australia in September.

“We think that’s one of the most important decisions made at G20 meetings in the last few years,” B20 Chairman Richard Goyder, chief executive of Wesfarmers, told reporters ahead of the business leaders’ gathering.

Tackling the infrastructure deficit is one of four areas the B20 says is critical to meet this goal, alongside financing growth, slashing unemployment and boosting investment and trade.

The B20 was set up in 2010 to give policy recommendations on behalf of the international business community to the G20.

It has estimated that at least $57 trillion will be needed to finance infrastructure projects worldwide through 2030 to meet the demands of global economic growth.

Blocking that funding, it argues, are cumbersome global rules that make it hard for large pension funds and insurance companies to invest in major infrastructure projects.

“The capital is available for investment,” said Goyder.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has criticised progress towards the 2 percent goal as too slow. “Some countries like China and increasingly Germany have been very supportive of our goals, but there’s more to be done,” he told ABC radio.

Australia is the host of this year’s G20 meetings, a fact that B20 sherpa Robert Milliner said gave credibility to the talks, noting Australia’s record two decades of unbroken growth.

One issue that won’t be on the table at the B20 talks is corporate “profit shifting”, which costs governments up to $3 trillion a year, according to researchers from Tax Justice Network.

G20 finance ministers agreed in February to develop stricter rules on cross-border taxation to close loopholes that have allowed multinationals such as Starbucks Corp, Google Inc, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc to avoid paying taxes.

Finance ministers endorsed a set of common standards for sharing bank account information across borders with automatic exchange of information among G20 members to take effect by the end of 2015.

Goyder said the B20 as a group endorsed a system under which taxes are levied where the profits are made, but he expressed scepticism that the G20 would be able to agree on a policy palatable to all countries.

“We’ll leave it to governments to sort out,” he said.

Editing by Alan Raybould

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