by Tom Bemis
Commentary: Minute by minute at the global summit
Global leaders gathered in London at the G20 summit to save the world's economy are spending more time arriving, eating, and posing for pictures than they are actually discussing the crisis as a group.
Officially, President Obama, U.K. Prime Minister Brown, German Chancellor Merkel and the rest will be together from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
Of that eight hours, or 480 minutes, the first 55 were devoted to arrivals. The next 90 minutes were spent on breakfast, according to the summit schedule. At the 150 minute mark the leaders got together for the all important "family photograph."
Finally, at 10:20 a.m., nearly three hours into the event, the plenary session was slated to start, all 160 minutes of it.
All told the schedule shows 260 minutes for the mechanics of getting the leaders in, feeding them and taking their pictures, and 220 minutes for plenary sessions to talk about the crisis.
If one assumes everybody gets the same amount of time to talk, that gives each of the 20 world leaders exactly 11 minutes of floor time. But there's a catch. There are actually 30 attendees listed on the conference schedule, including the leaders of organizations like the Association of South East Asian Nations, the Financial Stability Forum, the International Monetary Fund, and so on.
So, assuming the equal time rule applies, each leader really gets a little over 7 minutes to convince the others about whatever their plan is for stimulus spending, financial regulation, boosting the IMF, or a global currency.
Throw in a few gasbags -- these are politicians after all -- and the whole schedule goes off the tracks.
Of course, informal time to network is important at any big gathering, so the real business of arm twisting and deal making will be getting done over the salad and entrees.
Absent the rhetorical skills of Lincoln, or skill as a hypnotist, the actual G20 gathering will be an afterthought to the posturing that went on before. Fortunately, the world's problems won't be going away any time soon, and the leaders will be able to get together for breakfast and lunch again in the near future.
- Tom Bemis, assistant managing editor