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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Crisis fallout still in 'first half': forum

DUBAI (AFP) - – The impact of the global financial crisis is still in its "first half," but there is only a brief opportunity to bring tough reforms, the World Economic Forum warned on Friday.

"It is still too early for people to pat themselves on the back and say that we've managed to get through the crisis," WEF managing director Richard Samans, told AFP.

"I think we're still in the first half of the aftermath of this crisis," Samans said on the sidelines of the forum's second summit on the global agenda in Dubai.

Other forum participants agreed, saying the recovery was threatened by a wide range of problems thrown up by the US-rooted global financial crisis.

"The truth is that we did our best, but (the world is) still going through the storm," Mohammed Alabbar, head of a committee tasked with helping Dubai counter the impact of the crisis, told the conference.

"The world... is in trouble, because government debts are out of control, banking is at risk, consumer debt is very high, and unemployment of course is high.

"Deficits (around) the world are staggering," Alabbar said. "And what's the consequence of that? Most probably education might suffer as a result of that. Health care will be at risk as a result of that."

Mark Malloch-Brown, senior adviser for the WEF's Global Redesign Initiative, told conference participants that, "What spurred us all to come here is this sense the crisis isn't behind us."

But he said later: "The crisis created malleability, a moment of opportunity to introduce new ideas, to bring changes (to) the global system which in normal times would either not even be contemplated or would take years to get done."

John Gieve, a senior fellow at Harvard University, warned of the risk posed by complacency now that the most dire moments of the economic crisis have passed.

"There is some risk that with less acute worries about the short-term, the momentum for reform may be ebbing," Gieve said.

Sharan Burrow, president of the International Trade Union Confederation, voiced a similar sentiment.

"We've got a window of opportunity. The crisis has focused the minds of the governments," said Burrow.

Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum also alluded to the possibilities for reform offered by the crisis in a speech that officially opened the conference.

"The crisis itself created an opportunity to review our actions and assess the efforts needed to tackle" the crisis, he said.

The sheikh also said that because of the crisis, "there was an increase in international cooperation."

"We have seen the G-7 states broaden into the G-20, and the G-20 met three times within a year," he said.

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