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Now, austerity drive in prime minister’s visit
Published on 24 Sep. 2009 11:36 PM IST
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Austerity starts here! That’s the message the Indian government, perhaps, seeks to convey during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit here to attend the G20 Summit. The first casualty of the austerity drive has been the strength of the media delegation accompanying the prime minister. It now stands reduced to 29 journalists from the 35 or more who are normally part of the entourage. This apart, gone are the days when caviar was a part of the normal indulgence and champagne flowed freely. Now, instead of a rather elaborate food menu to choose from, the choice before the prime minister’s fellow travellers was quite limited. But scribes from south India, as also others with a taste for the normal cuisine in southern states, were not disappointed. The tradition of serving curd rice, started by former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, has not stopped. A Hindu temple in US with a long tradition One of the few places in Pittsburgh that is part of an excursion tour for the members of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s delegation is the imposing Sri Venkateswara Temple. This is one of the earliest Hindu temples built in the US, dating back to 1977, and has been modelled on the famous Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam in Andhra Pradesh over a huge expanse of 3.5 acres. The temple is as old as the Ganesha temple at Flushing in New York City which is generally thought to be among the oldest in the US at the site that originally belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Venkateswara temple, which sees some 100,000 visitors every year, is located on the immediate outskirts of Pittsburgh - called Penn Hills in the state of Pennsylvania. Go green! Message from Pittsburgh US President Barack Obama, the host for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, seems to have a clear message to send while choosing the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden as the venue for the inaugural reception for invited leaders. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, here for the two-day summit at Obama’s invitation, will get to see and explore the grand steel and glass Victorian greenhouse that stands at one of Pittsburgh’s largest green spaces. With the US pushing its own agenda for other countries to ensure their commitment to reducing emissions, the garden is seen as the right choice as it has become a strong advocate for green building practices, sustainable gardening and new environment awareness in the US. $10,000 for a piece to camera! There are, indeed, no free lunches in the US! The television journalists who are part of the prime minister’s media delegation to the G20 Pittsburgh Summit are learning this the hard way. From audio-video feeds to providing a good backdrop for the piece to cameras, each and every bit of service rendered to journalists is charged. Everything costs money at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. In fact, a piece to camera from the venue could set an organisation back by as much as $10,000. India to seek greater role in managing global economy As the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies gather here Thursday to review their efforts to stem global recession, India is expected to pitch for a more proactive role in the management of the global economy. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who arrives here put it before embarking for the summit, “It is necessary for India to engage in the management of the world economy because we have a lot at stake, and a lot to contribute.” He will also “convey India’s interest in seeing the earliest possible return to trend growth and stabilisation of the banking and financial sectors in the advanced economies, because this directly affects our exports, capital inflows and investment.” Having weathered the global meltdown much better than others, a confident India is also expected to seek reform of international financial bodies and forcefully oppose all forms of protectionism that may affect global economic recovery. As Manmohan Singh has said India “would also like to see a strong message to emerge from Pittsburgh against protectionism in all its forms, whether trade in goods, services, investment or financial flows.” Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will be the prime minister’s ‘sherpa’ or key aide at the two-day summit hosted by US President Barack Obama. Ahead of the Pittsburgh Summit bringing together a group of countries that accounts for 90 percent of the global output, 80 percent of world trade and two-thirds of humanity, India has also committed to invest up to $10 billion in the IMF to help replenish the fund to help countries struggling in the current financial crisis. Meeting amid signs of a fading recession, the G-20 leaders are expected to echo their finance ministers and central bank governors who said earlier this month that while it was important to start discussing exit strategies, it was too early to begin carrying them out. Officials representing the G-20 members have also said it’s unlikely the nations’ leaders will make additional financial commitments on the scale of those made in April, when the G-20 leaders agreed to triple the resources of the IMF, which acts as the world’s lender of last resort. The G-20 members are working on a more detailed framework for regulatory reform along with firm deadlines. Ultimately, though, it is up to national legislatures to follow through. US Congress is working on a proposal to overhaul financial regulation. Besides India and the US, the G20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, Britain and the EU.

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