Mittal calls upon G20 leaders to commit to Internet access for all

November 15, 2015 09:58 pm | Updated 10:36 pm IST

Sunit Bharti Mittal calls on the G20 to commit to a comprehensive strategy to boost youth and female participation in the workforce.

Sunit Bharti Mittal calls on the G20 to commit to a comprehensive strategy to boost youth and female participation in the workforce.

Bharti Enterprises Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Sunil Bharti Mittal on Sunday urged world leaders to commit and invest in developing digital infrastructure to deliver a brighter and more prosperous future to their citizens.

Speaking at the B20 – G20 session at the ongoing G20 Summit in Turkey, immediately following the inaugural address by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Mittal said the Internet can become the cornerstone of a more inclusive global economic growth.

Mr. Mittal underlined the urgent need to bridge the global digital divide and provide easy and affordable access to Information Communication Technologies to millions across the world. “If we want to help people feed, heal, educate and employ themselves, we need to ensure they can connect to the Internet...The challenge of connecting the world will require us to take many different and complementary actions in the coming years,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is attending the G20 Summit, has outlined ‘Digital India’ as one of the key priorities for his Government.

Stressing the need for supporting the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which generate 60 per cent of the world’s private sector employment, Mr. Mittal said in his address: “Globally, 95 per cent of the enterprises are SMEs and these should be at the core of the global growth strategy outlined by the G20 nations...they can become a major source of employment opportunities for youth and support a more inclusive economic growth.” He made a case for easier finance options for SMEs. To take just one example: SMEs often rely on bank credit to allow them to export, but ICC new data shows that over 50 per cent of SME applications for trade finance are now turned down by banks, he said.

He spoke of the need of bringing more women and youth into the mainstream economic growth to ensure balanced growth within economies. “The global economy is facing considerable headwinds and the unemployment rate amongst youth across the world is at a high of 13 per cent...We must create meaningful opportunities for the young people to avoid social unrest.”

Mr. Mittal also highlighted the agenda outlined by the ICC B20 for the revival of the global business environment which calls for the ratification and implementation of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which India is yet to do.

“New WTO research suggests that the TFA could boost global trade flows by an unprecedented $3.6 trillion, creating more than 20 million jobs in the process,” Mr. Mittal argued and said that the impact of implementing the TFA would be greater than eliminating all remaining tariff barriers the world over-and could lead to an increase in SME exports by up to 80 per cent in some economies as the Internet opens up new market opportunities. Although 51 countries have ratified the TFA to date, 108 are required to do so for the agreement to come into force. IBAC members are calling on the G20 economies to do all they can to speed effective implementation of this landmark agreement in the months ahead.

On behalf of the global business community, he called on the G20 to commit to a comprehensive strategy to boost youth and female participation in the workforce.

A key aim should be to reduce mismatches in skills, not least through better public-private collaboration on national skills strategies and education plans, he said. Mr. Mittal also said that though the launch of the Global Infrastructure Hub under last year’s Australian G20 presidency was a major step in the right direction, more needs to be done to build on this important platform given that a the worldwide spending gap on infrastructure is forecast to reach $15 trillion to $20 trillion by 2030.

In their outreach to governments over the past few months, ICC CEOs have emphasized that if the G20 is serious about creating jobs it must urgently help deserving businesses get financing for their viable investments. A prudent starting point for the G20 would be to commit to exploring whether the implementation of tougher financial regulation has inadvertently stymied the flow of finance to small businesses. A cogent strategy to deepen SME access to alternative forms of financing must also be established.

ICC’s delegation in Antalya-comprising business leaders from across the G20-will is led by Mr. Mittal. The ICC group also includes: Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman, SEB; Gerard Mestrallet, CEO, Engie; Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO, Novozymes; Khalid Alireza, Chairman, National Petrochemical Industrial Company; Antonio Brufau, Chairman, Repsol; Alexander Shokhin, President, Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs; John Denton, CEO, Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Alejandro Ramirez Magana, Director General, Cinepolis; Sam Walsh, CEO, Rio Tinto; and Paul Bulcke, CEO, Nestle.

In addition to meetings with the G20 leaders, ICC will also be participating in a range of side events on issues ranging from SME growth through to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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