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G20 Leaders to Debate Economic Measures in London


Leaders of the world's 20 leading industrialized and emerging economies along with major international financial institutions gather in London for a one-day summit April 2 to take stock of existing measures and discuss how best to stem the economic recession and pave the way back to growth. But, many are asking when average people will be able to see results.

They come here two, three times a week, but often the game is not the only thing on their minds.

Although they are retired, the daily dose of bad economic news reaches the Deanland retirement community in southeastern England.

George Graham is a retired merchant mariner. For many years, he lived off his pension plan and wise investments. But that's changing.

"My concern is that as I get older, if I ever have to go into a nursing home, how will that be paid for," asked Graham.

Pat Marshall, retired city planner, worked for her London district's government and put her pension money in savings and stocks.

"My money has gone down and down and down," said Marshall. "So, I'm now back working for Southwark Council. I thought, you know, I'd be reasonably well off. I could have little holidays. I didn't have a holiday last year."

It all began to unravel when the sub-prime mortgage bubble burst in the United States last year. But, in today's globally intertwined economies, it quickly spread.

Major banks were on the verge of collapse and had to be rescued by governments. The housing market plummeted, stocks went into freefall. Credit dried up, shops closed, factories laid off workers.

Oxfam, the international aid organization, says many people in Britain are experiencing hardship and more will do so.

Kate Waering heads Oxfam's anti-poverty programs in Britain.

"The position is getting worse for anyone who's living on a fixed income - for people who are on a state pension, for people who are on fixed benefits," she said. "Those benefits are not keeping up with the increases in cost of living."

And hardship has spread beyond Europe, as these images from the development group, ActionAid, show.

The crisis is being felt in poor countries, for example in South Africa, says Claire Melamed of ActionAid.

"We've been hearing about the problems of the car industry in Europe and the States, and these miners in South Africa who are producing the metal that goes into the cars, they're losing their jobs by the tens of thousands," said Melamed. "And, of course a lot of those miners came from other countries in Africa to find work and we're hearing stories for example of girls in Malawi who've been forced to leave school because the money that was paying for their education was coming from mine workers in South Africa."

The recession is adding to hardship already caused by a rise in food and fuel prices and climate change, says ActionAid, with harvests becoming more precarious.

ActionAid says it's up to world leaders at the G-20 summit to take action.

Politicians have taken note, holding one round of meetings after another to devise a common strategy.

Billions have been pumped into stimulus packages. Promises have been made.

"We are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that growth is restored, and we are committed to do that for however long it takes to do that," said British Treasury chief Alistair Darling.

But so far, the measures have not taken hold, and many warn there is worse to come before it gets better.

Far away from the corridors of power, Pat Marshall is skeptical things will get better soon. "They can have as many little meetings as they like, but it doesn't really do anything for us," she said.

And as world leaders debate economic strategies, people here want results for their everyday lives.

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