September 12, 2009

My interview with Weekend America

The outcome of this weekend's G-20 summit may still be a mystery, but many of the countries attending have their own goals for the meeting as the economic crisis ripples out from the U.S. across the globe. So we thought we'd hop through some time zones and look at the summit from a few different national perspectives. Our first guests join us two oil-producing states - there's a little argument over which one is producing more oil these days. Abdullah Al Alami is an economic researcher based in Saudi Arabia. And Konstantin Sonin is an assistant professor at the New Economic School in Moscow.


John Moe: Abdullah, I'll start with you. Going into this weekend summit, what's on the agenda for Saudi Arabia? What are they hoping to accomplish?

Abdullah Al Alami: Well, I think King Abdullah is going to deliver a strong message. He is going to tell the world that we have plenty of oil and we are going to deliver, so trust us. We are also suffering. Just the fact that we are the largest oil producer country in the world does not necessarily mean that we are outside the financial crisis. We are suffering as well. Some of our projects are going to be delayed. Oil prices are going down. So he's going to say, I think, that we are all in the same boat.

Moe: And Konstantin Sonin, what about Russia? What are they, what are they trying to accomplish this weekend?

Konstantin Sonin: I think for Russian leaders, it's extremely important to assert the Russian role in world affairs. So basically they will put forward a very ambitious geo-political agenda. They will try to abstain from talking about economic, particular economic issues, and probably they will try to become a kind of a voice of non-American countries, of countries that are outside of the American sphere of influence.

Moe: What will a successful summit look like from the point of view of your respective governments?

Sonin: Generally, the big success of this summit is already in the fact that countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Australia, India--the countries that play a major role, probably not less than those that are already in the G-7 group--they are invited. And this is, I think, the biggest success. And from the Russian standpoint, the main success will be if the Russian voice will be heard, and will be heard in proportion to our contribution to the world gross product.

Moe: Abdullah Al Alami?

Al Alami: I think the message, like I say, that the King is going to deliver is not only for international purposes, but also for local purposes. Like the American dream, the average American citizen would like to own a house and have a good job--just like that, an average Saudi citizen would like to, you know, get a job, a decent job. He'd like to own his own home and maybe raise a good family and have his kids go through some quality education and with some quality medical care. That's probably the average Saudi dream, so the message that the King is going to deliver, the level of success is how will the average Saudi citizen react to that? Not only how the rest of the world will react to the Saudi King's assurances, but how will the average Saudi citizen also react to the message?

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