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Snapshot: Economies of the G-20

BY Online DA  September 24, 2009 at 11:48 AM EST

G-20 Leaders; File Photo.

Argentina

President: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Unemployment: 8.8 percent

GDP (USD): $326 billion

Argentina’s diverse range of exports initially provided a buffer from the financial crisis until trade output was hit by a drop in commodity prices. Questions now surround the nation’s ability to repay $28 billion in debt coming due, with onlookers fearing a repeat of the nation’s 2001 record default on $95 billion worth of borrowed funds.

Australia

Prime Minister: Kevin Michael Rudd

Unemployment: 5.8 percent

GDP: $1 trillion

The Australian economy has thus far avoided recession through a mix of $17 billion in cash handouts to consumers, grants for first-time home buyers, and $19 billion in stimulus spending on building projects. Yet a recent dip in both consumer spending and home-loan approvals, coupled with a warning from the nation’s treasurer about rising joblessness, suggests growth may be slowing.

Brazil

President: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Unemployment: 8 percent

GDP: $1.6 trillion

Government numbers show Brazil is the first Latin American nation to exit recession, in part due to looser monetary and fiscal policies, strong demand at home, and improving trade ties with China. With the nation now in recovery, and credit conditions easing, watch for Brazil to revamp a stalled push to finance exploration of three recently discovered oil deposits, the largest find in its history.

Canada

Prime Minister: Stephen Harper

Unemployment: 8.7 percent

GDP: $1.5 trillion

More than three-quarters of Canadian exports land in the United States, so when the American economy plunged into recession in late 2007, Canada soon followed. Canada has since exited recession, according to its central bank, but the nation nevertheless remains bruised from a diminished auto industry.

China

President: Hu Jintao

Unemployment: Urban areas: 4 percent; National estimated at 9 percent

GDP: $4.4 trillion

China has not only avoided recession, it has grown its economy by close to 8 percent, according to government statistics released in July. China caused rumblings earlier in the year by hinting it may move away from the dollar as a reserve currency, but then in May pushed its holding of U.S. Treasury debt to a record $801.5 billion. Of more immediate concern for U.S.-China ties is a recent dust up over U.S. tariffs on Chinese tire imports.

France

President: Nicolas Sarkozy

Unemployment: 9.8 percent

GDP: $2.9 trillion

Over the course of the global recession, discontent in France has been marked by mass rallies in protest of job cuts, and a wave of kidnappings of corporate executives. However a $38 billion stimulus package, combined with the nation’s generous system of social safety nets, is generally believed to have shielded the French economy from a much deeper downturn.

Germany

Chancellor: Angela Merkel

Unemployment: 8.3 percent

GDP: $3.7 trillion

Europe’s largest economy was at first resistant to economic stimulus, but eventually came through in February with a $73.5 billion package. With the crisis now easing, the focus in Germany has turned to fixing an ailing banking system; already the government has formed a so-called “bad bank” to purchase toxic assets from lenders. However until the nation’s September 27 election is settled, it remains unclear just how far reforms will go.

India

Prime Minister: Manmohan Singh

Unemployment: N/A

GDP: $1.2 trillion

Although growth has slowed in India, the nation’s economy still expanded 6.1 percent during the second quarter this year. The weakest rainfall since 1972 has held back the nation’s agricultural sector, which accounts for 18 percent of GDP, but economists believe any losses should be offset by a healthy manufacturing industry.

Indonesia

President: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Unemployment: 8.1 percent

GDP: $512 billion

Indonesia was able to navigate through last year’s global economic meltdown much more smoothly than it did the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98. The economy expanded by 4.2 percent during the first half of the year, thanks in part to a $7.1 billion stimulus program. Still, poverty remains high, and a mix of corruption, red tape, and restrictive labor laws continue to deter foreign investment.

Italy

Prime Minister: Silvio Berlusconi

Unemployment: 7.4 percent

GDP: $2.3 trillion

Europe’s fourth largest economy shrank for a fifth-straight quarter in the three months that ended in June, as investments, imports, and exports all fell. Italy also faces a threat to growth stemming from high levels of public debt, forecast to rise to 120 percent of GDP by the end of next year, which the nation’s top banker has warned could lead to higher taxes.

Japan

Prime Minister: Yukio Hatoyama

Unemployment: 5.7 percent

GDP: $4.9 trillion

A toxic mix of deflation, weak consumer spending, and the highest unemployment since World War II cost former Prime Minister Taro Aso his job in August. His successor, Yukio Hatoyama, has vowed to boost domestic spending in order to keep the world’s second largest economy from falling back into recession. Hatoyama has also said Japan will seek a new assertiveness in its relationship with the United States.

Mexico

President: Felipe Calderon

Unemployment: 6.3 percent

GDP: $1.1 trillion

The auto industry’s woes were already taking a toll on Mexico’s manufacturing sector this year when the swine flu outbreak began, which furthered drove down manufacturing production by close to 15 percent. Overall, the economy is projected to shrink 5.5 percent this year.

Russia

President: Dmitry Medvedev

Unemployment: 9.5 percent

GDP: $1.7 trillion

Moscow has long relied on revenues from energy production to keep the economy afloat, a strategy that backfired when oil prices plunged from record highs of around $140 a barrel last summer to around $70 in September. Russian officials now say they will have to borrow from abroad for the first time in a decade to help cover a national budget deficit.

Saudi Arabia

Monarch: King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Unemployment: Apx. 15 percent

GDP: $482 billion

Despite its position as the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia continues to struggle with high unemployment and rising living costs. Because home loans can be tough to come by in the kingdom – just 30 percent of the population owns a home – renting has become increasingly expensive. Officials hope to reverse the trend, though, by boosting home ownership through new mortgage legislation.

South Africa

President: Jacob Zuma

Unemployment: 23.5 percent

GDP: $277 billion

The global downturn plunged Africa’s largest economy into its first recession in 17 years, with roughly a quarter of the country now out of work. But a modest rebound may be underway. The government has committed to spend $98 billion on infrastructure to help stimulate growth, and the nation’s crucial mining sector expanded 5.5 percent in the second quarter.

South Korea

Prime Minister: Han Seung-soo

Unemployment: 3.8 percent

GDP: $947 billion

South Korea’s economy, the third largest in Asia, grew by 2.6 percent in the second quarter, its fastest expansion in five-and-a-half years. The growth was fueled by $54 billion in government stimulus, a record low benchmark interest rate of 2 percent, and a tax benefits for car buyers.

Turkey

President: Abdullah Gul

Unemployment: 13 percent

GDP: $729 billion

Turkey has been hard hit by the financial crisis. Following the expiration of a $10 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund in May 2008, Turkey saw its budget deficit balloon thirteen-fold, foreign investment drop by about half, and GDP shrink a record 14.3 percent. Ironically, though, a strong regulation system has kept any bank in the country from going under.

United Kingdom

Prime Minister: Gordon Brown

Unemployment: 7.9 percent

GDP: $2.7 trillion

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been among the loudest advocates in Europe for maintaining government stimulus efforts. In his own country, a $30 billion stimulus package passed last November appears to be lifting the United Kingdom out of recession, with activity in the manufacturing and services sectors both up. Nevertheless, the highest unemployment rate since 1995 could spell trouble for the prime minister during next year’s election.

United States

President: Barack Obama

Unemployment: 9.7 percent

GDP: $14.3 trillion

Seven months after the president signed a $787 billion stimulus package, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the recession is “very likely over.” With unemployment at its highest level in 26 years, though, and increasing worry over the size of the federal budget deficit, the president’s domestic priorities, health care reform in particular, remain much in doubt.

European Union

Acting president: John Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden

Unemployment: 9.5 percent

GDP: $18.4 trillion

The 27 nations that comprise the European Union responded to the global financial crisis with a $260 billion economic stimulus package. With signs of recovery increasingly apparent, expect leaders across the continent to use the G-20 summit as an opportunity to stress that it is still too early for governments to unwind stimulus efforts.