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G20 to discuss bankers bonuses

JAPAN, Sep 4 – Curbing bankers\’ bonuses and when to reverse the huge fiscal stimulus pumped into the global economy to avert meltdown will dominate a meeting of G20 finance ministers from on Friday.

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The world\’s richest countries — the United States, Japan and China — plus top European states and emerging powers like India will use the meet to prepare for a Group of 20 leaders\’ summit in the US city of Pittsburgh on September 24-25.

A year after the crisis erupted and with countries like Japan, France and Germany now officially out of recession, the G20 has shifted its focus from firefighting to ensuring that recovery is sustained and deep-rooted.

But politicians warned the situation is still fragile and there is no room for complacency ahead of the finance ministers\’ two-day get-together in London.

"The crisis is not over," said the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, Europe\’s three largest economies, in a joint letter released Thursday.

"It is of key importance that the heads of state and government seize the opportunity offered by this summit… in order to avoid a repetition of the present crisis."

Amid signs of a return to a bonus culture, bankers are again in the crosshairs of world statesmen, who argue that lucrative compensation schemes fuelled a short-term pursuit of profit which helped destabilise the financial system.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany indicated they were nearing agreement on the issue in their letter, urging "binding rules" to stop the return of "reprehensible practices".

They called for an end to guaranteed bonuses and said there should be rewards for long-term, not short-term, success.

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Sarkozy has led calls for a mandatory cap on bonuses which won wider support at a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels on Wednesday.

Britain, eager to safeguard the City of London\’s reputation as a major world financial centre, is cautious about a mandatory cap but wants to peg bonuses to long-term performance to discourage unnecessary risk-taking.

The United States is also likely to be wary of France\’s calls.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Thursday that members of the group would be pressing the US to join the European-led move on bonuses.

"It has to be an international agreement, and we need to use our strength, our conviction with our colleagues to really set up this platform," Lagarde told Channel 4 news in London.

Another main focus will be when to reverse the fiscal stimulus which states pumped into their economies after the credit crunch.

G20 leaders said after their London summit in April that they had agreed 1.1 trillion dollars of support.

Germany, wary of inflationary pressures, has talked up the need for exit strategies while Britain, which is still in recession, has been more cautious.

Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel said while G20 leaders must fully implement stimulus plans, they should also "work on exit strategies to be implemented in a coordinated manner as soon as the crisis has ended".

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However European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet urged caution.

Trichet has said that the "significant contraction" in economic activity had ended and would be followed by "very gradual recovery".

But Trichet warned Friday that "it is premature to declare the financial crisis over."

"Stressing the importance of the exit strategy should not be confused with its activation: it is premature to declare the financial crisis over. Today is not the time to exit," he said, writing in the Financial Times.

Recent statistics suggest that while leading economies are getting stronger, the road to recovery may be rocky.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said Thursday the US and eurozone should rise out of recession in the third quarter but warned of a possible "bumpy" recovery which could be hampered by unemployment.

The United States, meanwhile, will be pressing at the meet the need for stronger capital and liquidity standards for banks.

"At the core of our endeavour must be making capital standards for financial institutions stronger," US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in the FT.

The London meeting will be attended by finance ministers and central bankers from G20 countries Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States.

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The Netherlands and Spain will also be represented along with heads of bodies including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Union.

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