When the world's most powerful financiers gather this weekend in Berlin, they'll have plenty to talk about. The members of the
Group of Seven
, the informal rich man's club of industrialized countries, look like they're about to disconnect. The U.S. economy is going gangbusters. Growth is strong, inflation low and the markets are surging like the
used to. Japan, on the other hand, can't pull itself out of a six-year economic downturn. The
remains sickly, and interest rates -- at 0.5% -- are stuck at all-time lows. The other five members of the elite clique are in varied states of economic health.
In the spirit of international cooperation, we offer a quick cybertour of a few G-7 home pages.
Those oh-so-proper bureaucrats at Britain's
have put together a thumping good read. The site contains a thorough collection of official papers, dialogues, speech transcripts, data and miscellaneous information. Of course, what else would we expect from the country that brought us Smith, Ricardo and Keynes? It is updated regularly with fresh news. The presentation is fresh, with clever icons and occasional animation, although the use of colo(u)r borders on alarming.
Beer, maple syrup, hockey players and a bilingual finance ministry home page. Canada's
(or Ministere des Finances, for you Francophones) is the most attractive of all the government pages we've seen. It's got a wealth of information, though it's not as complete as some. French Web surfers (les surfers de le Web a la Francais) can get all of the same information, by clicking on a button. The site provides links not only to resources in Canada, like the stock exchanges, but also to reference sources around the world. Our one complaint: Finance Minister Paul Martin looks a little dour in his photograph. Maybe he's still smarting about Canada's sovereign downgrade.
We think France's
home page might be pretty helpful. But we don't know for sure. It's in French only. Should you check it out?
Italy, Germany, Japan and the U.S. all offer similar sites, but we'll save those for another column.
By Andrew Morse