Contributed by Jim Hayes
Last week, heads of state corporate leaders and well-placed academics met in Davos Switzerland, for this year’s gathering of the World Economic Forum.
The Forum’s history is that it has been a focal point for generating the economic direction, and by effect, the political direction of the world’s most powerful nations. This has put pressure on everyone else to follow suit.
It became a vehicle to impose neoliberalism and austerity and the trickle upward effect, through what was called globalisation.
This has never been undisputed. At every turn, the Forum found itself challenged by a growing movement to change, and nations that were being put on the backfoot by the dominant powers. Big community campaigns developed in many countries. This and the fact that neoliberalism is closely tied to looming economic crisis and the erosion of democratic rights, signaled the beginning of the end to unfettered neoliberalism.
Global warming is another major threat that has come into effect.
Thus in 2019, the World Economic Forum discovered that inequality is bad for the economy and its bad for the climate.
But did anything practical come out of it?
While recognition was given to economic icebergs on the horizon, no real strategy to defend against catastrophe was agreed on. A lot of words were bandied about. But there was little commitment to action. Just some talk about public consultation, public-private cooperation and reliance on new technology to shape a new era of global cooperation.
Completely ignored, was the reality that economic challenges will not be successfully overcome by window dressing. Although there was mention of the problem of distribution of wealth, when it came down to it, there was no intention of changing the growing inequality. Acknowledgment was given to the need for a collective effort of government, business, and society. Nothing was agreed on to mitigate the overwhelming power of big corporations. Without taking breaking the control of these corporations, there can be no collective effort.
There was no agreement over finding a way to overcome mounting trade war on a number of fronts, which threaten to devastate the global economy, as well as propel us headlong into war.
It boils down to the world Economic Forum doing no more than trying to put on new clothes, while remaining the same underneath. There is no break from the course of neoliberalism.
The highlight of the gathering was the address by naturalist David Attenborough, who warned that global warming is putting us at the brink of disaster. Did the discussion come up with suggesting concrete measure to lower emissions and build a sustainable economy? No. There was just vague talk about these needs.
Sessions were used by those representing a number of dominant powers, to divert attention from the core issues and carry on some chest beating. The interests of humanity were swept under the carpet.
By failing to produce anything viable and essentially sticking to business as usual, the World Economic Forum has rendered itself irrelevant to the needs of today. If the world follows its lead, we are heading straight to those icebergs.