Fizz is missing @ Davos
Barring the pandemic year 2021, Klaus Schwab has successfully gathered the rich and superrich from across the globe at Davos, Switzerland, under his umbrella organization, World Economic Forum (WEF), this year also. The objective was to discuss current global issues with the high and mighty and the future. A profitable business venture, indeed. The usual February calendar was readjusted to Mayi this year due to Covid. And the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
How was the annual jamboree this time? Notwithstanding what Schwab and his entourage would declare from the hilltops of scenic Swiss town (population: 11,121 in 2021), WEF 2022 is a flop. The theme: History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies. Why? WEF has lost its relevance for various reasons: unlike in the past, big boys of global business people do not need a Davos platform to share what they perceive and what they want to do. Why? Thanks to the internet revolution. Look at Elon Musk’s tweet route. Or Even the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who talks to the constituency, global and domestic, multiple times daily.
Significantly, the Davos circus produced nothing concrete. “Regular pilgrims to Davos failed to notice or avert the global financial crisis of 2007–9 or the ero crusis thereeafter. Ditto for Brexit or the electoin of Prezident Trump — both those stood for disconnect with globalisation and inequiality. In 2007, WEF did set up the Coalition for Epimedic Preparedness Innovatioins. The proof of this particular pudding is in the dying: 15 million in Covid’s direct and indirect toll, says WHO,” writes T K Arun(1)
Here’s another take: Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times, “For 30 years, from the end of the cold war to the start of the pandemic, geopolitical rivalries took a backseat to globalization, and nowhere was this more evident than here (Davos). The informal motto of Davos was, “Make Money, Not War.” The financiers and chief executives who throng the hotels become known as masters of the universe. Political leaders, including Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, and Vladimir Putin, came to pitch it to the assembled billionaires. Now the politicians and generals are back in charge and the business people who assumed for decades that the whole world was potential market are disoriented.” Such a downbeat mood is not a normal Davos fare, he emphasizes. (2)
“Today, everything Davos stands for — globalization, liberalism, free-market capitalism, representative democracy — seems under assault,” says David Gelles(3). Further, he says that “the past two years have fundamentally challenged the viability of that aspirational worldview.”
A conclave of this nature is bound to attract protesters. WEF 2022 is no exception. According to BBC, a handful of wealthy attendees gathered in Davos are calling on world leaders to tackle the cost of living crisis by pushing up taxes for people like them.
In his dispatch from Davos, Rupert Neate of the Guardian, London quotes Djaffar Shalchi, A danish multimillionaire: “You don’t win people’s trust by holding events like Davos, where the world’s rich and powerful meet behind layers of security.” (4)
Nonetheless, India seems to be getting much traction at Davos. The Indian delegation, led by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, obviously sold India to the delegates. His pitch assumes greater importance in the aftermath of the supply chain disruption following Covid and the global business exploring alternate outsourcing arrangements to replace China, if not fully, at least in small doses. This is where India seems to be playing its card, enticing them to invest in India.
“Team India hit sixers in Davos,” tweets Asha Jadeja Motwani, a venture capitalist in the United States. “The world is looking to us(India) for stability & supply chains as China exits. Urban Indian infrastructure must b built on a war footing. States should not have to borrow from Canadian pension funds. Indian unicorns & tech start-ups are the hottest gigs in Davos, bringing a ray of sunshine to a Europe at its pessimistic worse.”
She has special words of praise for the Telegana team at Davos. “20 years from now, don’t be surprised if KTR becomes of India. I have never seen a young politician with such clarity of vision and expression. Telengana team is on fie in Davos. They remind me of a silicon valley start-up — that will likely to back with $billions in future deals.”
Comparison with the past Davos circus, “synonymous with wealth, prestige and power and all that represent” is “scaled-down,” opines Washington Post Abha Bhattarai. (5) Not to be missed is the absence of big-ticket items such as Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon. Russia is out. China? Missing, definitely.
There can be no dispute over Schwab’s credentials as the best salesperson. On a global scale. Otherwise, he could not have conducted the global circus consistently over half a century. WEF’s contribution to global prosperity remains a mystery.
(1) Davos is so 1990s, The Times of India, May 24, 2022
(2) Putin’s conflict has shattered the global ould in Davos, Gideon Rachman, The Financial Times, May 24, 2022
(3) As Davos Returns from Hiatus, Its Values are in Question, David Gelles, The Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2022
(4) Millionaires’ group sends Davos message: ‘tax the rich”, The Guardian, May 25, 2022
(5) Economic uncertainty and ongoing war cast cloud over Davos summit, Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post, May 25, 2022