The great world fair of the super rich business people, bureaucrats, academics, journalists and powerful politicians starts tomorrow at Davos, in a tiny Alpen valley surrounded by snowy mountain tops radiating the winter sun. It’s the traditional Swiss way of doing business, by guaranteeing everybody that everything will evolve as planned and nothing will disturb the trade between the moneyed and the powered.
It all started in 1969 as a natural evolution of a students’ Christmas ski jamboree and was elevated to world prominence, by the visionary Professor Klaus Schwab. The Swiss know how to exploit their comparative advantages of good organisation, consistency and…snow and thus the World Economic Forum (WEF) was born.
As usual, the super money bags, those who can spend their companies’ wealth to promote themselves, will take up the co-chairs of the 2016 annual meeting. The chairpersons and/or chief executive officers of General Motors (Mary Barra), Microsoft Corporation (Satya Nadella), Hitachi (Hiroaki Nakanishi) and Credit Swiss ( Tidjane Thiam) will be co-chairs at the 46th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum on 20-23 January.
Together with the business moguls who pay for the whole thing, the Swiss organizers usually mix in one or two persons allegedly representing the civil society. This year, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and Amira Yahyaoui, a Tunisian human rights advocate, Chair and Founder of Al Bawsala and Centre 247 will also co-chair the 2016 Davos meeting. The organizers will not charge anything those two last persons, but the representatives of the civil society usually undertake the role of gratifying their business interlocutors. The extent of this ‘service’ though is a rather personal matter. The theme of this year meeting is “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
Who needs another industrial revolution?
The platform of the so called ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is the way to merge manufacturing with information and communication technologies and reduce the presence of the human factor in all industries. The wider plan of artificial intelligence, apart from the dream of the worker-less interconnected factory, includes the development of sea, land and air means of transport roving without a guiding human hand, operated by monitors from thousands of miles away. Already the air-war industry is increasingly becoming pilot free, having largely evolved into an affair of drones. It’s the delusion that one factor of production, namely capital, can substitute almost entirely the other two, labor and nature.
Of course the WEF annual meeting in Davos is not only an opportunity to worship capitalism. If it was like that it wouldn’t have made such an extraordinary career. Even the Swiss know that it’s not only the money that can make an event so special. It has to produce ideas and tangible results out of the power brokerage. At times Davos did all that. It was there that the North American Free Trade Agreement-NAFTA (US, Mexico, Canada) was first discussed.
For the world peace
Davos has also helped the world peace by bringing together powerful politicians. The late Turkish Prime Minister and later on President Turgut Ozal had revealed that having met the late Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou in Davos, helped avoid a full armed conflict between their two countries in 1987. They had become “friends” the previous year in Davos. At least this is what they both said at the time.
This year the incumbent Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is participating in a Davos meeting with Robin Niblett, an international relations expert, Director of Chatham House, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of Holland, Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German Minister for Finance and Manuel Valls the French Prime Minister. They will discuss about the future of Europe. None is more competent than those five persons to tackle this question.
Along the same lines – that is the future of Europe – on the occasion of the 46th WEF the General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon has invited the Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades representing the Greeks of the island and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to assess the progress of the negotiations to re-unite the island. The bilateral talks have started last May but they haven’t yet touched the difficult part, which is the regulation of the land property issue.
As for the no-attendees, prominent amongst them are the presidents of the US and Russia, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and the French President, Francois Hollande. There was an ambiguity around the absence of the most powerful European woman. The truth is that her attendance had not been programmed, and we have to take the relevant statement of Steffen Seibert, the head of the Federal Press and Information Office in Berlin at face value. Coming down to the bizarre appearances in Davos, the North Korean delegation would attract all the eyes. However, after the alleged hydrogen bomb test by Pyongyang earlier this month, World Economic Forum had to cancel the invite to Pyongyang.
David Cameron in the Alps
Last but not least, it’s the British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s speech in Davos that will for sure attract the interest of the world media. On that occasion, he will possibly reveal his plans for the referendum about Britain’s position in or out of the European Union. On this issue a lot is still at stake and important decisions are expected to be taken in the next European Council of 18-19 February.
All in all, the 20-23 January annual meeting of the WEF in Davos is certain to enhance our knowledge about how our world is going around. However, it was the charity organization OXFAM that, two days ahead of the assembly of the rich and powerful, unveiled a study showing that the 62 richest persons possess more wealth than half of humanity (3.6 billion people). In 2010 it took 388 rich to do that. The obvious conclusion is that the earth is becoming a comparatively a much better place for the rich and a lot worse for the rest of us since Davos started in 1969.
It’s true that the growing inequality is not only a socially unacceptable reality, but it is increasingly becoming a major obstacle to growth. Hopefully Davos will elaborate on that.
Stay tuned from 20 to 23 January as the Sting will be once more producing top class critical LIVE media coverage from the Congress Centre in Davos, Switzerland.
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