Angels of Davos: rhetoric and reality

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech was the main attraction at the recently concluded meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos in Switzerland. It set the agenda, with his call to address the three greatest threats to the world: climate change, terrorism and the backlash against globalisation.

This call was in total agreement with the main theme at Davos, of creating a shared future in a fractured world. These lofty ideals sound nice as a topic for high-profile meetings where the world's most influential political, corporate and social leaders gather to discuss and shape policies to improve the state of the world.

How much of these ideals are put into practice? A reality check of what is being said in Davos and the ground situation reveals a total disconnect between rhetoric and reality.

The WEF is an institution that envisioned public-private partnership, with the main objective of creating a favourable business environment for the corporate world to meet the needs of the elites.

Nevertheless, they invite social leaders and organisations such as Oxfam that have raised questions about escalating levels of global inequality. The show of all-female panels and inviting the youngest Nobel Peace laureate, Pakistan's Yousafzai Malala to address the forum is a disguised policy to co-opt the critics.

For those who gather at the annual WEF meeting, the shared future is limited only to those who create and own wealth and political power. According to a study by Oxfam, they belong to the richest 1% of global population, who cornered 82% of the wealth generated last year.

Ironically, the political and economic institutions that support the WEF are also the dominant players that are responsible for our fractured world. Their main agenda is creating unlimited wealth and increasing the profits of corporates at the cost of annihilating all forms of life on this planet.

This approach, followed over decades, has led to the concentration of wealth and created unequal societies, and the destruction of natural resources. The
annual gathering at Davos hardly addresses these fundamental issues facing humanity. Rather it helps perpetuate economic disparity, furthering the interests of the elite who control the wealth.

As the corporate world realised that they could not make more profits in China, now they are looking towards India to secure their profits, with a huge potential of cheap manpower and ample natural resources that are waiting to be exploited.

Playing to the tune set by the WEF, Prime Minister Modi unveiled his economic and political position to entice business leaders to invest in India.   He put forth his plans to fight income inequality and create jobs, promising to cut the red tape and rolling out the red carpet to international trade and investment. These claims suit the gathering represented by business and industry interests. However, the ground realities in India, and all over the world, are showing acute signs of distress.

Modi's sermon

The unbridled consumerism and the path adopted by the WEF of unlimited economic growth at any cost have destroyed the regenerative capacity of natural resources. The basic needs of mankind - the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil that produces our food, are all poisoned, leading to the ecocide of the only living planet.

Prime Minister Modi knows this very well, as he has the first-hand experience of poisoned air in Delhi, and the toxic Yamuna flowing by. Despite this harsh reality, perhaps we must appreciate the "guts" of Prime Minister Modi in giving a sermon to the world on addressing the challenges of climate change and the need to mend the fractured world with the tools of ancient Indian traditions.

We must understand that the WEF is a forum that prepares the ground for spreading the tentacles of the world's major corporates, forcing political leaders to commit themselves to inviting them with tax concessions to earn profits. India is already experiencing this, with higher economic growth without any job creation.

These elite business companies survive and prosper through re-engineering societies, and planting a foundation based on notions of unlimited growth fuelled by unbridled consumerism. This ideology percolates through national and international boundaries with total disregard for the limits of nature.

Davos is the epicentre of unethical, if not illegal, wealth, where political leaders discuss economic and social issues during the day and sign pacts for arms deals during the night. Both these acts cause more harm to the world, adding to the distress of the common people in conflict zones, making them "ecological refugees".

Obviously, this hypocrisy is the main roadblock towards finding a workable solution to address the root cause of the fractured world - the ecological crisis facing humanity, called climate change and global warming. The practical solutions to this crisis lie not in increasing the concentration of wealth and centralising economies but in the redistribution of wealth and decentralising economies.

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