The World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, the annual retreat of the who’s who of the world to discuss and deliberate on the “state of the world”, is taking place next week from May 22-26, 2022. This gathering of the “people who matter” is often a “meeting of minds” of the “best and brightest” and so, offers a peek into what the political, business, tech, and societal elites think about the pressing issues of the day. Each Davos meet has an agenda and this time around, the Ukrainian war and the Pandemic are likely to dominate the mind space of the participants. However, in this article, I offer an alternative agenda for Davos 2022, which ideally should be the focus, though, in reality, the talkfest is unlikely to discuss this.
To start with, perhaps the elites who gather at Davos can discuss the widening inequalities and inequities, that the pandemic has exacerbated to the point that the world’s poor have become “invisible”. More so, when the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Shouldn’t they discuss how the Digital Divide has widened and has contributed to a “lost generation” of learners, mostly those who could not access the technologies needed to engage in online schooling and virtual education? On a related note, they should also discuss the “vaccine inequity” which has left Billions of people in the developing world, bereft of vaccinations.
Next, all Davos summits often ponder globalization. This time around, while the 3Ps of “populism, pandemic, and Putin” and how they have derailed globalism would take centre stage, they should also focus on the “uneven” gains from globalization and how it is cleaving the world into winners and losers, solely on the basis of equity related to income, education, and privilege. While Davos attendees abhor protectionism, yesterday’s “sudden” decision by India to ban Wheat exports would no doubt be condemned, though the West too should introspect on their own “stealth” protectionist policies.
India has been the “flavour” of many a Davos meeting. This time around, The Economist has already set the ball rolling with a “puff piece” on how this decade is for India’s to lose. Gladdening the hearts of the Indian delegation, China should figure as the “new problem child” what with its increasing belligerence and support for Russia along with its draconian lockdowns, all figuring in the Western media for the last few weeks. However, my guess is that the agenda for Davos 2022 would still be one of “fawning” over China, with its long-neglected sibling, India on track to be wooed as the “next” big story.
Yes!! The pandemic is not truly over and so, the agenda for Davos 2022 would be all about this. However, will the global elite admit that there has been an “ugly” side to Covid 19 where people worldwide were left to their own means, as nations after nations, struggled to even provide them basic medical assistance? Will the agenda for Davos 2022 include how the WHO or the World Health Organization and India are sparring over the “death toll” with the former accusing the latter of “gross” undercounting? Will this year’s Davos people also discuss the many disruptions that the pandemic caused and which are affecting those at the bottom more than any other segment?
Having said that, the agenda for Davos 2022 would certainly include the Digital Age that is now upon us. After all, Klaus Schwab, the founder of the WEF which hosts the Davos conference, has long been an enthusiast for everything digital, having authored a book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, will he prod the attendees not to overlook the dangerous and the lethal side of the new technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) being used for nefarious purposes? Or that Big Tech has become yet another oligopoly that has “robbed” the Utopian promise of the Internet and instead, led us into a perilous future, all due to Capitalism running amok.
On that note, let me conclude by asking if the agenda for Davos 2022 would deliberate on how Neoliberalism is dying and we are yet to find alternatives. More so when Late Capitalism gives us Smartphones designed to opiate us and forget its excesses. All the items in this alternative agenda for Davos 2022 tie into the centrality of free markets gone berserk and given the predictions of doom of an “inevitable” crash and turbulence ahead in the global economy, would they at least acknowledge that Cryptos were a bad bet and that the promised Web 3.0 might not give us the salvation promised, and eventually denied, by previous iterations.
Sigh!! If only they had invited me to set the agenda for Davos 2022.
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