Kamal Nath and Davos
Championing the cause of India’s economic development at various international forums, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister will play a proactive role in the WEF 2020 annual summit
At a time when people world over seem revolting against the economic 'elites', the World Economic Forum (WEF) is holding its 50th Annual Meeting at Davos, Switzerland from January 21–24, 2020. With the world at such critical crossroads, WEF has no other option than to develop a 'Davos Manifesto 2020' to reimagine the purpose of scorecards for companies and governments. People across the world generally believe that they have been betrayed by the controllers of global governance and economy. Therefore, 3,000 participants from around the world will be focussing on the theme of 'Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World', this time at Davos.
It has become almost mandatory for the WEF now to give a concrete meaning to 'stakeholder capitalism' if it wishes to continue with its business of assisting governments and international institutions. Tracking the progress of the sustainable development goals and finding decent ways of technology and trade governance is now the substructure of a forceful future role for the half-a-century old organisation.
A chosen few of political and corporate leaders from India would be putting their heads together with the captains of global governments and companies in discovering modes for the removal of long-term debt burden and keep the economy working at a pace that allows higher inclusion. WEF will also discuss in detail how to reskill and upskill a billion people in the next decade. Deployment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution would find a meaningful place at the round tables this time as it requires to create a global consensus to avoid a 'technology war'. A perpetual agenda of WEF is to mobilise business to respond to the risks of climate change and ensure that measures to protect biodiversity reach forest floors and ocean beds.
With Globalisation 4.0 as the central theme, Davos meeting will chalk out strategies for handling the changes wrought on the world by the interconnectedness of cultures and economies. Migration of IT services to the cloud, big data and digitisation will also dominate Davos interactions. Broad consequences that modification of the human genome and various gene-editing techniques might pose would also have its strong shadow on Davos gathering as research in the fields of genetic engineering and agricultural biology has raised certain concerns world over. Synthetic biology has its positives as well as negatives. Today, scientists can design biological components that do not exist in the natural world. They can manufacture new DNA sequences that can be used to produce synthetic medication, bioelectronics, biochemicals and biofuels. Bioinformatics and computational biology will play a pivotal role in times to come.
The Davos meeting will address the challenges of a fast-changing world. In the next few years, most of the world population will be living in cities. Rapid urbanisation is a phenomenon which cannot be ignored. Acceleration of worldwide urbanisation will bring excessive consumption of finite resources, congestion and operational inefficiencies. WEF meeting intends to discuss solutions for these questions.
Smart cities would be the locus of a broader global industrial boom. Electrical vehicles and personal short-distance aviation are critical to the development of smart cities. It will shape the way people move within and between future cities. Fifth Generation Wireless will energetically improve the network speed. It will benefit the various aspects of human life such as remote surgery in a big way.
The future world will depend heavily on robotics. Collaborative robots and service robots will reshape the entire industrial scenario. But at the same time, robotics will throw various challenges to mankind. The rise of artificial intelligence has also created new kinds of threats that need to be addressed. Davos meet has to deliberate on this issue also. Davos manifesto has to suggest ways to tackle cyber-criminals. Digital infrastructure mediates more of our personal, professional and civic life these days. Social media providers, banks and retailers have exceptional access to personal data and information today than ever before. Davos has to come up with some kind of strong ethic code for utilising this data.
Davos-2020 is being held in the backdrop of the fact that India has slipped 10 steps below on the annual global competitiveness index prepared by the World Economic Forum this year. Last year, India was ranked 58th on this index. This year India is on the 68th rank. It is among the worst-performing BRICS nations this year. India's participation in WEF this time is much more crucial than ever before because it has been the world's largest emerging economies till three years back and now struggling with a critical decay. Much has to be done to keep India's financial services sector in order. India's corporate leaders must take a call on this at Davos. Political leaders such as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath would be expected to play a strongly proactive role in Davos to assist making policies that provide relief to India's sufferings as a result of wrong economic decisions. After all, he is one rare Indian politician who has a decades-old intimate relationship with WEF.
I remember how eight years back, Kamal Nath had strongly pushed for improving market access for developing countries while sharing his views at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2011. He emphasised that India must be given proper entry to the world market. I have seen Kamal Nath championing the cause of India's economic development at various international forums. He has been believing for a very long time that the trade protectionist outlook displayed among struggling countries was wrong. He has been advocating for stronger international cooperation. Kamal Nath has been supporting the need for infrastructure development in India on every available forum by saying that only then would the country be able to double its employment potential, triple its industrial output and quadruple its exports.
Last year also, while addressing WEF annual summit, Kamal Nath underlined the urgent need to ensure all-inclusive economic expansion towards solving the twin problem of unemployment and farmer's distress. He said that India has shown to the world that it can grow irrespective of the government in power. "India grows irrespective of the government policies and is driven by its tremendously aspirational young generation," he said in WEF 2019. Kamal Nath spoke about the importance of sustainable economic growth, about inequality and about disparity also. He expressed his disgust over the fact that the top one per cent of India's richest got richer by 39 per cent as against just three per cent increase in wealth for the bottom half of the population.
I am sure that Kamal Nath will make it a point in WEF 2020 next month that the world leaders must not be allowed to ignore the need to look at the 'distributed justice' since there is a global disorder in all facets. The discombobulation in economy and politics requires attention in a holistic manner. Unless it is done, the disparity will further increase. The demand for a rule-based trading system in global trade will also be raised this time with a renewed emphasis. Let's see what is there in India's future basket from Davos.
Pankaj Sharma is Editor and CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party.
Views expressed are strictly personal