‘Davos is WEF…ie World Economic Failure’

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 16, 2023

It was a photo in the Financial Times that spelled out the image problems faced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Activists stomping around the magic mountain held up a banner saying WEF really stood for World Economic Failure.

As they say, the grousers will grouse, but the big problem faced by Davos is the numbers who will believe it really is the epitome of hypocrisy, the place where deals are made to keep the rest of us down.

For 52 years, this Swiss town has served as an annual celebration of globalisation – in 2018, Davos was on Globalisation 4.0 – ably steered by WEF founder Klaus Schwab.

Mr Schwab, who is soon to celebrate his 85th birthday, seemed to be living proof that all good things come to those who dare. He took $6,000 in startup capital and made it a $390-million-a-year business.

Like its founder, Davos prospered. It was the ultimate idea, a global promise that a party attended by the international elite would solve global problems. In 2023, the promise sounds about as hollow as the pasta tubes in a dish of Älplermagronen or Alpine macaroni.

Davos attendees, activists complain, claim to want to improve the state of the world but don’t want to pay a penny, a paisa, a peso or anything extra to set it to rights.

On Day 1 of Davos, Oxfam published a report that hammered the jet set on the magic mountain. It said the richest one per cent accumulated nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, over the past two years. And that if the world’s multimillionaires consented to an annual tax hike of just five per cent, two billion people would be lifted out of poverty.

A somewhat similar message was put out by Earth4All, a group of economists and intellectuals organised by the Club of Rome (which is, if you think about it, a kind of nonprofit, non-glitzy Davos). In 1972, the Club published The Limits to Growth report, which helped place sustainability as a core value on the business agenda. Now, Earth4All says that increasing inequality is undermining democracy and there is no real remedy except for steeply progressive income taxes, new wealth taxes, a minimum global tax on companies, and windfall profits in all sectors.

And pigs would fly.

Davos hasn’t helped the relentless search for tax justice.

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