(DAVOS) This year, as ever, the well-meaning chatter about prosperity for all will flutter down as thickly as the snowflakes that are steadily burying the buildings that house the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
Delegates will pay up to $60,000 just to be here and thousands more on flights and expensive accommodation, not to mention expensive food, in this ski-resort.
WEF has been going on year-in, year-out since 1971 in this snowy corner of the Alps – at more than 5,000 feet above sea level one of the highest spots in Europe and one of the coldest places on earth – but only now is the embarrassment about the world’s growing army poor and dispossessed starting to bite.
Arguably the anger and despair of the world’s poor majority is a major factor behind the populism, extremism, lack of trust in leadership and disillusionment with capitalism that has led to this economic think-tank to theme this year’s gathering : “A shared future in a fractured world” a paradox if ever there was one.
Oxfam has been banging on about the inequalities of the world for decades. This year it released damning evidence ahead of Davos claiming a mere 42 people – enough to fill one bus – own more than 3.7 billion of the poorest people; compared with 61 last year and 380 in 2009.
Other highlights from its ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ report include:
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International reckons: “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”
IMF head Christine Lagarde put her two pennyworth in when she announced much better than expected growth forecasts on the first day of the gathering on Monday.
“In one fifth of the world’s emerging economies – that is countries like Brazil Russia and South Africa – per capita income fell at a time when the rest of the world was growing.
Maybe Davos needs to up the action rather than more words if it is to avoid more of that most dangerous kind of person – man with nothing to lose.