By Ruma Dubey
Every year in Davos, Switzerland, world leaders in business, politics and civil society gather to discuss the most pressing issues and opportunities facing the world
As when this year’s meet began, we could not help but wonder about the purpose of this meet. The slogan of this World Economic Forum at Davos is – Committed to improving the state of the world.
Seriously? The same day that the Davos meet began, the USA had a shutdown because the Republcians wants its Dreamers to be all sent back; it wants a complete closed doors when it comes to immigrants. He epitomizes the world we live in today – closed borders over economic prosperity, complete intolerance, localization over globalization. And at the same time, Brexity is looming large. Germany's Merkel is in a tight political spot precisely because she supported intake of more immigrants. Thus heckles and protectionism is peaking and we have this meet which aims to come together to make this world a better place.
The Davos has really not been able to do much – with so many world leaders coming on one stage, have they ever been able to predict or even prevent any financial crisis?
But it is what it is. The United Nations does not do much to prevent wars and human atrocities, yet it exists. That’s how it is with Davos too. The fact that it is gets such powerful people in one place at one time is what puts it in the news – the power of the guest list and not as much the agenda.
This time around, Prime Minister Modi will address the opening plenary and undoubtedly, we have one of our best orators as a leader representing India. He is being accompanied by six union ministers, including finance minister Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal, Suresh Prabhu, Dharmendra Pradhan, M.J. Akbar and Jitendra Singh. Two chief ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Chandrababu Naidu will also be a part of the junket, along with over 100 CEOs; to name a few, Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Azim Premji, Rahul Bajaj, N Chandrasekaran, Chanda Kochhar, Uday Kotak and Ajay Singh. India’s total presence will be 129—the fourth highest after the US (780), the UK (266) and Switzerland (233 people).
An Indian PM is attending the Davos after a gap of 20 years and there is interest in knowing what the new leader of today has to say about the fastest growing economy of the world. But that’s what it is – great sound bytes; it is a huge PR push. His message: India is an open economy, looking for global investments. More fruitful could be the roundtable dinner of yesterday in which 40 global industry captains - including those from corporates like CEOs of Airbus, Hitachi, BAE Systems and IBM will attend.
And yes, we are using a lot of soft power to sell India too – two yoga sessions on the slopes of the Alps; India will host the “welcome reception” where delegates will get to taste Indian cuisine and then there is Shahrukh Khan, who received the annual 'Crystal Awards' yesterday for his work towards improving the state of the world. Khan delivered a speech about creating change in India through women empowerment.
But the biggest attraction this year is Trump. He is expected to address the closing keynote address and his theme is sure to be very ‘un-Davos’ with his “America first” rhetoric. Whatever he says will be news; that’s how he has made himself today!
It would not be wrong to say that it is these very elitists at Davos, who failed to anticipate and maybe created the current anti-establishment movement all across the globe. Yes, the discussions and debates at Davos are intellectually stimulating but they remain that – mere discussions and theories whom the larger section of the world population views as “those out of touch with reality and with no inkling of the economic challenges which the masses actually face.”
One thing does happen though – huge business and political deals happen behind closed doors there; maybe some collateral benefits do accrue after all!