Davos World Economic Forum, 1% forum

World Economic Forum, cartoon

By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:

Dealings in faux concern

Thursday 22nd January 2015

The World Economic Forum is a poor attempt to appear humane by the few who are cheating the many, says JEREMY CORBYN

THE ill-named World Economic Forum is gathering once again in Davos, where hordes of delegates are invited to attend, dominated by kings, princes, presidents, prime ministers and large corporations.

One asks oneself first why Davos exists at all, and second, whether it isn’t some grand conspiracy by big business to interact with significant political figures, bypassing the slightly more democratic process of the United Nations.

Davos of course works on the basis that a gathering of the super-rich in a super-expensive and exclusive resort will be free from pesky demonstrators.

For politicians rubbing shoulders with the chief executives of the world’s major corporations, the only agenda will be that of market economics and capitalism — not the everyday realities for the majority of the world’s population.

The forum’s faux concern for the world’s environment is somewhat tempered by the arrival of 122 executive jets, not to mention the high living that goes on in that place.

However, Tony Blair delivered one of his pompous lectures about faith, only to be strongly questioned by one delegate on his decision to launch a war in Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles away in London, Sir John Chilcott has helpfully delayed publication of his report until the next Parliament, which allows Blair another few months before either a secret deal between him and Bush is revealed, or his own lies to Parliament on the existence of weapons of mass destruction are exposed.

Oxfam, rather strangely, does attend the Davos summit — and indeed its chief executive Winnie Byanyima has been appointed as one of the six co-chairs of the forum.

The charity’s report on inequality around the world gives the stark figure that the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population own 48 per cent of its wealth (up from 44 per cent in 2009) while the least well-off 80 per cent own just 5.5 per cent of it. In number-crunching terms, that means that the wealth of just 85 people equals the wealth of 3.5 billion others.

Byanyima has argued that extreme inequality is a product of the economic policies adopted by various governments, which of course begs the question of why Oxfam would want to have anything to do with Davos.

Forbes magazine — which works for the richest and most powerful — challenges the Oxfam report, and its extraordinarily arrogant contributor Tim Worstall makes the point that he would fail a high school essay if it presented evidence in the manner that Oxfam does.

He claims that there have been significant increases in income for the poorest, as a justification for economic policies which are designed to concentrate wealth among the very richest.

If Blair is worried about what’s happening a thousand miles to the west in London, the whole conference is probably pretty alarmed at what’s happening a few hundred miles away in Greece, where Syriza — a left party contesting the Greek elections — is now leading in the opinion polls.

The country’s current government has obeyed every diktat from the European Central Bank, yet still finds itself with an unpayable debt, huge numbers of unemployed people and barely functioning public services as a result.

Syriza’s opposition to the austerity package has been met with incredulity by much of the world’s financial press, who are desperate to see New Democracy win the election.

Greece is an interesting European example of what happens when the orthodox bankers say that the only way to deal with paying a debt is to impose austerity, privatise public services and lower wages — which of course then lowers tax income and demand in the economy as a whole.

Very tough questions have been put to Syriza about what it would do in office if the EU rejects its request to renegotiate the debt — and what the effect would be of reversing the policies of privatisation.

Their economic spokesman Euclid Tsakalotos has explained that a Syriza government would make demands on the European Central Bank, and that he expected them to accept the democratic decisions of the Greek people.

He also draws attention to the way in which the 1930s economic crisis was played out, with initially massive austerity programmes which created mass unemployment, followed by a consensus that investing in public services and people created jobs and improved living standards.

Syriza also points out that there is an urgent humanitarian crisis in energy supplies for the poorest people, plus a housing disaster with many homeless and unable to pay the increased taxes which have been levied to satisfy the country’s debt.

There is also a political lesson for the rest of Europe. Pasok carried out the initial demands of the European Central Bank on the basis that they were protecting Greece and its democracy, and imposed cuts and austerity.

This led to their near-disappearance from the political scene in Greece, and the huge support for Syriza.

A Labour government elected in Britain in May will be faced with enormous political demands to adequately fund the NHS, help people get through the housing crisis, and deal with the consequences of Tory welfare reforms.

If Davos teaches us anything, it is that the super-rich and their tax havens have actually created greater and greater inequality in the world, and this supranational club of the very rich economic elites is not a solution to the world’s problems.

In reality, it is the main cause of them.

While it’s wonderful that Oxfam strives to highlight the stupendous disparity between the one-percenters and the rest of us, bringing this message to Davos is indicative of terribly twisted thinking: here.

Neoliberalism is part of the problem, rather than the solution, to world poverty. But you won’t hear that message from Davos because it’s in business leaders’ interests to deny it, says Polly Jones: here.

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