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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightWhose Economic Forum?

Whose Economic Forum?

Whose Economic Forum?

Oxfam is a confederation of voluntary organizations around the world that aim at alleviation of poverty.

Oxfam has been working for the past seventy years with the slogan to make available sustainable livelihood to everyone and thus wipe out poverty from the earth. A few months ago, volunteers from Oxfam visited a textile mill in Vietnam. There it turned out that a woman employee who worked 12 hours a day six days a week was earning a wage of one dollar per day. And that was a company producing fabric for big brands. The CEO's of the same brand elsewhere rank among the highest paid executives in the world. This experience, which illustrates the disparity in compensation within the same company, was one of the items in the report titled 'An Econony for the 99 %' brought out by Oxfam. One can read through the economic exploitation prevailing in the work places based on corporate economic structure in general, and the discrimination faced by women in those places in particular.

The Oxfam report mentions that for achieving gender equality in the matter of wages, we will have to wait for at least another 170 years. A similar report was published by Oxfam India too. That report titled 'Reward Work, not Wealth' established that to earn the yearly compensation of a high official, under the head of salary alone in leading textile companies, an ordinary worker will have to work for 941 years. Both these reports also portray an alarming picture of the gap between the rich and the poor widening by the day in the era of globalization. While the first report shows that half of the world's wealth lies in the hands of just eight individuals, the second report makes it clear that 73% of the income generated in India last year went to the pockets of a rich one %. All these figures tell us the sum of what globalization, liberalization and corporate culture gave to the impoverished billions of the world.

It is significant that these reports came out on the eve of the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos, Switzerland. The summit this year was different from that of the previous years in many respects. The theme of this year's summit is 'Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.' The forum, where top corporate leaders and world's political leaders meet, will see debates on topics from global economic slowdown to Artificial Intelligence technology. Another speciality of this year's summit is that an American president after Bill Clinton, and prime minister of India are also participating in it. When Trump in the shadow of the economic emergency of the US, and Modi with the yet to be cured headaches of demonetisation and GST, arrive at Davos, waves of strong protest were ready to greet them. In major Swiss cities, banners were already raised weeks ago against Trump's visit. It is assumed that it was the policies of Trump's 'America First' and Modi's 'India First', and the stance of the two leaders on issues like global warming, that prompted such opposition. But since these are likely to flare up, as happened in previous summits, organizers of the summit and Swiss government are particular that no protest should be allowed near the venue.

All these protests show that the people who set out to realise a ‘shared future’ for the country are the same who have wounded the soil. How can the association of ‘global elites’ such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) eliminate the economic inequality in world? A study conducted by the ‘Journal of Consumer Research’ says that the WEF would not be able to resolve the crises faced by the world like poverty and global warming. The study criticizes that the WEF also played a role in creating a public perception that it should be the victims themselves rather than the governments, who should find the solution. It is this philosophy of the WEF that paved way for the growth of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Thus, the observation that it was the mafia-isation of globalization which is accomplished through the economic forum, has been proved right. When the Prime Minister of India walks towards such a platform with fanfare, the question remains whether he represents the poorer sections of the country that form the 67 per cent or the giant corporates like Ambani.

The economic growth of this 67 crore population in the past year is a mere 1 per cent; for the bigwigs on the other hand, it is Rs 20.9 lakh crore. What has led to this massive gap is certain policies of the Centre. This can be understood if the matters including the fuel price hike debated the most by the nation are analysed. When the government that imposed tax levies of about 130 per cent for petrol on the common man, provides a reduction of 5 per cent on the tax rates for corporates, it is clear who gets ‘achche din’ . In short, rhetoric or direct dialogues with the corporate world in Davos would not be sufficient to face the economic instability of the country. It will only serve to strengthen the powers in the economic axis formed after the 90s and to widen the economic gap as indicated in the Oxfam report. Therefore, let us be proud of the billionaires of the country!

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