February 26, 2015 By Dr. Michael N. Wundah, London, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“All they do at these summits is to rehearse phony economic and social policies. What a mirage!”
“Another summit? There is nothing in it for the poor. Principally, it is meant to calm the stock markets and prevent shares tumbling further.”
“Is this the right time to hold such an expensive summit when job cuts and reductions in welfare entitlements are shrinking? How insensitive!”
The above were some of the disappointing comments made by some observers against the World Economic Forum Summit held in Davos, Switzerland.
The Corporate World has always been voracious since its inception. The Wall Street market crashed in October 1929 and eventually plunged the world into the infamous World Depression that hammered economies around the in the 1930s.
This century’s credit crunch has not reached that height of the World Economic Depression, but it has exacerbated the worsening social conditions especially of the poor. Can you imagine that in the world’s wealthiest countries, some people still survive on food banks and state handouts? This economic meltdown knows no boundary. In Africa there is chronic youth unemployment.
The socioeconomic problems are compounded by looming global security threats. President Barack Obama held a summit of world leaders in Washington on the 19th of this month to discuss the threats.
The receding Ebola epidemic has claimed thousands of lives in the Republics of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is particularly more harrowing for Liberia and Sierra Leone that are rebuilding after brutal civil wars. Thankfully, schools have reopened in the Liberian capital Monrovia, and Sierra Leone is on the verge of doing likewise soon.
Should statistics be absolutely believable, then the recent OXFAM statistics are appalling revelations. Since the World Economic Depression in the 1930s, the wealth of the world has increased in real terms, and yet abject poverty persists. The thesis is supported by the wealth creation and redistribution index revealed recently. Only 1% of the world population owns the entire world’s massive wealth, whilst a whopping 99% continues to suffer under the weight of poverty. This is a massive global inequality. Thanks to man’s insatiable greed!
The list of distinguished guests at the Davos summit was colourful and grandiose in every sense of the word. They included representatives from the UN, World Bank and IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), Think Tanks, World Leaders, Leaders of the Corporate World and Leading Charities.
Despite all these flamboyant nomenclatures and signatories one fact is compelling. The summit may have stabilised shares in the stock markets and even put them temporarily in positive territory, but it has failed to assuage the fears of the common poor. It means that beyond the thick walls and gorgeous glass ceilings of Davos, there are real people feeling the adverse effects of the economic crunch. They are the unfortunate victims of austerity and the enduring ailing world economy.
Finance Ministers in the major European countries continue to toast the success of Davos. It is obvious. They are blind to the incoherent and uncompassionate economic policies that have caused so much damage.
For instance, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne infamously sounds this mantra in defence of his continuing drastic cuts. It is all in the name of deficit reductions. ‘It is ideal to fix the roofs now, for when it might rain,’ he says every blessed day.
Critics dismiss his remarks as unrealistic, punitive, ambivalent, careless and insensitive.
George Osborne has borrowed more than the previous New Labour Government did under Prime Minister Tony Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown, thanks to austerity. And yet he persists that austerity economics is working!
There is a critical nexus between politics and economic performance. Here in the United Kingdom, two MPs have defected to the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) from the ruling coalition government. All thanks to the economic policy of austerity!
Come 5th May General Elections, the three main political parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats) are fated to suffer the bitter taste of their own medicine. By virtue of the impending political drama, the smaller parties, including UKIP and the Green Party, hitherto written off by the electorates, shall gain substantially from the political windfalls generated by austerity to the pleasures of victims. Hurray, one good turn deserves another!
Here is the other shocking bit of the political ramification. In the event of no outright majority at the polls in the forthcoming elections, Britain faces the prospect of another coalition government, the second in decades.
Amazingly, it might be a coalition of Strange Bedfellows. Opinion polls suggest that Labour will surge slightly ahead of the Conservatives but will fall short of an overall majority to form a government. This will induce an unsavoury coalition pact between Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP). It will elevate a theoretical prospect of a shift in the balance of power, from mainland England to Scotland.
Of course Mainland England remains the seat of the Monarchy and therefore the nerve centre and reservoir of the constitutional power of Britannia. That is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In view of these political permutations, Labour Party will be in the driving seat of the coalition. However, a coalition pact between Labour and SNP dents the political clout of the former in Scotland. If as the polls suggest, the Scottish Labour Party comes second in May, and the SNP steals the show in Scotland, it will be the first time since 1997 when the indomitable, British Prime Minister and Labour’s most successful and charismatic leader, Tony Blair won a landslide on both Mainland England and in Scotland, South of the border. Politics is indeed an unpredictable game!
The unbearable conundrum is that a future coalition with Labour based in Mainland England and a nationalist party based in Scotland will reignite the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) relentless ambition for marathons of referenda until Scottish independence is finally won. And who knows, it might even turn into a bigger political monster and inspire Wales and Ireland to press for an outright independence and lead to the dissolution of the union!
These permutations are not healthy for British politics, but they underscore the assumption that this is a nation of disillusioned electorates, especially eligible young voters. In the broad context, it underpins the enduring, sensitive, identity and nationalist instincts and ambitions of the countries that constitute the union, especially Scotland.
The Davos was painted as extremely expensive, untimely, irrelevant and insensitive to the plights of austerity victims. But some realists and the pro Davos camp are looking at it from different angles.
For example, one of the sympathisers said this: “By every stretch of the imagination, Davos was a summit to brainstorm the way forward, so it is unacceptable to write off its relevance”.
This is where the nuances of realpolitik comes to the fore. I would argue that it is too soon to dismiss the rationale(s) of the Davos summit. Now have your say!
In addition to the global economics matters, Davos discussed Climate Change, Global Security and how to defeat Ebola. Again, with the exception of the receding cases of Ebola in West Africa, these matters have lived with the nervous world for decades now.
Take the issue of climate change. It shall never go away. And this is due to the inherent hypocrisy and incoherent policies of the West, their cohorts in the Indian Sub-Continent and South East Asia.
It is a farce for the reality is that Governments of the most powerful nations in the world can’t afford to stop pollution in the name of the parochial, ethical stance to change the world. The paradox is that pollution produces political and socioeconomic benefits for both the polluters and those they pollute. Rich nations and their conglomerates derive trillions of dollars from pollutions. Pollutions also sustain their political capital and social standing in the world.
Any other after-effects in the event of severe sanctions against polluters? Of course, grave socioeconomic and political consequences will reverberate around the world in seconds. In the capitalist and industrialised west, severe sanctions against pollutions will derail the welfare state, which in turn will trigger political and civil unrests by millions of dependants.
Insecurity is an unpredictable menace and often produces unpredictable consequences. Especially, insecurity linked to religious, zealots, and fundamentalism. Since the demise of the notorious dictators in Iraq and Libya, followed by the Arab Spring, and now the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and the Al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram in Nigeria, global security has been put at serious risk.
In the same context, serious western lapses in the recent past can’t be overlooked. Just on 16th May, this year, the Chief of Defence Staff General Carter expressed serious concerns over the errors that the west and her allies made. They didn’t have a “Plan B” in place after the demise of Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gadhafi.
He is very correct. They left a power vacuum that has been filled by chaos and fragmentations along religious, tribal and ideological lines. There are fears that in oil rich Libya, migrant workers from Africa (Egypt and West Africa) and Yemen might be preyed on by the Islamic State (IS) militants. Anyway to reminiscence the western errors now is unnecessary. They are all in the past, but analysts might argue that they have come home to roost!
The ongoing conflict in the Balkans (Ukraine) is another worrying phenomenon. Recent official figures estimate it has claimed close to 6,000 casualties. It is set to have grave implication for the ailing economies of Europe and the World at large.
Another conference has just been concluded in Germany during which the leaders promised to work out the modalities of a lasting peace in Ukraine. It remains to be seen, for like the Davos summit, we have been here before!
Cyber security threats in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world present another global security challenge. The Brits and Americans are apparently stuck by their own deep rooted values. They can’t afford to reconcile stringent state security and the preservation of civil liberty. Tough call indeed for both civil libertarians and the authorities! Some civil liberty groups argue that Magna Carta (1215), the very cornerstone of Britain’s democratic values, will be compromised.
Prior to last Xmas the Home Secretary, Theresa May, MP (Conservative) attempted to go aggressively on the offensive against the sources of the security threats. She contemplated to strip British born IS fighters of their British nationality whenever they return to the UK from Syria. It was perceived by critics as a risky and dangerous action to contemplate, let alone legislate in a legislature that upholds the historic values of modern liberal democracy
Before the bill could even seek the first reading, it attracted more controversies than solutions from across the two chambers (Houses of Commons and Lords). Civil liberty groups and even Theresa May’s own coalition partners threatened to throw it out of the House of Commons.
The political discourse and analysis in the forgone pages go a long way to suggest two significant points. First, there is no zero sum or lineal solutions to the world’s massive problems, including climate change, global economic recovery and global security. Most of all, it underscores the excruciating pains and nuances of the bloated underbellies, which persist in the world of realpolitik.
Do you have any concrete answers to these conundrums? If you do, then you will be breaking the enigma code that will save mankind.