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Home > Business > Business Headline > Report

Tsunami tides over BPO concerns

A K Bhattacharya in Davos | February 01, 2005 11:54 IST

No one in the World Economic Forum may admit this. But it seems that the tsunami that hit many countries on the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 may have influenced in many different ways the tenor of the five-day discussions at the annual meeting of WEF, which concluded last Sunday.

The preoccupation with the need for business enterprises to regain the trust and confidence of their customers, investors, employees and the community was getting over. The fears arising out of the outsourcing boom were also being cast aside.

Instead, business leaders looked genuinely concerned over the devastation that global warming was capable of causing. Perhaps, the tsunami came as a signal, warning them that the planet was becoming increasingly unsafe.

The tsunami also underlined the relative ease and speed with which the entire world came together and contributed handsomely for relief and rehabilitation of those affected by the killer waves.

This too was recognised by several business and government leaders, including former US president, Bill Clinton, at some of the sessions.

There were sessions to discuss and debate economic liberalisation, broadband and growth, but the response to many such issues was lukewarm.In fact, a session on pension reforms had to be cancelled as only a few participants had signed up for it.

In sharp contrast, sessions on climate change, poverty, Africa, the state of oceans, the unfulfilled millennium development goals drew enthusiastic response.

Which is also why celebrities like actress Sharon Stone and rock star Bono made such an impact and helped mobilise more funds for Africa.

Not surprisingly, many of the sessions focused on what all could go wrong with the environment and even the economy.

The session on climate change, for instance, began with the startling revelation by the World Resources Institute president, Jonathan Lash, that an Arctic ice sheet had declined in thickness by about 40 metres in just about six months, with obvious disastrous implications for the sea levels.

Former US vice-president Al Gore decided to speak only on climate change at the closing plenary pointing out that this was the most important issue that needed to be fixed within a time horizon.

Attention was focused on how the oceans were over-fished, polluted and damaged. And how 90 per cent of the number of big fish that existed before the advent of industrial fishing were now gone.

There was consensus that both the governments and individuals had to save the ocean ecosystem and find ways to make ocean exploitation sustainable.

Even economic issues were discussed with the focus on what could go wrong. There was considerable debate on how efforts should be renewed to get the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) back on the track. One session debated if the rich were still getting richer and the poor were becoming poorer. There were no convincing answers.

Sessions on the consequences of a weakening dollar, the recovery of Japan, the rising public debts of many emerging countries and the uncertain oil and gas supply situation further confirmed that business leaders were overwhelmed by their concern for the future course of the global economy.

There was even a session on the bubbles that business leaders should be wary of. The conclusion was that five likely bubbles could hit the global markets in the next few years. These were: the collapse of the dollar, the exchange rate of the euro, China, housing prices and credit availability.

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