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Home > Business > Business Headline > Report

WEF: Poverty is the top of mind issue

BS Bureau | January 28, 2005 10:16 IST

The theme of the 2005 Annual Meeting of the WEF is: Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices.

And the 12 "tough issues" to be discussed during the five days of the meeting are: China, climate change, equitable globalisation, Europe, global economy, global governance, Islam, Middle-East, poverty, US leadership, weapons of mass destruction and world trade.

India & the World Economic Forum

But at a unique meeting of 700 business leaders, it transpired that the most important issue was poverty. Over 64 per cent of the leaders voted that poverty was fundamental to all the global problems.

The other top five issues (with the percentage of leaders voting in their favour within brackets) were: equitable globalisation (54.9 per cent), climate change (51.2 per cent), education (43.9 per cent), Middle-East (43.7 per cent) and global governance (43.2 per cent).

Of course, the skew in the survey was perhaps because 41 per cent of the participants in the discussion belonged to the age group of 50-59 years, and 70 per cent belonged to Europe and North America, 15 per cent from Asia-Pacific, eight per cent from West Asia and four per cent each from Africa and Latin America.

So is the US deficit

The outlook for the global economy, going by the deliberations at the annual meeting so far, seems bright. The rapid growth seen in 2004 is expected to continue in 2005.

At a session, moderated by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, the consensus was that strong consumer demand and capital spending are sustaining a vigorous expansion.

What is even more encouraging is Japan, for the first time in about a decade, is experiencing sustainable growth led by private demand, and not by fiscal stimulus.

Even Europe is expected to see higher growth in the second half of 2005. What, then, is the worry? Well, the huge US current account deficit is raising the spectre of a declining dollar and a sharp rise in the US interest rates.

Most active Indian

Even though he is out of government, former Planning Commission Member NK Singh seems to be the most active Indian, networking with business and political leaders from the world. Singh is attending the meeting as chairman of the Indian Institute for Management and Development.

He has already hosted two evening parties at Davos, one of them at Hotel Vereina, which is one of the most expensive restaurants here.

But where's the govt?

While India Inc was present at Davos in large numbers as usual, the participation of the Indian government at the meeting has remained low-profile.

The only ministerial participation from the Indian government will be by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal.

The big show is on Friday when the traditional India lunch will be hosted, with Kamal Nath and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as participants.

In addition, the commerce minister is reported to be holding bilateral meetings with his counterparts in other governments. Indian industry had made efforts to get either Finance Minister P Chidambaram, or Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia for the annual meeting.

But Nath's engagement at Geneva around the same time seemed to have encouraged the government to settle for the commerce minister. Indian industry is not thrilled by this decision. Industry's loss is Kamal Nath's gain.

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