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Home > Business > Business Headline > Report

Sharon, Gere, Jolie shine at WEF

BS Bureau in New Delhi | January 31, 2005 12:04 IST

Celebrities from the film and music world have taken over the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at Davos. Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere and Bono have taken part in sessions, which have reported full attendance from the participants.

Actress Sharon Stone, of course, took the WEF agenda (Taking Responsibility for Tough Choices) very seriously and became the talking point at a session on funding the war on poverty.

It happened just after the Tanzanian president, Benjamin William Mkapa, bemoaned the fact that while monetary promises to eradicate malaria from his country were being made, there was little action on the ground and thousands of Tanzanians were dying of malaria each day.

Stone stood up, introduced herself and offered her help by announcing $10,000 to help Tanzania buy anti-malarial mosquito protecting bed nets. And then she asked if others among the participants would join her in her efforts.

At the end of the session, $100,000 was raised. Sharon did not stop there. She has now sent out an e-mail to all the participants at the annual meeting asking them to contribute to a global fund that would fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Democracy wins

An impromptu poll was conducted at a session on whether democracy in India was an asset or a liability. There was an intense debate.

Finally, the verdict was in favour of democracy as an asset for India. Of the 11 participants (all of them business leaders), eight said democracy was an asset, while three felt it was a liability.

Those who considered it an asset said while democracy slowed down the decision-making process, there were no sudden shocks.

A participant from China stood up and made a voluntary disclosure, "I must tell you that I also took part in the poll and my vote was that democracy was an asset for India."

Russian riddle

The Russian riddle was not solved at the annual meeting of WEF this year. A session was devoted to understanding if Russia was heading towards an authoritarian system where foreign investors and Russian companies would be at the mercy of a centralised power free of any checks and balances.

Or whether President Vladimir Putin was on a path of economic and political reform.

The opinion of the panel was divided, with two foreign business representatives (one of them was the CEO of Alcoa and the other was the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management) and a member of the Russian administration emphasising that Russia was headed towards the establishment of a free market society under the rule of law.

But the other two participants (both of them from Russia) expressed fears that the country was sliding back to a society reminiscent of the one that existed before the fall of Communism.

One of them stated that Russia was a "petrol state" with all its associated vulnerabilities to external shocks. The other said Russia was getting autocracy without efficiency.

10 candles for WTO

Should the World Trade Organisation celebrate its 10th birthday? WTO was set up a decade ago and a discussion on this subject at a session here saw a lively exchange between two Irish gentlemen.

Neil Kearney, general secretary of International Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation argued that the introduction of the new WTO textile agreement would throw millions out of work in the poorest countries.

"Fairness does not exist at the WTO. Poorer countries are still dominated by the powerful," he said.

Guess, who came to WTO's rescue. Its first director general Peter Sutherland, also an Irishman and currently chairman of Goldman Sachs International, said textile workers in poor countries were kept in poverty because of the protection in the developed world, which had now been dismantled.

All other participants, including Columbia Professor Jagdish Bhagwati and WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, endorsed the view that the organisation made fine progress in the last one decade of its existence.

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