Guterres in Wonderland

Speaking at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos in the last week of January German Chancellor Angela Merkel took special pain to blame it on India and China for affecting the world economy much more today. And she urged her fellow travellers to take it into account for having a relook at the global trade and financial system. Perhaps she was accusing these two Asian countries of distorting economic equilibrium they are so familiar with. But she failed to point out how Trump's US was affecting global economy adversely much to the disadvantage of her own country and India and China as well. Instead of criticising the US for its unilateral position on many a global issue in violation of agreed and accepted international rules and norms, she preferred to bash India and China for the imbalance and disorder creeping in the world economy. Even as per assertion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who always remains in focus for propaganda blitz about India's fanciful GDP and fastest growing economy, Indian economy is currently ranked sixth, way behind the US, China, Japan, Germany and UK. So, India is hardly in a position to challenge their age-old authority in managing global financial systems. China, however, is a different matter and it is really a strange phenomenon that the Merkels, these days are concerned about market-oriented capitalist China, not socialist China.

This year the members of Davos club were not really prepared for what UN Chief Antonio Guterres said in explaining the lost battle against climate change. He called it a spade a spade as he would go on record in no uncertain terms that climate risk being the most important systemic risk for the future. Duelling on the great disorder under the sun Guterres was not really out of context when he said 'we no longer lie in a bi-polar world or unipolar world but we are not yet in a multi-polar world'. It was one way to tell the Davos elite that China with its multi-polar approach to global issues was knocking at the doors of major powers.

While Merkel was explicit in admitting China's growing clout in influencing the world economy, Guterres was somewhat subtle in stating the ground reality. The decline of America, the champion of unipolar world, is so glaring, despite right-wing surge across the world, that they no longer talk of American era. The point at issue is international institutions are crumbling and climate catastrophe can hardly be avoided if disorder prevails. That was what Guterres said in so many words. The world is losing the race. When it is the question of climate change. It was no exaggeration when Guterres said, 'climate change is running faster than we are... we are moving dramatically into a run away climate change if we are not able to stop it'. But nobody is interested in stopping it. Everybody is talking about global warming while allowing it to happen. Tons of scientific papers, including UN papers are in circulation and  yet the most powerful powers think nothing disastrous will happen. Not that Donald Trump is the only American President who doesn't acknowledge how American and western way of life—unsustainable consumption pattern—and reckless plundering of natural resources are responsible for climate change. Bush Jr once arrogantly said they won't compromise on American way of life to oblige the 'crusaders' against climate change. There is no dispute about Guterres's allegation that political will at national and international level has slowed down. Everywhere it is business as usual. They want to punish some third world countries for the sin they have been committing for decades, by ignoring all scientific observations about the impending climate catastrophe. Guterres said, may be in frustration, that there were lots of subsidies to fossil fuels, limited carbon pricing and many were still putting into doubt 'whether climate change is a threat'. Maybe, it had an oblique reference to people like Trump. They still think the story of 'climate change' is a hoax. And the exercise at the UN is at worst an exercise in escapism. Merkel cannot force China to reduce fossil fuel consumption unless they themselves show the way.

The impact of climate change is nowhere, so devastating as in some poor countries including India. Despite copious rainfall most rivers go dry in the state of Karnataka in South India. In truth all the states in the western ghats region suffer from this malady. It is common knowledge that there lies an intricate relationship between the fresh water sources, forest and vegetation cover and the true welfare of the communities. Continued abusing of ecological balance means natural disaster of unmanageable proportion. All things considered for Guterres, fight against climate change, seems to be a lost case—it looks irreversible—the change.

The carpet baggers of Davos could not end their yearly ritual without offering something new in keeping labour under a leash. Last year they discussed fourth industrial revolution or the advent of robotics in a big way in production system. This year the annual jamboree of the rich and powerful of the world floated an idea of 4-day work week. Ex-facie what appeared innocuous is not that innocubus. An arrangement of working less doesn't mean workers are going to benefit from it. It is aimed at lowering cost of production. Less work also means less wages. Already labour-intensive industries are vanishing very fast, making room for robots and artificial intelligence. This 4-day work week means further automation of production process. Though no participant took much interest in Guterres's warning and agony about climate change, the 4-day week work proposal evoked an instant and wide response from attendees, both from developed and developing countries, with most labour experts from the west supporting the idea. Perhaps they would discuss climate change next year too, only to reiterate what has already been said many times.

Vol. 51, No.31, Feb 3 - 9, 2019