DAVOS – The World Economic Forum’s annual gathering is normally little more than a toast to the benefits of increasing global GDP, trade, and investment. But this year’s meeting comes at a time when economic expansion can no longer be taken for granted, and when the uneven benefits of past growth are sparking mass social unrest.
So it is little wonder that doomsday scenarios about the “seeds of dystopia” and the risks of “rolling back the globalization process” are being dangled in Davos. The world’s economic and political leaders stand warned: do globalization better, or it will be derailed by the growing legions of the discontented.
Leaders would be unwise to ignore this warning. Discussions in Davos must go beyond how to rectify the imbalances in developed countries’ debt-to-GDP ratios. They must finally pay attention to the wider imbalances generated by unfettered globalization.
Popular anger is directed not only at the bank bailouts, soaring public debt, and bleak employment prospects of recent years. All around the world, people have fallen afoul of a two-track economic process whereby whole industries have been sacrificed to cheaper imports, whole regions have been consigned to abandonment or degradation, and whole populations have been frozen out of economic progress.