Davos is the name of the Swiss resort town where the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) unfolds. This summit is sponsored by the richest global companies (perhaps not-so-rich-now) and therefore brings together, by invitation only, influential business leaders and politicians.These “fat cats in the snow”, as Bono dubbed them, go from meeting to meeting shaping the global economy for years to come. As if to make a point, this year’s theme is called “Shaping the post-crisis world”. They cannot wait for the crisis to end before planning their vengeance.
It would be futile to expect productive actions towards the crisis from the WEF, given that the current financial tsunami unravelled, and was encouraged, under the watch of these same ‘Davosmen’– a term that political scientist Samuel Huntington defined as people who are part of the world’s elite whose interests are not shared by the nationalist majority of the people.
The WEF seeks to restore the phantom wealth, which is “creating money out of nothing through financial bubbles…” as David Korten explained in his book “Agenda For a New economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth.”
The Latin American neoliberal ideology in the WEF is represented by Alvaro Uribe, who attended the forum with commerce and foreign ministers, in the hopes of attracting more multinational corporations to invest in the country. The real wage freeze in the salary of Colombian minimum wage earners is highlighted on the brochure that Uribe and his obedient ministers are handing out to CEOs.
By attending this summit, the Colombian government appears confident in having this crisis under relative control. A recent statement by the International Monetary Fund certainly boosted this confidence. However, this organisation has been widely discredited for failing to warn more assertively of the looming financial crisis.
It is important to note the reservations that other countries have taken towards the WEF. For instance, the US government has prevented high level economic advisers and cabinet members from attending. This is in stark contrast to the Bush’s administration approach. The only other Latin American quota in the forum, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon, has received some criticism.
The forum that should be the focal point, instead, is its antithesis, the World Social Forum (WSF) being held in Brazil, which seeks to counteract the neoliberal policies that have all but doomed the world.The WSF was established with the conviction that “Another world is possible.” This summit does seek solutions to concrete problems that affect the real economy.There are about 100,000 attendees discussing not only a new model of economic development, but also on the environmental crisis and food insecurity.
A sizable number of Latin American presidents are attending the WSF, among them Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Brazil), who desisted from attending the WEF. Thus, sending the signal that lessons of the current crisis are being learnt and an alternative path to the traditional neoliberal agenda is being pursued.
However, the events that some presidentshave chosen to attend also send the signal that Latin America’s similar struggles are being tackled through different ideologies.This highlights the deepening divide that exists in the region, despite the recent economic cooperation between Colombia and Venezuela.
In the new paradigm national economies and industries are being fortified to the benefit of the countries’ population.This is the opportunity that the crisis presents. Ironically, Colombia is nurturing national industries but of the wrong kind; USD4 billion has been spent on arms and military equipment and a number o fthese arms will be assembled in the country.
While most other countries are seeking to protect their most deprived, Colombia– as if there never was a financial crisis — continues to cement a neoliberal agenda. The current WSF is an important summit for working on a concerted effort to drastically amend social and economic goals. Another world may be possible as long as the failed dogma of free markets can be discarded. This is something that the ‘Colombian Davos men’ will not tolerate.
Author Sebastian Castaneda is Colombian and studies psychology and political economy at the University of Hong Kong.