Reality pops up.
Sometimes reality pops up in unexpected ways. Top business leaders, addressing the opening day at the World Economic Forum, said Europe should be regarded as an “emerging country.”
Christophe de Margerie, CEO of the French energy firm Total, said Europe needs a new economic policy to overcome the twin evils of high unemployment and stagnant growth, adding: “I think Europe should be reclassified as an emerging country.”
Meanwhile, Axel Weber, head of Swiss banking group UBS and a former head of the powerful German Bundesbank, stressed: “The euro zone recovery is no reason to get excited.
“If you actually look at the recovery, it’s lackluster, it’s uneven across European countries. This is not enough to close output gaps, it’s not enough to create jobs,” he added.
Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, said Europe’s employment laws needed reforming. Labor market flexibility was a “critical issue” in trying to run a business in Europe.
Not so, said a global union leader. Pay must be increased.
In the International New York Times, Philip Jennings of the UNI Global Union representing 20 million service workers in 150 countries, said he would repeat his message from last year that “the world needs a pay rise.” This year, the INYT said, Jennings has more support for this message. President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, the head of the International Monetary Fund and the WEF itself have all identified income inequality as a major global issue.
Jennings said old union tactics needed to be redeployed in order to provide better pay. He is one of a good dozen union leaders who have come to Davos to make sure that the voice of labor is also heard by the attending global elite.
On Thursday, WEF delegates were treated to a diplomatic lesson, in a speech by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is on a charm offensive.
He said he wanted to ”convey my people’s message of friendship and peaceful coexistence” and added that “my social, political, economic view is one of prudent moderation.”
Rouhani also told Swiss television that although relations with Washington had been difficult in the past, with hard work and efforts by both sides, problems could be overcome.
“This effort is necessary to create confidence on both sides. Iran is in fact stretching out its hand in peace and friendship to all countries of the world and wants friendly, good relations with all countries in the world,” the president said, according to Reuters.
“No animosity lasts eternally, no friendship either lasts eternally. So we have to transform animosities into friendship,” he said.
At the Open Forum, where WEF delegates take part in discussion open to the public, the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurria, urged the young in the audience to study.
Gurria said getting a college degree was worth the effort and cost. In 2008, people with a degree in OECD countries earned on average 75% more than those without one, he said. Today that figure is about 90%.
“Not everyone can be a dropout like Bill Gates or Zach or [Mark] Zuckerberg,” so do take that extra loan and get a degree, he advised.
On Thursday, immigration was discussed at the Open Forum.
In Europe, as in the US, this is a hot political topic, with anti-immigration parties on the rise in the United Kingdom, France, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark.
Because of the freedom of movement within the European Union, opposition to immigration has also become a rallying cry for anti-EU sentiment.
The EU community of 28 nations would be severely challenged if anti-immigration parties manage to force changes to the union’s open-border policies. Airing the issue in Davos was very timely.
Finally, as always, there was a bit of whimsical reporting, as in this column on ft.com, the Financial Times website, where the author calls Davos 2014 “Deficit Street.”