Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers his speech at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Jan. 23. (PTI /PIB)
The annual congregation of world leaders in this snow-laden Swiss town concluded, Jan. 26, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the charge against protectionism and was joined by the likes of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron while President Donald Trump wrapped it up by asserting ‘America First’ does not mean ‘America alone,’ writes Barun Jha.
Over five days, the rich and powerful of the ‘fractured’ world as well as those from academia, art, culture, civil society, and Bollywood, also flagged growing levels of gender and income inequality, as well as the financial and environmental risks.
Davos regular and IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the world should celebrate economic recovery but also repair the leaking roofs while the sun shines.
As this ski resort town saw unprecedented levels of snowfall this year, there were unusual delays in start of some programs on the first two days besides ever increasing serpentine queues of vehicles on roads and of people outside the session halls.
Against that backdrop, French President Emmanuel Macron remarked this much snow would raise doubts among sceptics of global warming and it was good that they were not here as yet—an apparent quip at his U.S. counterpart who has announced that America would be leaving the Paris climate pact.
Macron’s remarks came Jan. 24, before Trump arrived at Davos.
And Jan. 26, Trump was welcomed on stage with a traditional Swiss brass band performance, another unusual event.
In his typical style, Trump said the press always loved him as a businessman but turned “nasty” and “fake” when he joined politics and became president, eliciting quite audible hisses and boos from some people in the audience that included a large number of media persons.
Replying to the growing demand for action against what is being considered as protectionist policies in the U.S., Trump declared he supports free trade but it must be fair and reciprocal. He also asserted that free trade would not be possible if some countries resort to abuse of systems, taking an indirect jibe at China.
Modi—the first Indian prime minister to come here in over two decades—led the charge against protectionism and declared that India was an open economy and ready to host businesses from across the world and share the benefits for all with its age-old concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’—the world is one family.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke out against protectionist tendencies at the summit.
As the world leaders continued to voice their concerns over various ills facing the world, British Prime Minister Theresa May was somehow cynical that the big words spoken in Davos were often not matched with actions outside.
Her comments led many here to quip that Davos was like Las Vegas of the economic world—whatever happens in Davos, remains in Davos.
The official program began Jan. 22, with Crystal Awards for cine star Shahrukh Khan, actor Cate Blanchett and music icon Elton John. At the ceremony, the Bollywood star had his own ‘fan moment’ when he asked Blanchett for a selfie.
A concert by the Davos Festival Chamber Coir marked the end of the five-day summit.
International Trade Union Confederation’s Sharon Burrow, part of the all women co-chairs, in her closing remarks made sure to thank drivers and all the support staff for running the show successfully. She also said the theme of creating a shared future in a fractured world would not be achieved without inclusion at all levels.
Chetna Sinha from India was also a co-chair for this year’s summit.
A large Indian delegation, including union ministers, attended the 48th annual meeting of the WEF.