World's poor must benefit from revival, forum told
Business leaders rounded off this year's World Economic Forum yesterday with a call -- and in some cases a pledge -- to make sure the poor benefit more from any global economic revival.
Executives at the annual meeting of the global elite in Davos, Switzerland, said growth needs to be "inclusive" or the world will experience more of the unrest seen recently in Tunisia and Egypt.
Chanda Kochhar, chief executive of India's ICICI bank, said the challenge was whether we could "create enough basic facilities" such as schools, roads and housing to ensure growth really benefits everyone.
Jacob Wallenberg, who sits on the board of Coca-Cola, said his company was working to ensure safe water supplies to communities where it operates. Coca-Cola has in the past been accused of exploiting wells for its soft drinks production at the expense local populations.
Non-governmental groups have been lobbying business leaders in Davos to be more responsible or face greater regulation.
"The time for voluntary standards for businesses in relation to meeting human rights obligations is over," the head of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, said last week.
"We now need to have mandatory standards," he said, adding that business leaders risk reaping the same grassroots anger as politicians if they don't become better corporate citizens. "Don't wait for what happened in Tunisia to happen to you."
The rising cost of food, named as one of the reasons for anti-government protests in Asia and the Middle East recently, was cited as a concern by many of the forum's 2,500 attendees this year.
China Ocean Shipping's CEO Wei Jiafu said food price rises could eventually force up the cost of other commodities and lead to politically risky inflation around the world.
Mr Wallenberg, of Coca-Cola, told those at yesterday's closing sessions that the time for deliberating about the state of the world was over.
"Stop talking, start delivering," he said.