Bill and Melinda Gates published their annual January letter, no doubt well-read at the World Economic Summit in Davos. They said that ‘many people think the world is getting worse’ – and it demonstrably is, in terms of pollution, social instability and the widening gap between rich and poor.
Economist John Kay in the Financial Times challenges Gates’ figures in terms which are not readily accessible to the average reader but then looks beyond the globalised centres of major cities, similar everywhere: “You do not have to venture far from the centre of Nairobi or Shanghai, and only round the corner in Mumbai, to see sights unimaginable in Norway or Switzerland”.
Gates’ big myth – an assertion that people believe the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease – is completely untrue.
Many people do believe that the world can solve extreme poverty and reduce disease – but not while the 1% and their corporate and political courtiers (one below) are making the decisions. “Every king needs courtiers, every computer billionaire creates a slew of computer millionaires”, notes John Kay.
Nick Dearden agrees: “The policies dreamt up by those who meet in Davos are a direct cause of the current unprecedented rates of inequality”.
Writing in Red Pepper, Dearden sees the world’s 1% “mouthing concerns about poverty and climate change, while working on policies which fuel inequality” in Davos and believes that Bill Gates doesn’t want a higher minimum wage denting the amount of wealth on which his company can avoid taxes. He recalls Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Prudential, calling the minimum wage a ‘machine to destroy jobs’. No doubt alluding to the representatives of the banking hierarchy, Dearden sees some of the participants at Davos as being directly responsible for the crisis and austerity measures responsible for mental health problems spiralling across Europe. In Greece, suicides rose 37% from 2009 to 2011.
The writer favours this approach:
Dearden ends: “We need to do more than put these issues on their agenda . . . The corporate elite represented at Davos cannot be allowed to meet in luxury and pretend they have the answers to the world’s problems. They are the world’s problems”.