Clinton, Other Speakers Discuss Poverty, Development Issues At World Economic Forum

“Poverty and unemployment reared their heads at the World Economic Forum [WEF] on Thursday, with speakers urging the elite audience to bridge a growing gap between booming multinationals and the jobless poor,” Reuters reports.  

“The increasing division between fast-growing emerging market economies and stagnating, jobless nations in the developed world has been a theme at the talks in Davos this year, which some corporations pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend,” the news service notes. “Corporate chieftains have preferred to focus on their optimism that roaring growth in countries such as China and India will outweigh flat or declining sales in Europe or Japan … But some speakers suggested this was short-sighted,” Reuters writes.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said addressing income inequalities was necessary for future growth and should be a central part of doing business in the 21st century. The article quotes several other speakers in Davos, including Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and economist Nouriel Roubini (Stott, 1/27).

Clinton “took the main stage” at the forum on Thursday “for interview with Klaus Schwab, the founder of the conference,” the New York Times’ “DealBook” blog reports. Clinton “discussed topics including Haiti, American politics, the Middle East, particle physics and the Neanderthal genome project.”

“In Haiti, where he is the United Nations special envoy, Mr. Clinton said he wasn’t satisfied with the progress that had been made there. … He then made a direct appeal to the well-heeled audience, many of whom work for companies that have contributed to Haiti’s rebuilding effort,” the blog writes. “Our supporters have to stay with us, and we have to manage the politics during the rebuilding,” Clinton said. “We need your help,” he added (Lattman, 1/27).

Meanwhile the Telegraph reports on Bill Gates’ efforts to get wealthy nations to support efforts to eradicate polio. Gates “is now targeting the world’s richest governments,” the newspaper writes, noting his recent $100 million pledge announcement with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

“Rich countries are cutting these grants as they try to cut their deficits,” Gates said. “The poor can’t lobby so I am going around the world showing people how successful the money that they have already spent has been,” he said, adding: “The U.K. and David Cameron have set a great example by keeping the aid budget strong and meeting the promises made by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown even in tough times. Keeping that generosity even in times of cutbacks” (1/27).

On “the sidelines” of the WEF on Thursday, Lina Mohohlo, Botswana’s central bank governor, said Africa should have a stronger presence on the G20, Reuters reports, noting that currently “South Africa is the only African member of the G20.”

“The representation of Africa in the G20 is almost non-existent. We don’t just want to be told what to do, we want to participate,” Mohohlo said. “South Africa is not there to represent the continent. It’s not fair to them (South Africa) and it’s not their mandate. You need to have more than one country,” she said.

“Mohohlo also said higher food inflation squeezes the poor” and said that although developing countries had recently been given a bigger voice in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the institution was “also lagging behind … the problems of Africa will not reach the board of the IMF” (Waki, 1/27).

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