The World Economic Forum 2015 has opened in Davos, Switzerland. The organizers have invited the world’s political and business leaders to discuss ten global challenges of today, including the war in eastern Ukraine.
The World Economic Forum’s Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said at a press conference in Geneva that great changes had taken place in the world lately and, therefore, the main theme of this year’s forum would be “The New Global Context.” In his words, the situation in the world remains so complicated and unstable that it may even end the era of economic integration which began in 1989. So, the countries should carry out a number of important political, economic, social, and technological transformations. “2015 is a critical year. We’re at a cross roads. On the one hand there is disintegration, hate, and fundamentalism. On the other, there is solidarity and cooperation,” Schwab said.
What place does Ukraine occupy on the agenda of this year’s WEF and what benefit can we derive from this forum? The Day has put this question to some experts who always take part in this event.
“UKRAINE IN THE HUB OF CHANGES AND WORLDWIDE DEBATE”
Pavlo SHEREMETA, economist, ex-minister for economic development and trade of Ukraine:
“This year I will take part in the World Economic Forum in Davos for a third time. I think this year is going to be a particular one.
“The world has really changed. The Forum’s Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab is absolutely right to say so. Both fortunately and unfortunately, Ukraine is in the hub of these changes. The world is now in a situation that has been unthinkable since the 1939-45 war. It is not clear now which international treaties are working and which are not. There have been no annexations of territories in Europe since the times of World War Two. This raises the necessity to answer in no uncertain terms the question of how the world, including the business community, should respond to the current situation. I am absolutely convinced that this will be in the Forum’s focus of attention. Actually, as far as I know, the President of Ukraine is attending the Davos meeting for this very reason.
“As for the other key debates at this year’s Forum, I would dwell on the two of them which I think are also topical for Ukraine.
“Firstly, it is the economic crisis. The world is still smarting after the 2008-09 collapse. Some countries, I mean the US and the UK, are coping with this better than all the other, including the European Union. Ukraine should take this into account when shaping its foreign economic policy – if we are reorienting to the European market, no growth on the latter is a cause for alarm. I will say immediately to ‘Customs Union enthusiasts’ that the situation on this vector is still worse. There are ‘minus-indicated’ forecasts for the Russian market. After all, a ‘zero’ in the European Union is better than a ‘minus’ in Russia. But we should bear in mind that there are other, rather fast-growing, regions. It is, as I said, the US (4-5-percent growth) and South-East Asia (5-8 percent). This means Ukrainian companies should look to other regions of the world, not only the EU and Russia, in search of markets for their commodities and services. But this demands that they assume an entirely different – global – way of thinking.
“Secondly, it is social stratification of the population. We can see that economic growth leads to a dramatic division of the population – the rich are getting richer and the poor still poorer. This is a cause for alarm. Leaders of the world’s top countries are taking quite a serious approach to this problem which is also important for Ukraine. But in our country, the rich have been getting richer not because they did business, innovations, and market study better, but because they stayed closer to the state budget. Therefore, demonopolization, corruption control, and equal competitive conditions for all are the No.1 task for Ukraine. But we must understand that even if we do all this, it will not solve the problem of social stratification and growing inequality among the population. So we should begin to do what the rest of the world is doing to solve this problem – we should promote education and entrepreneurial initiative in this country.”
“UKRAINIAN BUSINESS HAS NOTHING TO DO IN DAVOS THIS YEAR”
Anna DEREVIANKO, Executive Director, European Business Association:
“A new serious challenge has appeared on the world agenda this year. It is a war on the European continent. In particular, this challenge is having a very serious impact on business. So, it would be impossible for the World Economic Forum in Davos to bypass the subject of Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine.
“The Davos forum is in fact a club-format meeting of the world’s business and political leaders. These people make a lot of crucial decisions on the development of our planet. They are very influential – each in their own sphere. And, to reap a benefit from communicating with them in Davos, you should know what you exactly want from them. I would emphasize this point for the participants who will represent our country. They should go there with a list of concrete national interests which they will have to defend and lobby. But if you do not have this kind of agenda, you’ll be unlikely to receive any ‘bonuses.’
“Besides, the quality of the Ukraine debate will depend on the activity of our politicians and governmental officials who, as far as I know, are planning to visit Davos. They have a unique opportunity to influence the attitude of the world business community to Ukraine and its current situation.
“This is why I think some representatives of the Ukrainian leadership are bound to visit this year’s Davos forum and to be superactive there. They should speak very much and listen even more. It is important for them to hear ‘in the open’ how the world community responds to the way they administer Ukraine and what steps they expect. And it would be ideal if, on coming back, our politicians and statesmen proved with concrete deeds that they really heeded the civilized world’s advice.
“As for Ukrainian business, it has, unfortunately, almost nothing to do in Davos now. This year’s forum is not productive for us from the viewpoint of investments or some lucrative contracts. The reason is the absence of any viable actions of the Ukrainian government, which would show that reforms are not just empty declarations. In other words, we should not only say that we are or will be fighting corruption, but also do so in reality.”
A traditional “Ukrainian Breakfast,” organized by the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation, will be held on Friday, January 23.
The theme is expectations of the government, society, and Ukraine’s international partners in responding to major challenges.
The speakers are Jose Manual Barroso, the 11th president of the European Commission; Carl Bildt, ex-foreign minister of Sweden; George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations; ministers Aivaras Abromavicius and Natalie Jaresko; Dmytro Shymkiv, Deputy Chairman of the Presidential Administration; Valeria Hontareva, Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine; and Serhii Leshchenko, Member of Parliament.
The moderators are Thomas Friedman, The New York Times international affairs columnist; and Mustafa Nayyem, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament.