Just three weeks ago, new year greetings flooded mobile phones, emails, cards, etc. The underlying spirit of almost all the messages has been a wish for a peaceful, prosperous and joyful 2018. However, the World Economic Forum (WEF) vision for 2018 spells doom for the niceties exchanged during the new year.
The WEF report on global risks exhibits the challenges that the people are going to face which are graver than the previous year. This year, according to the report, the vulnerabilities are more and are related to the systemic challenges. These have intensified over the past year amid proliferating signs of uncertainty, instability and fragility. These features are exactly the opposite to the desires of the people world over for a secure, reliable and safe future for them and their generations.
According to the Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS), 7% of respondents foresee a reduction in the risk compared to 59% expecting an increase. The matrix drawn to measure the risks on geo-political worries covers political and economic confrontations. The five risks of greatest concern according to their potential rank of influence are:
(Source: Global Risks Perception Survey 2017-18, WEF)
The executive opinion survey 2017 has another revealing feature. Nearly 73% of respondents said they expect the risks associated with the erosion of multilateral trade rules and agreements to increase in the year 2018. Why majority of government simply bow to the self-interest of a powerful few explains the neo liberal framework in which native governments perform.
The five risks most likely to happen in the next 10 years are as: -
- Extreme weather events
- Natural disasters
- Cyber attacks
- Data fraud or theft
- Failure of climate change mitigation & adaptation strategy
These risks which are likely to happen explain the direction of the developmental strategies. The weather effects are for all to witness, but the inadequacy of the adaptability is a serious challenge. ‘The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis’ explains how the mitigation strategies are insufficient to meet the challenge. Neither is the resource adequate nor is the capacity built to adapt to the climate change effects. The work also exhibits the proportional need and gap in between the developed and the developing world in finances and the capacities to reduce disasters and adapt to reduce the risks. Cyber attacks and data fraud is starkly manifested in the recent UIDAI leak that was exposed by a story by the Tribune, based in Chandigarh, India. How vulnerable is the biometric data; needs no emphasis. The Hollywood movie ‘Minority Report’ based on a story by Philip K Dick chronicles that the surveillance is not just by the state but also by the businesses. The data invariably is used by the corporates to utilised it for their business interests.
Another interesting feature of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report shows that 85% of the world’s workforce want the rules of the global economy re-written. According to Pierre Rosanvallon, a French intellectual and historian, Inequality is felt most acutely when citizens believe that the rules apply differently to different people. The report adds, all but a few democratically elected leaders are spearheading national retreat, closing democratic space and / or closing borders to desperate people seeking the dignity of work in safety and security.
This is the scenario emerging in the world in 2018, which is neither joyful, peaceful, pleasant, not even sustainable. It brings one to the interesting debate since the early 20th century regarding the sustainability of capitalism as a system. The ‘General crisis of Capitalism’ as was advocated as a phase of historical conjuncture as a theory, becomes all the more relevant in which the crisis is no more confined to the economy, but embraces politics, ideology, and all other aspects of life. However, it was vehemently negated by the pen pushers of Capitalism that it (capitalism) is the end of civilization.
Eminent economist Prabhat Patnaik while explaining the contemporary crisis of capitalism stated that “like capitalism reached an impasse in the interwar period, it has now come to a dead end”. There is no clear way available to capitalism to get out of the crisis it happens to be in. Prabhat further emphasise, “So, capitalism at the moment has run out of options. It is yet to become clear how it will come out of this. This provides a very good opportunity. It provides once more some kind of revolutionary possibilities”.
The WEF may not talk about such possibilities but the crisis is manifested very starkly in the form of risks as a modern vocabulary to the inherent crisis in the system. The aggravation of risks that are systemic, has been profoundly mentioned in the WEF report. The methods suggested to come out of the crisis does not seem to reduce the risks rather will accentuate the crisis further. Whether the opportunity will be utilised by progressive, democratic forces or those representing the neo-liberal communalism will be able to steer the world into more disaster is presently in the womb of future!