Davos is dead | Opinions

Just when you thought you’d never see a private jet again land in the Swiss mountain town of Davos for the rich and powerful to sarcastically discuss the “solution” for climate change and inequality, the World Economic Forum is back.

They meet face-to-face for the first time since January 2020. Did you miss it? Neither I nor.

They meet at a pivotal moment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the midst of a massive and deepening crisis of inequality.

The policy choices of governments and international organizations during the pandemic have failed to protect people from the effects of many crises. Soaring inflation, sky-high energy and fuel bills, as well as high and still rising food prices, have wreaked havoc on so many people. But the richest few, who have continued to grow their fortunes over the past two years, are still benefiting from the crisis. As a result, questions are being raised about the ethics of an economic system that has failed to help the masses and instead has increased inequality during the global health emergency.

It is somewhat unbelievable that in the midst of all this, finance ministers and multinational CEOs take the time to exchange warm words with their “industry leaders” colleagues in a small town. mountains of Switzerland. But they still are – as they have for 51 years.

However, people are no longer fooled by the talk in Davos about equality, transparency, respect and diversity. They are well aware that those who have benefited and continue to benefit from the pandemic have left them struggling to put food on their tables – such as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who earned 24.3 million dollars in 2021 and is attending Davos – regardless of the systemic changes needed to tackle inequality.

Indeed, more and more people are questioning what their leaders are doing in hard-to-control spaces like Davos when they can make policy choices that address pressing issues. .

In the UK, for example, where rising energy bills force many families to choose between heating their homes and eating out, the government is opposing calls for a corporate tax on the profits of businesses. oil company. It is clear that the British public would rather have its leaders tax the companies benefiting from the growing cost of living crisis than waste time discussing inequality and sustainability with other governments. The CEO actively deepens that inequality in Switzerland.

Even in a pandemic that requires fresh thinking and more radical solutions to inequality, leaders around the world are clinging to steadfastly illiberal solutions like cutting corporate taxes as a solutions to domestic economic problems. And this is causing great protest from the people.

In Zambia, for example, President Hakainde Hichilema is finding an increasingly frustrated citizenry asking who benefits from his economic policies, such as his recent move to reduce corporate tax rates from 35% to 30%.

Zambians are asking: In a mineral-rich country with huge reserves of copper selling for record prices, why do the vast majority of people still live in poverty? Why do we have to endure the pain of rising food and fuel prices? Why are the details of an upcoming IMF loan agreement, which is expected to usher in a more devastating austerity, remain hidden from us?

Shocked by this surge in debate and questioning his approach to policymaking, in a recent speech at the EU-Zambia Economic Forum, Hichilema felt the need to reassure Zambians, he is not an “agent of imperialism”. In this environment, it is hard to imagine that Zambians would appreciate having their delegates discuss investment policy and strategies in a forum that brings together all the beneficiaries of wealth and investment. crisis in their country.

Indeed, while IMF head Kristalina Georgieva, mining company bosses, and finance ministers rub social distancing shoulders and share canapes in Davos, people won’t be celebrating . They won’t celebrate because they know the solution to their multitude of problems lies not with the company’s bosses, or with Davos.

It’s not that global solutions aren’t necessary – they are an important part of the picture. But while many structural solutions to inequality require global action, the fundamental changes needed on both the domestic and international fronts are not on Davos’s radar because they threaten elite interests.

The World Economic Forum is not responsible to anyone but itself. Serious tax reform proposals are gaining momentum, such as the Global Register of Wealth (which proposes to create a comprehensive international registry of all wealth and property), or the creation of a corporation United Nations tax treaty, won’t get political support in Davos. A much-needed reform to multilateralism cannot and will not begin in Davos.

People want to see accountability in domestic policy – specifically tax policy – and this doesn’t require a trip to Switzerland.

Just this week, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos criticized US President Joe Biden on Twitter for suggesting that making his wealthiest partners “pay them fairly” could help reduce inflation. It’s not hard to see that the billionaire businessman is worried about the possibility that the next US budget includes a new “billionaire tax” that will cost him $35 billion more in taxes. The prospect of a corporate tax hike, coupled with news of Amazon’s first consolidated warehouse, is making Bezos feel uneasy. And he should feel uncomfortable. Time is changing. Billionaires like Bezos are no longer free to use their power without being challenged.

The media has called 2019 the “year of protest”. Years later, despite the pandemic, the protests have not stopped. After two years of pandemic, soaring prices, rising poverty and deepening inequality, people have crossed the line. And they have no patience for governments and international organizations acting to protect the interests of the richest and most powerful.

This year’s Davos attendees should be aware of this fact.

People won’t look to Davos for solutions. They already know how their problems can be solved: by taxing the richest and corporations, as well as by ensuring fair wages and employment. And by ending the monopoly of the “Davos Ministry” over politics and policymaking.

Citizens are impatient with the meaningless speeches or policy proposals that will be delivered in Davos this week. This is why people around the world, from Kenya and South Africa to Switzerland and the UK, will once again take to the streets to deliver a single message to their leaders in Davos: it’s time to #TaxTheRich.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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