Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- As the crash in commodities prices spreads economic woe across the developing world, Europe could face a wave of migration that will eclipse today’s refugee crisis, says Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Look how many countries in Africa, for example, depend on the income from oil exports,” Schwab said in an interview ahead of the WEF’s 46th annual meeting, in the Swiss resort of Davos. “Now imagine 1 billion inhabitants, imagine they all move north.”

Whereas much of the discussion about commodities has focused on the economic and market impact, Schwab said he’s concerned that it will also spur “a substantial social breakdown.”

That fits into what Schwab, the founder of the WEF, calls the time of “unexpected consequences” we now live in. In the modern era, it’s harder for policy makers to know the impact of their actions, which has led to “erosion of trust in decision makers.”

"First, we have to look at the root causes of this,” Schwab said. “The normal citizen today is overwhelmed by the complexity and rapidity of what’s happening, not only in the political world but also the technological field.”

That sense of dislocation has led to the rise of radical political leaders, who tap into a rich vein of anger to promote xenophobic policies. For reason to prevail, Schwab said, “we have to re-establish a sense that we all are in the same boat.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Weisenthal in Davos at jweisenthal@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Rocks at drocks1@bloomberg.net; James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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