WEF meeting told to rethink globalisation

Leading businessmen at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, including George Soros (pictured), have indicated it is time to rethink the impact of globalisation.

This content was published on January 28, 2000 minutes

Leading businessmen at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos have indicated it is time to rethink the impact of globalisation.

"Seattle has given us a wake-up call," said the Hong Kong businessman, Ronnie Chan, at a plenary session on Friday. The session was considering ways of ensuring that globalisation doesn't create a society that functions simply as a market.

Also speaking was the renowned financier, George Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Managenent and President of the Soros Foundation. He said that there are basically two problems facing the world at present.

Firstly the profit motive is swamping social concerns, and secondly the economy may be globalised but the political process remains based on the sovereign state, he said.

"We should distinguish our role as participants in the competition and as citizens or umpires," said Soros. He called on people "be guided by common interest rather than furthering our particular interests."

He said that in this way, the "whole political process and social life would change its character."

Soros also struck out at the United Nations and other world bodies. "When it comes to globalisation, there is no room for world government, as the trouble is many states are not democratic," he said.

"We need an alliance of democratic states to strengthen democracy and open society throughout the world," he added.

Soros was echoing comments made by the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, in his opening speech on Thursday.

Ogi told the international gathering in the mountain resort of Davos that "it is up to you to ensure free-trade is compatible with the good of the global community."

He said that while capital movements could generate progress, productivity and prosperity, they could also force whole economies and nations into depression.

He said this power meant that industry and commerce had growing social responsibilities, and that the evolution of the world economy should therefore be determined by society as a whole.

By Tom O'Brien

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