As lockdowns persist, and protests sweep across the US, the world’s public figures are calling for a “greener, smarter and fairer world.”
170 nations will see their economies decline, with debt and deficits increasing, which will cause a “very high risk” of greater poverty and economic disparity, according to Kristalina Georgieva International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“We know that this pandemic, if left to its own devices, is going to deepen inequality,” she told an online event organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF), failing to acknowledge the response to the pandemic is what will cause the inequality, not the pandemic.
The United Nations believes stimulus spending could reach 10% of global GDP. Georgieva said the stimulus could, in her view, strengthen “the social fabric of our societies” and protect vulnerable people, it could result in “a better world for all,” if the right policies were implemented.
Georgieva said it was time “to turn a page, to have that history be about the great reset, not about the great reversal.”
She added: “The best memorial we can build for those who lost their lives to the pandemic is that greener, smarter, fairer world.”
Britain’s Prince Charles said the financial stimulus needed as a response to the artificially created depression, arisen from the response to the pandemic, represents an opportunity for the world to be more sustainable.
“We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis. Its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change,” he added.
He noted a “rapidly shrinking window of opportunity to rethink,” adding that it is “an opportunity we have never had before and may never have again.”
The WEF and its partners dubbed the Davos summit as the “Great Reset,” which will be an initiative to promote a more sustainable and fairer path.
Ma Jun, chairman of the China Green Finance Committee, said government spending will reach 10% of GDP in the United States and Europe, and 8% of GDP in China.
“The recovery has to be greener than any of the previous recoveries,” he said.
Bernard Looney, CEO of British energy giant BP, called for “green conditions” attached to the bailout, suggesting low fossil-fuel prices were a perfect opportunity to ditch oil, gas and coal subsidies.
“Energy prices should reflect real costs,” he told the event.
Brad Smith, president of tech multinational Microsoft, called for emission labels on consumer products, akin to nutrition indicators on packaged food, to buyers choose low-carbon options. “If we can empower consumers, I think we unleash this next generation to have a broader impact more quickly,” he said.
One thing’s clear: corporate behemoths, international finance agencies, and royals all want sweeping changes.
Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s executive chairman, warned of “polarization, nationalism, racism and ultimately social unrest and conflicts” if the changes were not implemented and swiftly so.
“The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that our old systems are not fit any more for the 21st century,” said WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab. “It has laid bare the fundamental lack of social cohesion.”
He added: “Now is the historical moment, the time, not only to fight the virus but to shape the system for the post-corona era. We must not miss this unique window of opportunity.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres agreed. “The Great Reset is a welcome recognition that this human tragedy must be a wake-up call. It is imperative that we re-imagine, rebuild, redesign, reinvigorate and rebalance our world,” he said.
Meanwhile Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, said rebuilding economic prosperity had to be balanced against the natural world it depended upon.
“The threats posed by this dreadful pandemic came upon us suddenly,” said the Prince of Wales. “The threat of climate change has been more gradual, but its devastating reality for many people and their livelihoods around the world, and its ever-greater potential to disrupt, surpasses even that of COVID-19. As we move from rescue to recovery, therefore we have a unique but rapidly-shrinking window of opportunity to learn lessons and reset ourselves on a more sustainable path.
He added: “Think big and act now.”