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EDITORIAL by Luk Zelderloo

Happy New Year, a hug and a kiss to all leaders gathered in DAVOS

Again world leaders and key business people have gathered in Davos for their annual chitchat – also known as the World Economic Forum - on how the economy and society should further develop.

Surprise surprise … In one of the first statements, the organisers of this ‘place to be for those most economically relevant’ stated that growing inequality is a threat to our societies. They confirmed this statement by later acknowledging that the breakdown of social structures is a global risk. Our good friends at the WEF even said that it is crucial to prevent the young generation to be lost, as both unemployment and income disparity are seen as huge dangers.

I might have missed something but weren’t those the same group of people who helped to design  the austerity packages destroying so many countries’ social welfare systems and social services sector? Even more…weren’t those who triggered the global economic crisis the most warmly welcomed at the WEF in 2007, 2008, and 2009?

Let’s not be too cynical. Indeed it is always good news when think tanks such as WEF start to understand that economic wealth should be distributed  in a fair way and that leaving nobody behind – social inclusion and cohesion – is crucial not only from a Human Rights perspective but also when having a more business-oriented approach. A successful economy needs a strong social component, otherwise they clash! That has become clear. The WEF has finally seen the light! It only took 5 years of austerity and cuts for them to understand. Perhaps they should have listened a bit more carefully to the messages of so many Social NGOs and researchers who have been saying this since day one of the crisis.

Fairness pact

As we all know the road from think tank recommendation to policy implementation is long and difficult; as well intended processes often derail. So the question is: how will member states and EU decision makers transpose the WEF recommendation into effective policies?

We already have the fiscal consolidation pact and can experience the devastating effects of it….why should we not also go for a ‘Fairness pact’ between authorities, the business world, civil society and society as a whole? It might well be timely as the elections are approaching fast. The EC has only a few months left to put a game changing policy on the tracks. This policy should be based on investing in people - youngsters , disabled, excluded… - facilitating their reintegration into the labour market and in local communities. It should be based on new innovative mechanism to share the wealth created and finally it should rebuild trust with citizens by really going in to a dialogue with them. It might not please everyone, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

In any case, I wish everybody a happy new year 2014! We can only wish that this will be the year when everybody finally understands how important the social is to each and every economy.

Luk Zelderloo