Sme: For the cost of one Davos we could pay for so much

January 26, 2018

Did you see picture from the World Economic Forum in Davois? The one that embodies everything that is wrong with the conference in a single image. It shows a security guard with his back turned to the camera, standing next to a sign. The sign has an arrow that alternately directs people to an exhibition called “A Day in the Life of a Refugee” or “Private Car Pick-up,” or if some place mysteriously known as “The Loft”. The security guard is there to keep certain people out, the exhibition makes attendees feel good as they drive by in their chauffeured car on the way to sip some Dom Perignon in the loft.

Yes, it is that time of year again, where some of the world’s richest people get together to pretend they are solving global problems while wearing ski jackets. Last year, the conference was frozen and shock and horror at the prospect of Donald Trump just having become U.S. president. This year, they invited him to speak — because times change and beliefs are flexible.

Here’s a few the tone deaf discussion topics: “Will free markets make a comeback?”, “Investing for Impact” and “Secrets to a long and happy life”. Indian president Narendra Modi gave a speech to a room full of millionaires and vicious capitalists, urging them to reject consumerism and take up yoga instead. Then he got back on one of the helicopter shuttles that the conference uses for transport back and forth the the airport. Mr. Modi probably wasn’t eating much beef when he was in town, but if you stay in the same hotel as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau you can get a hamburger for €48. That must taste good.

To attend the Davos summit, your organization must be a member of the WEF, which costs €58,000 euros annually for the lowest level of membership. Attending this particular conference is another €15,000 or so per ticket. According to its 2016 annual report, the WEF had about €230 million in revenue that year.

For sake of comparison, the NGO Classrooms for Africa estimate it costs €6,400 to build a new classroom that serves 30 students. Meanwhile, Germany spends about €12,000 per year on each resettled refugee. At the same time nearly 450,000 people died of malaria last year, and an adult dose of medicine to treat the disease costs about €2. So, what do you say we cancel next year’s conference, save the money and redirect it somewhere else?

For the same money, we could build 10,000 new classrooms in Africa to educate 300,000 children, resettle 11,000 refugees in conditions comparable to what they get in Germany and eliminate all of the world’s malaria fatalities. Even after doing all that, there would still be close to €50 million left. That should be more than enough to buy some champagne and have an exhibition.