2016

China panel discussion
China panel discussion

Last Friday night,students, professors and a distinguished line up of speakers gathered at my alma matter, Trinity College, Dublin for the annual Trinity Economic Forum.

The premise of the forum is that it takes students away from their books and allows them to think about and discuss economics in the context of what is happening in the world today.

The students that would attend are most likely interested in how the world works and could very likely go into policy or industry themselves, making a very real impact on society,so I thought it was an important event for Horyou to be at, to see the concerns and values of the next generation.

The agenda was “Taking Economics Forward.” Ireland has recovered from its economic collapse and is now on course to be the fastest growing economy in Europe.

However, the last few years have taught us that in an increasingly globalized and connected world, what happens ten thousand miles away can impact at home, so I found the line up to definitely be more internationally focused than other years.

The night began with Economist and former WEF Young Global Leader David Mc Williams addressing the audience on what economics really means. He alluded to his own time studying at Trinity and the fact that students are still reading from the text books that he did in the 1980’s. He expressed concern that the curriculum hasn’t changed as the world has changed and that models, albeit important frameworks, don’t capture the realities and disparities of economies today.

Economist David Mc Williams addressing the audience
Economist David Mc Williams addressing the audience

He ended with a plea for the economists of tomorrow to use the theory they are learning and contextualize it. Learn to think for themselves, look around and most importantly, use their voice to contribute to the study and understanding of economics in a way that makes a positive impact on society.

Next on the agenda was an engaging panel discussion on China. As the second largest economy in the world and a place in which many of us rely on to both produce and consume, what happens in China reverberates across the world.

As it is going through a period of transition, changing from investment led to consumption led economy, a lot of people and especially the markets are unsure about the future of China as a world superpower. Linda Yueh, University of Oxford fellow and BBC correspondent said that “this stumbling is unsurprising, it is taking a fifth of the world’s population and making them prosperous.”

Thinking about it in simple terms, if China’s manufacturing sector can stabilize, it can provide jobs for its population and produce goods for the west. If the earnings of its enormous population are good enough, there will be a demand for products and services from the west. The outcome of this East – West supply and demand axis is crucial to understanding the importance of China in the world economy.

The evening ended with panels on Britain and the EU, the migration crisis and what this means for the social stability of Europe, and where Ireland lies in respect to all of this.

The quality of the subjects, contributions and speakers would deserve attention beyond the actual on site attendance on a Friday evening. It would indeed be of relevance that college students everywhere and beyond the sacrosanct textbooks discuss and exchange opinions on world events that will very definitely impact all of our lives.

Horyou is built on the principles of communication for social good, which is why forums such as the Trinity Economic Forum are a good opportunity to share ideas and opinions, challenge the status quo and exercise democracy and, most importantly, progress as a society.

By Dearbhla Gavin

Finland Finance Minister Alexander Stubbs
Finland Finance Minister Alexander Stubbs

The 46th World Economic Forum kicked off in sub zero temperatures outdoors and equally freezing atmosphere indoors among the delegates as they woke up to news of more turmoil in the stock markets, which set the agenda for quite a pessimistic day all round. On that same note, China managed to infiltrate almost every discussion and opinions were divided as to what extent a stalled economy in the Middle Kingdom would contaminate the rest of the world.

On the optimistic side and in response to the holders of the view that the overreacting markets would ask for subtle policy changes to stabilize, Stephen A Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, supported the idea that China with its huge population will continue to both produce and consume, which implies that supply and demand will be maintained and the markets will again reach equilibrium.

Away from the stock markets and onto the environment, I was interested to hear the views of UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, one month after COP 21 in Paris that Horyou covered. Unsurprisingly, Christina stated that getting everyone to agree was the easy part but that what the world is in need for clear goals and even clearer strategy on how to reach them.

Alluding to the importance of citizen participation and ‘solidarity’, one of Horyou’s key values, she said that ‘everyone on the planet needs to rethink how they live their lives; and that goes for big business as well as individual consumers’.

On the subject of geopolitics, it struck me that the entire concept of Davos could well be challenged this year. Rumors of excessive parties and elitism notwithstanding, it has always been a platform where the powerful can gather calmly and on common ground to make decisions. However, this year things look different as the world had never been more split over our priorities and our problems, as well as who or what to blame and, most importantly, the proposed solutions.

There are so many powers coming to Davos with different ideologies regarding the various geopolitical conflicts. When we are supposed to be at a new frontier of global growth and development, are we to see phantoms of times past reemerging? Alexander Stubbs, the Swedish Prime Minister spoke of global stability in the wake of critical shifts. However and thankfully, for all of the worry, there was a lot of reason to be hopeful and believe in Davos.

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg

Musician Will I Am and Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg both spoke sincerely on the opportunity that lies in connectivity. On a mission to utilise technology for another ‘education’, yet another Horyou key value,Will I Am believes that a bright future lies in giving kids the opportunity to explore the STEM subjects and in using technology as an aid to learning. Sandberg, meanwhile, passionately alluded to experiences of people in developing countries whose lives were transformed when they were given access to the Internet and how this gave them a stake in society they never even dreamed to have.

There was also a lot of positive vibes from this year’s upbeat Young Global Leaders who were driving conversations on renewable energies, sustainability and the future of science. And a key point I took away from their discussions is that good people doing good need to know each other; they need to connect and work together to make an even bigger impact on society.

So, the night falls leaving in the air a mixture of caution, uncertainty, hope and fear; opinions are divided but the good news is they are voiced. We definitely leave curious.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the week will unfold.

By Dearbhla Gavin

WorldEconomicForum_1

The 46th World Economic Forum kicks off at altitude in Davos this week. With only the most powerful on stage and the rest of the world wondering whether it is just a networking event for the 1%, the truth is that there has been no better time for the WEF and its platform in a world in vital need for peace, dialogue and solutions to critical economic, social, environmental and technological issues.

Ahead of the main event, The World Economic Forum released a list of what it has found to be the greatest risks to the stability of the world on all the above accounts in the next five years. Although not included in the main agenda, the list’s findings are likely to be central to most discussions over the next few days.

worldeforum_inforgraphic

The top five outlines risks are large-scale involuntary migration mostly from regions at war or suffering severe unrest, extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaption, interstate conflict and natural catastrophes. It is worth noting that, for the first time in history, three out of the five risks are related to the environment. Also, one of the main things that unfolded during the environmental crises of the last few years is the role that governance plays in both cause and solution.

The impact of government policy, business strategy and citizen action on the environment is slowly being understood. It is a virtue of our increasingly connected world where nothing can now be treated in isolation, which reinforces the importance of the WEF as a place to communicate as one.

60 million people, the size of the UK population, have been displaced as a result of climate change. When one loses everything, there is an erosion of trust between ruler and ruled, a situations which threatens to undermine the entire social fabric of a society.

wef_table

As these environmental crises and social tensions intensify, the inevitable related policy changes is bound to impact business profit margins which, in turn, can put a blanket drag on the economic activity with increased unemployment that feed social tensions. Which is why the environment, business, society and security will be addressed jointly. it is hoped that through collective discussion among all stakeholders, the much needed consensus can be reached and mitigation of these risks be put into place.

The World Economic Forum refers to this as the ‘resilience imperative. It emphasizes the absolute necessity of cross industry collaboration to contain the risks in the coming year.

In a nutshell, the cooperation of every nation in adapting the terms of the COP21 agreement will be necessary to contain climate change. Also on the agenda, the slowing growth of China will be closely followed. Why? Because it is one of the largest consumers of goods and services and because it is a country that so many economies rely on for trade. What happens in China will reverberate across the world. Another consequence of global connectedness.

Those are the most likely challenges we will face. We will keep a close eye on the World Economic Forum’s proceedings this week hoping for some solutions.

By Dearbhla Gavin

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