Employment is the most important issue facing the world over the next decade, Vikram Pandit, chief executive of Citigroup, along with the other co-chairs of the World Economic Forum, told journalists in Davos Wednesday.
The world needs 600 million new jobs in the next decade to cope with a rising population and the effects of the financial crisis, according to figures released earlier this week by the International Labor Organization.
“That’s going to need a lot of effort and focus and a lot of growth,” Pandit said. “Nothing unleashes growth more than dealing with uncertainty.”
This year’s summit, set in the middle of a continent where a debt crisis is still raging, promises to be gloomy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led the euro zone’s attempts to fight back and resolve the crisis alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, will officially open the summit later Wednesday.
The other co-chairs are: Yasuchika Hasegawa, president and chief executive officer, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Japan; Paul Polman, chief executive officer, Unilever; Alejandro Ramírez, chief executive officer, Cinepolis, Mexico and Peter Voser, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell.
Polman quoted Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” in order to emphasize the need for new models for capitalism.
“We have to work on a different model and take our business model to a different level,” he added.
Organizers have placed epoch-making issues such as the future of capitalism and new economic and social models on the top of the agenda.
“The triangle between government, industry and society doesn’t work properly,” Voser said. “We have got to come together to build trust with society.”
Public anger at perceived mismanagement by business and banks is not far away from the Forum, with the Occupy movement building a camp of igloosand Central Asian-style yurts as close as they can get to the conference center.
“We should all commit ourselves to a robust financial system that balances safety with the need for growth,” said Pandit.
He added that Citigroup, which was one of the US banks worst affected by the credit crisis, now asked three questions before advising clients to go for a deal.
The questions are: “Is it right for my client? Does it add economic value? Is it systemically responsible?” he said.
Hasegawa said that Japan’s heavy debt and slow growth should serve as a warning to other governments to avoid the same situation.