Davos: The 5-day annual World Economic Forum meeting concluded Sunday with global CEOs listing job creation, income inequality and high energy prices as the most pressing areas of concern in 2012 for the world economy, including emerging markets like India.
Though the event had begun on a gloomy note amidst turmoil in Europe and its spill-over impact on the rest of the world, it ended with shades of hopes coming from economies still doing well in Asia -- India and China.
As the Internet majors such as Facebook, Twitter and Google played messengers in events like Arab uprising and 'Occupy' movements, online censorship and privacy prominently figured at Davos discussions.
Even as several top notch CEOs and other powerful leaders had left the snow-bound Alpine resort in their private jets, Citigroup Chief Vikram Pandit, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Royal Dutch Shell's chief Peter Voser and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg summed up the out-look for this year.
The broad message by the global corporate honchos was: governments and businesses have to get their act together for creating jobs using all available resources including new technologies.
In the face of movements of 'Occupy Wall Street', which had its echo in the Davos valley over income inequalities, Citigroup chief Pandit said, "We need at least 600 million jobs in the next decade including 200 million in the immediate future... where are they?".
The problem however could be uncertainties arising mainly out of the European crisis about global investments and which can lead to a vicious circle.
"If we talk about energy sector, the economic uncertainties always mean that there would be investment risks. If investments slow down, it can push prices higher that will create more problems," Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser said.
While India has a cushion from domestic demand, it is not immune either from the global impact. Besides, unlike in 2008-09, the Indian government has virtually no elbow room to boost the confidence.
In a session on India, Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, said, "people are more worried about India than other emerging economies because India has less scope for doing anything. China can roll out infrastructure spending because it does not have the same deficit".
Against slowdown, the Indian government faces an uphill task to manage its finances and fiscal deficit is expected to overshoot the budgeted figure of 4.6 per cent of the GDP in the current fiscal ending March.
However, global ratings agency S&P President Douglas L Peterson said that India's investment grade rating is more likely to improve than deteriorate even though the country has development challenges.
Amidst the gloom on unemployment, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg put out a positive 'status', stating, "the Internet sector has indeed been a major job creator in recent years. In 2011 itself, Facebook with other network platforms created more than 2,30,000 jobs..."
On the heatedly-debated question of censorship and privacy, the CEOs called for a balanced approach rather than throwing the baby with the bath tub.
"It will be foolish for any government to block these platforms... (however) respect for privacy is something that all of us need to have and it is true that Internet exposes people to these risks," Unilever CEO Polman.
Even as Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and three Ministers of State -- Ashwani Kumar, Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia -- represented the government, the Indian presence paled this year against big delegations in the past.
On Saturday, IMF chief Christine Lagarde cautioned that no one is immune to the European debt crisis that can have spillover effect on the global economy and called for "simple firewall" to contain the turmoil.
"No one is immune in the current situation... It is a crisis that could have co-lateral effect, spilover effect around the world. Everybody has an interest to solve this situation," she had said.
First Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012, 19:13