Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild with Trust; a new world order.
“Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man , and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.” Mahatma Gandhi.
Whether we like it or not, we are all bound on this planet by three main forces: (1) the government, democratically chosen or not; (2) the corporate world run mostly by power, pelf (greed) and an occasional manifestation of what is termed as corporate social responsibility(CSR) without which we cannot conduct our daily chorus once we get up from bed in the morning; (3) the environment or “nature” whose “dharma” is universal and always loving and caring, but with one simple condition: “we all need to deserve first before we desire”.
Thanks to the Davos tradition of the last four decades, also a testimony to human ingenuity and foresight, the actors representing all three forces are facilitated to assemble in one big platform to deliberate, discuss and seek solutions in a non-confrontational manner.
Fortunately and thanks to the technology-driven environment where nothing can be done in concealment or without accountability for long, these actors do exhibit a sense of responsibility and commitment to human well-being at large.
One such leader in recent times is President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known popularly as Lula, the thirty-fifth and current President of Brazil, who has been most appropriately conferred the first world statesmanship award in this year Davos meeting yesterday, 29 January 2010.
It gives a great satisfaction to welcome you to read his address, it was delivered on his behalf by Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, due to President Lula’s hospitalization on Thursday after suffering of high blood pressure. The simple lessons President Lula draws from his governance experience and possible way forward to address key problems that face human existence are worth our deep analysis and understanding. When such an understanding gets absorbed and assimilated in our system, can real solutions be far away?
Statement of President Lula at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 29 January 2010
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by thanking you for the “Global Statesmanship Award” you have honoured me with. In the past months, I have received some of the most important prizes and awards of my life.
Quite honestly, I know that this award is not for me – it is for Brazil and the efforts of the Brazilian people. This makes me even happier and prouder. I accept this award, on behalf of Brazil and of my countrymen. This award brings us joy, but also warns us of the great responsibility we carry. This award increases my responsibility as a leader, and my country’s responsibility as an increasingly present and active player in the global scene.
I have lately seen many international publications say that Brazil is fashionable nowadays. Allow me to say that, although that is a kind expression, it is not appropriate.
Fashions are fleeting, ephemeral things. Brazil wishes to be and will be a permanent player in the new world scene. Brazil, however, does not wish to be a new force in an old world. The Brazilian voice wants to announce, loud and clear, that a new world can be built.
Brazil wishes to aid in the construction of this new world, which, we all know, is not only possible but dramatically necessary, as the recent international financial crisis made clear even to those who do not appreciate change.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, the world looks upon Brazil under a very different light than that of seven years ago, when I first came to Davos. Back then, we felt the world had more doubts than hopes for us. The world feared for our future, for it did not know which way Brazil would be steered under the leadership of a worker, lacking higher education, politically born out of the leftist labour unions.
My views about the world back then were the opposite of those held by the world towards Brazil. I believed that, the same way in which Brazil was changing, so could the world.
In my remarks in 2003, here in Davos, I stated that Brazil would strive to decrease social and economic disparities, to strengthen political democracy and to promote human rights actively. At the same time, we would make an effort to end our dependency from international credit institutions and to seek a more active and sovereign participation in the community of nations.
Among other things, I stressed the need to establish a new international economic order, one that is more just and democratic. I observed that the construction of this new order would not only be an act of generosity but particularly one of political intelligence.
I considered that peace was not only a moral goal but an imperative of rationality. Also, more than heralding the values of humanism, we needed to make sure they truly prevailed in the relations among countries and peoples.
Seven years later, I can look each one of you in the eye – more than that, I can look my own people in the eye – and say that Brazil, in spite of all the hardship, has played its role. We have kept our promise. In this period, 31 million Brazilians have moved into the middle class and 20 million have been lifted out of absolute poverty. We have paid off our external debt and today, instead of IMF debtors, we are its creditors. Our international reserves have jumped from 38 billion dollars to approximately 240 billion dollars. We have borders with 10 countries and have not had a single conflict with our neighbors. We have considerably decreased our environmental aggressions. We now have, and are consolidating, one of the cleanest mixes of energy sources in the world, and we are well on our way to becoming the world’s fifth largest economy. I can humbly and realistically say that we still have a long way to go. However, it cannot be denied that Brazil has greatly improved. The fact is that Brazil has not only lived up to the challenge of providing economic growth and social inclusion, but it has also shown the skeptics that fighting poverty is the best development policy.
Historically, Brazilian leaders have governed in favor of only one third of the country’s people. The rest of the population, for them, was a heavy, inconvenient burden.
They spoke of “putting the house in order”. But how can you bring order to a country by denying two thirds of its population the benefits of progress and civilization?
Will a household stay firm if the parents abandon the weaker children and focus on those who are stronger and have been granted a greater share of luck?
It obviously will not. This will be a frail household, divided by resentment and by insecurity, where siblings see each other as enemies and not as part of the same family.
We realized the opposite: that the only meaning of leadership was to lead all. And we proved that the so-called burden was in fact strength, stock, energy to grow.
To bring the weak and the needy into the economy was not only morally correct. It was also politically indispensable and economically sound. Because if a mother and a father want to put the place in order, they need to look after all their children, to stop the strong from depriving the weaker, and to prevent the weak from accepting submission and injustice. A household will not be strong unless all take part in it – find refuge, opportunity and hope in it.
For that reason we invested in the enlargement of the internal market and in making the most of our strengths. Today, there is more of Brazil for Brazilians. We have strengthened our economy, improved our people’s living standards, reinforced democracy, raised our self-esteem and made our voice heard louder across the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What happened with the world in the last seven years? Can we also say that the world improved, as did Brazil? I am not asking this question out of arrogance or to provoke comparisons that would be flattering to my country. I ask this humbly, as a citizen of the world, who has his share of responsibility in what happened – and in what may still happen to humanity and to our planet. I ask you: can we say that, over the last seven years, the world has moved on the path towards the reduction of inequalities, of wars, of conflicts, of tragedies and of poverty? Can we say it has moved, more vigorously, towards a model of respect to human beings and to the environment? Can we say it interrupted the march of folly, which seems to lead us so many times to a social abyss, to an environmental abyss, to a political abyss, and to a moral abyss? I can imagine the sincere answer that comes out of the hearts of each one of you, because I feel that same perplexity and frustration with the world in which we live. And all of us, with no exceptions, share the responsibility for all of this.
Over the last years, we have continued to be shaken by absurd wars. We have continued to destroy the environment. We have continued to watch, with hypocritical compassion, as misery and death take on proportions in Africa. We have continued to watch, passively, refugee camps multiply throughout the world. And we have seen, with alarm and fear, but without having learned the lesson properly, where financial speculation can lead us. Yes, because many of the terrible effects of the international financial crisis have continued and we see no concrete signs that this crisis may have served to make us rethink the world economic order, its methods, its poor ethics, and its anachronistic processes.
I ask you: how many crises will it take for us to change our attitudes? How many financial catastrophes will we be able to stand until we decide to do what is most obvious and most correct? How many degrees of global warming, how much de-icing, how much deforestation and environmental imbalance will it take for us to make a firm decision to save the planet?
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I see the frightful effects of the tragedy in Haiti, I also ask you: how many “Haitis” will it take for us to stop seeking late remedies and improvised solutions, in the heat of remorse? All of us know that the tragedy in Haiti was caused by two kinds of earthquakes: the one that shook Port-au-Prince, at the beginning of the month, with the power of 30 atomic bombs, and the other one, slow and silent, which has been eating away its entrails for centuries.
The world has covered its eyes and ears to this other earthquake. It also continues to have covered eyes and ears in the face of the silent earthquake that destroys entire communities in Africa, in Asia, in Eastern Europe, and in the poorest countries of the Americas.
Will the social earthquake have to move its epicenter to the large capitals of Europe or North America for us to adopt more definitive solutions?
A former Brazilian president used to say, from the height of his aristocratic arrogance, that social matters were police matters.
Is it not the same thing that, in a subtle and sophisticated way, many rich countries are still saying to this day when they pursue, repress and discriminate against immigrants, when they insist on a game in which so many lose and only a few can win? Why do we not play a game in which all can win, even if they win at different levels, but in which no one loses in what is essential?
What is impossible about this? Why do we not move in that direction, in a conscious and deliberate way, and not pushed by crises, by wars and by tragedies? Could it be that humanity can only learn through the path of suffering and the roar of uncontrolled forces?
Another world and another path are possible. We just have to want it. And we have to do it while there is still time left.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to stress that the best policy for development is the fight against poverty. It is also one of the best recipes for peace. And we found out, last year, that it is also a powerful shield against crises. This lesson learned by Brazil is applicable to any part of the world, be it rich or poor. This means broadening opportunities, increasing productivity, expanding markets and strengthening the economy. It means changing mentalities and relationships. It means creating factories of jobs and citizenship. We were successful at our tasks because we reestablished the role of the state as a promoter of development. We did not let ourselves become prisoners of theoretical – or political – traps that were mistaken about the true role of the state.
Over the past seven years, Brazil created almost 12 million formal jobs. In 2009, while the majority of countries saw a decrease in jobs, we had a positive balance of about a million new jobs. Brazil was one of the last countries to be hit by the crisis and one of the first to recover from it. Why? Because we had reorganized the economy along solid foundations, based on growth, stability, productivity, on a healthy financial system, on the access to credit and on social inclusion. And when the effects of the crisis began to reach us, we strengthened, without hesitation, the basis of our model and emphasized access to credit, tax reductions and the stimulus to consumption. During the crisis, it was proved, once more, that it is the small individuals who are building the giant economy of Brazil.
This may be the main reason for Brazil’s success: the belief in and support for the people, the weaker and the smaller. In fact, we are not reinventing the wheel. It was with this moving force that Roosevelt was able to make the U.S. economy recover after the great crisis of 1929. And with the same force Brazil has defeated preemptively the latest economic crisis.
Let me return to the central point: we have always paid attention to macroeconomic policies, but we have never limited our attention to the general issues. We have obsessively boosted our economy, but always looking after the poorest ones, increasing purchasing power and access to credit for most Brazilians.
For instance, we have created huge social infrastructure programs, which are exclusively aimed at the poorest citizens. That is the case of the “Light for All” program, which has not only brought electricity to 12 million people living in rural areas, but has also proven to be a significant promoter of well-being and a strong activator of the economy.
For example: in order to bring electricity to 2.2 million rural households, we used 906 thousand kilometers of cable – enough to circle the Earth 21 times. Besides, the families that began to have electricity in their homes have bought 1.5 million television sets, 1.4 million refrigerators and an enormous amount of other appliances.
The many micro-credit lines we created, both for producers and for consumers, have also had a significant multiplying effect. And they have taught Brazilian capitalists that capitalism does not exist without credit. To give you an idea, we have managed to boost our economy by over 100 billion reais a month just through a credit modality that is based on the paychecks of workers and pensioners. People raise loans of 50 or 80 dollars to buy clothes, school utensils etc. and this helps to expand the economy in a large way.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The challenges that the world is now facing are much bigger than those faced by Brazil.
By changing priorities and restructuring our standards, the Brazilian government has been managing to set a new pace of development for our country. However, the world needs more profound and complex changes. And these are becoming increasingly difficult, as we let time pass by and waste opportunities. The Copenhagen Climate Summit was an example of this. Mankind lost a great opportunity to quickly advance in the protection of the environment.
This is why we urge that all of us arrive with unarmed spirits to the next Summit, in Mexico, so that we reach concrete solutions to the alarming issue of global warming. The financial crisis has also demonstrated that it is necessary to promote a deep change in the economic order, favoring production, not speculation. As you all know, the financial system has to be at the service of producers. Clear regulation is needed, so that absurd and excessive risks can be avoided. But these are all symptoms of a deeper crisis and of the need of the world to find a new path, free from old models and old ideologies. It is time to re-invent the world and its institutions. Why must we remain bound to models that were conceived in times and realities so different from those in which we live in? The world needs to recover its ability to dream and create.
We cannot postpone solutions that will lead to better global governance, so that governments and nations work for the entire mankind. We need a new role for governments. This new role is, I say, paradoxically, its oldest one: to recover the ability to govern. We were elected to govern and we have to govern. But we have to govern with creativity and justice. And we have to do this now, before it is too late. I am not apocalyptical, nor am I announcing the end of the world. I am casting a cry of optimism and saying that, more than ever, we have our destinies in our hands. And every time human hands mix dreams, creativity, love, courage and justice, they manage to accomplish the divine task of building a new world and a new mankind.
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
President of Brazil
The above statement of President Lula is thought provoking as it deserves a second reading with an open mind to learn from the Brazil experiment. President Lula is one of the most progressive and true leaders of our time, we wish him a speedy and full recovery and continued success in setting more examples in good governance.
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