Leveraging 'People' Power of Sustainability
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Dr. Jayantee Mukherjee Saha
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A few days back, I was woken here in Australia by a delightful Holi (the festival of colours marking the victory of good over evil) greeting from a far-a-way tribal land in India. A video clip sent to me by an indigenous artist sharing their sacred/unique Holi celebration. The good wishes and positive vibe traversed over 10,000 KM in perhaps a few seconds…How good was that? Yes, there is no doubt that today, we are in an interactive and one world and it is up to our intentions to make this advancement an opportunity to prosper together or the opposite.
Interactive & One World- Statistically Speaking
Let us take a quick look at the situation today. Why are we so integrated? The technological advancements, increasing flow of people, goods and capital across the geographical borders are some of the key factors for such a wide-spread interaction across boundaries and the proliferation of the one-world phenomenon.
As on 2019, the total world population was 7.7 billion, of which there were 5.112 billion mobile phone users, 4.388 billion internet users (up 9.1% year-on-year) and 3.484 billion social media users worldwide respectively (Roy,2019). We are thus so well connected. The geographical borders are fading. The ever increasing cross-border exchange of people, goods and capital are the new normal. Hence, economies are more integrated today.
According to the recent UN data (2019), there were 272 million international migrants up from 173 million in the year 2000
(Exhibit 1), the United States of America being the top destination country with 51 million migrants (Exhibit 2).
The global cross-border travel statistics are equally striking. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that internationally there were just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950 which, in 2018, increased to 1.4 billion international arrivals per year. The global Travel & Tourism sector grew and contributed a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018 (WTTC, 2019).
Likewise, according to the WTO data, the value of merchandise trade was US$ 19.48 trillion in 2018 up from US$ 15.3 trillion in 2010.
There is significant evidence that global push factors such as global risk (VIX), global growth, global liquidity and global bank leverage are important drivers of global capital flows. Broner et al. (2013) found that during global crises capital inflows and outflows both collapse. The reverse is equally likely in favourable economic conditions.
Are We Integrated For Good?
The afore-mentioned statistics look all healthy, more trade, more cross-border exchange translates to more jobs, more opportunities and more prosperity- elements of sustainable development. But such positive pictures turn ugly when the positivity is nullified by the greed and sinful acts of a few handful chaos creators, power and wealth-hungry malice propagators, unskilled (pseudo) leaders at the societal, business as well as global levels. The integrated relationships between the economies also help the vulnerabilities to spread at a macro scale.
Such acts not only break the positive vibes but also the global growth cycle, slows down economies, induce recession, and force economies at the macro level to become more protectionists and inward-looking rather than opening doors while embracing a healthy one-world philosophy.
The integrated natures of our modern day activities also help amplify the negative impact of these ill-doings. For instance, according to a recent Global Economic Crime and Fraud report (PwC, 2020) the economic cost of crime and fraud (that include cross-border accounting/financial statement fraud, asset misappropriation, bribery and corruption, cybercrime, money laundering and sanctions, Intellectual Property (IP) theft, human resources fraud and more) is a whopping figure of US$42 billion losses as reported in the last 24 months.
And now the Corona Pandemic that is having a profound impact globally. As of 17 March 2020, it spread in over 160 countries and territories, affected more than 198,000 cases, including 7,900 human deaths, halted travel, trade, day-to-day normalcy. For instance, schools and universities have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in at least 115 countries, affecting more than 950 million students (Wikipedia, 2020). The UN’s trade and development agency, UNCTAD notes, "Apart from the tragic human consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, the economic uncertainty it has sparked will likely cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020" (UNCTAD, 2020).
Prompt speedy action & radical intervention: Can we not be integrated for good?
As can be seen from the above, with heightened global integration and positive trade and travel, globally, we gained. It is when the miscreant and malice propagated that we collectively lost.
Time and again incidences, outbreaks and history in general has made it clear that malice, dysfunctions if tolerated or ignored (knowingly or unknowingly) for long will certainly amplify and reach a crisis level where nothing will be spared. Malice can only prosper when majority remain silent and do not realise the effect until it is too late. One must realise that “Behind economic data, inflation reports, consumer confidence measures, interest rates, business investment, there are human beings” (The Guardian, 2019).
Denouncing malice be it at the organizational, societal or at the much macro level requires courage, skills and patience. It entails a healthy outlook, proper education and skills to distinguish between good and not so good and the experience, patience, mental and physical strength to deal with the contingencies. It is not an overnight phenomenon but a diligently planned process.
Today, we often hear about silent majority. But if majority keeps their eyes closed and remain silent till they are hit hard, it is a shame. Broadly, understanding what is right and what is wrong is a primary school level challenge but accepting and acting accordingly is what takes effort. Perhaps, the world needs more unconventional leaders who would not be afraid of taking unusual measures rather than following the herd.
Do we always need a crisis to understand the fundamentals? In this interactive and one world, there are opportunities aplenty to remain integrated for common good if only we think rationally and timely…..
Broner, Fernando, Tatiana Didier, Aitor Erce and Sergio L. Schmukler (2013), ìGross Capital Flows: Dynamics and Crises,î Journal of Monetary Economics 60, 113-133. https://doi.org/10.1596/1813-9450-5768
Roy (2019), The world will spend 1.2 billion years using the internet this year, Available online <https://techwireasia.com/2019/01/the-world-will-spend-1-2-billion-years-using-the-internet-this-year/>
The Guardian (2019), Remembering the recession: 'The 1990s experience changed my view of the world', Available Online <https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/17/remembering-the-recession-the-1990s-experience-changed-my-view-of-the-world>
UNCTAD (2020), Coronavirus update: COVID-19 likely to cost economy $1 trillion during 2020, says UN trade agency, UNCTAD. Available online <https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059011>
Wikipedia (2020), 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, Available online at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019%E2%80%9320_coronavirus_pandemic>
WTTC (2019), Travel tourism continues strong growth above global gdp, WTTC, Available at <https://www.wttc.org/about/media-centre/press-releases/press-releases/2019/travel-tourism-continues-strong-growth-above-global-gdp/>