Economic inequality and its impact on global order big challenge: One Globe Forum’s Harjiv Singh

The sixth edition of One Globe Forum, a knowledge economy conference, will be held in New Delhi on February 10 and 11. Over 250 global leaders in the fields of business, government, civil society, military and media will come together to discuss challenges facing South Asia and find solutions. The annual leadership forum is the brainchild of Harjiv Singh, founder and CEO of Salwan Media Ventures. In an interview with VCCircle, Singh shares the idea behind the initiative and the need for connecting global communities to build a knowledge economy.

What is the idea behind One Globe Forum?

South Asia has over 1.6 billion people, nearly a quarter of the world’s total population. We have the opportunity of becoming the leading economic region in the world, a title we held till as recently as a few hundred years ago. The idea behind One Globe Forum is to bring leaders from India, South Asia and around the world to deliberate, debate, and discuss the ideas, issues and impact of building a 21st century knowledge economy.

What have been the major achievements of this summit?

This year, we are hosting our sixth annual One Globe Forum. Since inception, we have tried to bring leaders from a broad array of fields such as government, business, non-profit and military. This provides a holistic perspective on sustainable economic development and growth. Our biggest achievement has been to spark ideas and create connections that otherwise would not have been there amongst our speakers, attendees and partners. We have been quite successful in becoming the bridge that connects global communities and local stakeholders in India and South Asia.

What is the one challenge where leaders from India and abroad need to focus this year?

I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing the global community today is economic inequality and its impact on the current US-led global liberal economic order that has been dominant since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Both Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump reflect mandates given by the have-nots.

Do you see protectionism as a worrying sign not just for businesses but also for society at large?

There are clear signs that protectionism is on the policy table for leaders who need to address their voters. This is a manifestation of increasing economic inequality at the grassroots even in countries like the US, which has led the global economic agenda since the end of World War II. It is clearly a new world where President Xi Jinping of China makes an appearance at Davos to defend economic globalisation while subtly castigating the US.

How can India transform into a 21st century knowledge economy?

India urgently needs to address three areas – employment, education and health. With nearly one million people being added to the workforce every month, we must address the economic growth levers to generate adequate employment. These levers are to enable small and medium enterprises to have unfettered growth so that they can get bigger and become competitive globally. Our education system across primary, higher and skills training needs to be made accountable for creating a workforce that is aligned with today’s economy. Lastly, our public health outcomes need to improve by building a strong national public health service.

What are the economic lessons India can learn from other countries for projects like smart cities? 

India is urbanising rapidly. According to McKinsey, by 2030 we will have nearly 590 million people in urban areas, up from the current 390 million. We need to look at cities and countries that have gone through this process and are experimenting with new ideas. Tokyo is the largest city in the world and is probably one of the cleanest and most livable areas despite being densely populated. Singapore, while a fraction of Tokyo’s population, has used technology really well. Both provide excellent models to study and see how we can provide smart cities. India’s bigger challenge will be to manage our growth in a sustainable way.

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