NOBEL Laureate Muhammad Yunus, alone among all participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, has spoken of the need for a safety net for the world's poor. His remarks, made against the backdrop of the on-going global recession, drive the point home that for all the bailouts that governments have been planning for global corporate business not much can be expected if the plight of the poor is ignored. We are of the opinion that by focusing on the issue, Yunus has in his own way drawn necessary attention to a crisis that just might be up ahead for the poor nations of the world. It should now be for the more prosperous, though gravely afflicted affluent societies, to refocus on the issue. With former US president Bill Clinton endorsing Yunus' suggestions, the shaping of a concerted approach here ought not to be a problem.
Indeed, the worldwide recession has revealed a number of factors that one did not quite anticipate in the last twenty years. The collapse of companies and financial institutions nearly everywhere has not only meant a loss of jobs but, more worryingly, has exposed their basic institutional weaknesses. Which is a good reason why at Davos this year, the corporate sector was conspicuously absent. For a change, the usually dominant, sometimes domineering, attitude the business sector adopted at the annual WEF year after year was absent. Instead, it was government leaders from Europe and elsewhere who were in charge. That did not much help matters, though, since the Davos conference failed to emerge with anything resembling hope for the world. The rich nations did not speak for the poor. Yunus did, to his credit. One will be forgiven for thinking that Davos this year was a meeting of desperate minds which eventually were left looking for ideas that were not there.
With the old razzmatazz of Davos now having dwindled to pale light, Dr. Yunus' emphasis on relief for the poor is a call of conscience that cannot be trivialised. Where Bangladesh is concerned, the bailout package idea for the poor that Yunus has suggested should now be picked up by our diplomatic establishment as a strategy. On its own and in association with other nations, Bangladesh can focus on the fallout of the recession on poorer societies and on how best the world's rich nations (their lifestyles will not change, as Yunus has pointedly noted) can contribute to the effort to keep them going. In this connection, Dhaka will need to bring a fresh perspective into its dealings with donor nations and organisations and vice versa in order to arrive at a respectable, acceptable solution to the problems of poverty lurking all around.