World Economic Forum President Borge Brende was in New Delhi recently. Brende, who is the former foreign minister of Norway, spoke extensively with WION's Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal on a host of issues from #MeToo, to global economic growth, to India's reform process.
Sidhant Sibal: What brings you here? Borge Brende: We are formally marking the opening of the centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution. It's a cooperation between WEF and important businesses. It's a follow up of PM Modi's speech at Davos that India will leapfrog and will be on top of 4th Industrial Revolution. It is a great collaboration.
SS: How do you see India's reform process? BB: Indian economy is doing well. But one can't be complacent. India is the sixth-largest economy and seeing the fastest economic growth of any of the leading economies. Eight per cent growth expected this year is an achievement. To keep that kind of growth in a difficult environment where we are seeing a lot of risk factors — overheating, inflationary pressure — India needs to keep reform going.
SS: And ease of doing business has improved in the country... BB: That is positive and I hope this will continue. There should be Investment in education and infrastructure moving forward and make sure India is leading in new technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence and drones.
SS: The focus of your visit is the 4th Industrial Revolution. What are its basic pillars? BB: 4th Industrial Revolution is really technologies being introduced that are changing things at an unprecedented pace. Artificial intelligence is one piece of it. We have 3D printing, block chains, precision medicine, autonomous vehicles and if you're not on top of it, you are going to lose out to international competition. For India which has a young population, these are great opportunities provided you have necessary skills in mathematics, and also in computer science.
SS: India has programmes like Digital India or payment platforms like BHIM. What would you say about them? BB: These reforms are critical. They are not sufficient because in the 4th Industrial Revolution we will need skills and world-class education. It is very important to make sure that the young population has access to quality education based on that you can make sure you have right abilities to capitalise of opportunities. 1.3 billion people can have positive outcomes of these technologies.
SS: Trade war has broken out. There is political protectionism. How will it impact global growth? BB: The world economy is looking strong. 3.8% economic growth this year and also next year but you are right, there are risk factors that need to be addressed. Trade is one of them. Trade has changed a lot in the last decade. If you say this is made in India due to the global value chain, maybe 50% is produced somewhere else. It's put together in India. So trade barriers and tariffs can also hurt existing industries in countries that are introducing these barriers. In a globalised world, all are in the same boat and we have to act accordingly. Currently, we are not seeing this. There are opportunities to solve this. There were big challenges on NAFTA — between US, Mexico and Canada. They agreed on a new trade deal, hope this spirit will reach other trade negotiations.
SS: What is your take on the #MeToo movement? It is gathering pace in India... BB: Gender and rights of women are very important. What we have seen at WEF and also via reports, companies that take gender issues and sustainable issues very seriously, recruit smarter people and best people. These companies move from capitalism to talentism. These companies are more profitable. They recruit better talent. Young people want to work in progressive companies.