World Economic Forum 2019 - Annual Meeting

January 25, 2019: Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, HCC participated in the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Annual Meeting held between 22-25 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The theme for this event was “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

As a member of Steering Committee, Mr. Gulabchand participated in Governors Meeting for Infrastructure and Urban Development (IU) to discuss major challenges, opportunities and to identify ways in which governments, regulators and other stakeholders may work with the private sector to bring about the positive systemic transformation.

Poor planning and execution, unbalanced contract terms and conditions, a highly fragmented supply chain, inadequate controls, and lack of proper risk management are prevalent in the industry, especially in developing economies. Short-term thinking too often governs today’s world. The System Initiative on Long-term Investing, Infrastructure and Development is dedicated to change this. The System Initiative aims to close a global $1 trillion annual infrastructure financing shortfall, help companies and their investors adopt a longer-term outlook, scale impact investing strategies that combine financial and social returns and improve the efficiency of long-term social contracts such as retirement systems. Together, these initiatives can contribute to a more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world.

Mr. Gulabchand also participated in the IU Policy Meeting during which the IU Governors, Government Representatives, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), and Civil Society discussed ways to accelerate public infrastructure delivery, mitigate risks, build trust among stakeholders, which are key to establish successful Public-Private Partnerships in infrastructure. The participants deliberated on an action plan that increases the pipeline of bankable infrastructure projects globally by improving collaboration between the private sector, MDBs and governments.

Key takeaways of the meeting:

  • Given the increased complexity of the geopolitical landscape, there was a discussion around the need for companies to develop a strategy that considers a corporate foreign policy.  
  • Infrastructure development requires political and economic predictability. Recent examples in the western world, like Brexit, highlight the increasing unpredictably of developed countries.
  • There is a lack of strategic, long-term planning in infrastructure, partially because of the lack of capacity and technical skills in the public sector. Until this is corrected, the universe of bankable projects is likely to remain limited.
  • Many IU technology solutions are already available. The current challenge is their adoption. Key obstacles in implementing innovation in infrastructure stems from lack of change management, standardization and training. There is also a lack of narrative around the positive effects of technology in productivity and efficiency.

Next steps

  • Continue to use the Forum’s platform to progress the dialogue with the public sector to address pressing industry issues such as strategic long-term planning, risk allocation and capacity building.
  • Identify key impediments to technology adoption and curate a dialogue with all stakeholders to improve innovation and productivity in the sector.