By Dr. Fady Gemayel
President of the Arab Federation for Paper,Printing and Packaging Industries
President of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists
ILO address Geneva June 12th, 2019
We are gathered to celebrate ILO's 100th anniversary amidst unprecedented changes in all fields: Political, Economical, Technological, Geographical, Social, and Environmental. The last two decades have brought more fundamental changes than seen during many centuries combined.
Today I will not address the issue of the challenges facing our world as a result of the technological surprises be it the internet of things, the fourth Industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, Nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence.
These developments lead to unprecedented challenges on job requirements, and probably the existence of these jobs in the first place. Who will we provide enough jobs for our youth? what are the new job possibilities arising from this revolution?
I will not address neither the challenges of our Middle East region where despite all the wealth we are blessed with, we are facing a young demographic society with extremely high unemployment. It is well known that economic conditions are blamed as a main cause for the social unrests which marked the Arab Spring. Furthermore, I cannot but remind you of our major concerns in Lebanon, particularly with the consequences of the presence of more than 40% of our population whom we have welcomed on a humanitarian basis, for a temporary period which is now extending. Currently it is causing unbearable consequences on our economy, on our society ; the Syrian displaced issue is threatening indeed the future of our generations.
Furthermore I would like to salute the D.G for asking for a just solution to the Palestinian people.
Allow me to address you, on this centennial celebration on a universal issue: Confronting constant changes with confirmed and stable values. Indeed, we are moving in a world of uncertainties at all levels, with unknown consequences.
I am concerned with two main issues: The culture of Work and Entrepreneurship, and the code of Ethics in organizations. On one hand the spirit of Entrepreneurship is challenged. We are giving our youth false examples of the way to riches in many fields. The turmoil of the last financial crisis led many to question the merits of the free market economy. Many, mixed the greed of some financial operators , and some oligopolistic practices with the basic premises of Adam Smith for a market economy where the multitude of firms maintains its progress. Big business practices are not better than Big government abuses. Excessive financilization of the economy is not a substitute for real growth in the real productive sectors.
On another hand the culture of work or that of hard work is not in today’s youth vocabulary. Furthermore, the work framework is changing. For a long time, one would allocate most of his week for work and some
for leisure; nowadays one allocates more time to leisure and some to work. Furthermore, and at the same time , thousands of young people in other parts of the world seek basic jobs which are not there! A world of blazes, living side by side, with another one where basic needs are short. For an Economist with solidly rooted beliefs in the liberal economic model, this phenomenon jeopardizes the stability of our liberal Economics. On one part we are witnessing a never-ending obsession with the export of goods which is accompanied by a reverse flood of immigrants. Can we reformulate our economic model to focus more on the quality of life rather than the quantities of goods we export, and develop the demand in the poor countries themselves by offering job opportunities locally thru investments. As a liberal economist I see no other way for us to maintain the features of our liberal systems, and avoid the appeals to the Systems which were negated by reality, and by history.
More than the technical challenges, they are threatening the stability of our socio-economic system. I urge you as we celebrate ILO’s first 100 years, with many achievements, to start addressing these challenges on a priority basis.
The Harvard Business Review in its latest issue was highlighting the scandals and cheating at Volkswagen and Wells Fargo, two institutions which are decades old each. It shows the recent managers unethical behavior, driven by greed, and how it threatened these venerable institutions’ own survival.
Therefore, I call upon the ILO members to adopt a universal code of Ethics, rebuild our work values, and reinvigorate the spirit of the true entrepreneurship.
Yes as responsible employers, well rooted in our beliefs in the free market economic model, and with our social partners, we want our liberal system to celebrate the next one hundred years in 2119!