THE newly-knighted Digby Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industries, is in fighting form at the moment.
Two weeks ago he described the unveiling of the European Airbus A380 as a red letter day for UK manufacturing and asserted that, but for the Brits, the world's biggest passenger aircraft would have the airborne potential of a penguin. Just the kind of comment to oil the wheels of European industrial cooperation. Over the past weekend he was on another tack, complaining that the World Economic Forum at Davos had been highjacked by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who wanted business to apologise for itself. Business, said Sir Digby,is the only route to cleaner water, better health, better education and better roads. But, he asked, Have I heard that at Davos? Have I hell. We have heard how we are greedy, and how we pollute, and how we have to help Africa. But a celebration of business? No. Since it was Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Shroder who seemed to want to talk about clean water and pollution and Africa, it seems that Sir Digby's criticism of the NGOs is misdirected. And, in any case, the annual get-together at Davos is intended to be an informal exchange of views among top politicians, businessmen and opinion formers. Its letterhead says it is Committed to Improving the State of the World. The presence of NGOs helps to keep the Davos discussions in touch with reality. During a televised CNN debate on the future of the Middle East it was left to the executive director of Amnesty International to ask the six rather complacent men on the platform what role women should be playing in the development of Muslim countries.
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