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CII’s annual economic policy forum sets the stage for economic transformation and global collaboration

From India’s pioneering strides in digital transformation, gender parity, and climate action to the transformative issues of telemigration and AI, the CII Global Economic Policy Forum 2023 in New Delhi unveiled a wealth of insights.
December 2023

The 19th annual CII Global Economic Policy Forum 2023, a platform for insightful discussions and collaborative efforts to address key global economic challenges, has brought together eight of the brightest global thought leaders, government and industry experts, academia, and IMD faculty for a frank dialogue on the most pressing economic issues facing India – and the world – today. 

Telemigration, an emerging paradigm where individuals work in offices located in different nations, was highlighted as a transformative force. Participants expected the future to include services leading global trade, and an overall shift from industry to services. The potential of simultaneous speech translation (SST), enabling instant language conversion, was also discussed.  

Experts urged for immediate sustainability measures and warned of looming challenges while providing a compass for navigating a sustainable future. Their collective efforts led to impactful dialogues aimed at generating sustainable solutions and emphasized the scarcity of national strategies with a spotlight on global competitiveness.  

Addressing the climate emergency, the forum, aimed at enriching economic policy debates, acknowledged the urgency and emphasized tangible action over mere discussion. 

Strategies for sustainable growth and global cooperation

In the aftermath of global COVID challenges, economic growth’s uneven recovery means the imperative for global cooperation has taken center stage. The digital transformation theme delved into the profound impact of the digital era on society, policy, labor, and trade.  

“As we witness the uneven recovery worldwide, we recognize the imperative of fostering growth to sustain the livelihoods of billions, particularly in developing countries. The pandemic has underscored the essential need for international cooperation to uplift lives on a global scale,” said Sanjiv Bajaj, former President of CII and Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Finserv.  

The pandemic’s economic impact has disproportionately affected those with limited resources and fragile infrastructures. Millions have faced setbacks in employment, businesses have shuttered, and the ability to meet basic needs has become an arduous challenge for many. 

Fostering inclusive growth that lifts entire communities out of the current socio-economic quagmire is not merely an economic necessity; it is a moral and humanitarian obligation. There is a need for a unified, collaborative response to post-pandemic challenges which includes sharing resources, knowledge, and technology on a global scale. Whether it’s ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines, sharing best practices in public health, or coordinating economic recovery efforts, international cooperation is the linchpin for uplifting lives worldwide. 

Geopolitical dynamics and economic complexity

Geopolitical tensions, climate emergencies, supply chain disruptions, and social inequity are just a few of the global challenges that influence economies in this current shift toward de-globalization. 

“It’s important to explore prosperity through a unique lens, evaluating paths based on knowledge capacity rather than traditional factors. In a world facing diverse challenges, this shift in perspective offers a timely and valuable opportunity to navigate the complexities, ensuring inclusive progress and prosperity for all,” said Sanjiv Puri, President Designate of CII and Chairman and Managing Director of ITC Limited. 

This perspective not only prompts a reassessment of traditional factors like land and labor, but also presents an opportunity to identify innovative growth vectors. Amid economic downturns and fears of recession, leveraging economic complexity becomes a strategic imperative. 

The service-led development revolution

The pivotal transition from manufacturing to services is a catalyst for change. Both telemigration and SST will help build a future where services assume leadership in global trade. This service-led development revolution, exemplified by Bangalore’s success, calls for a strategic focus on industry-to-services transformation.  

The emerging narrative emphasizes innovation, with cities, services, and training as growth drivers, advocating for a services export-led strategy in lieu of the traditional stages of industrialization.  

“The call to embrace a services export-led strategy is a strategic imperative, unlocking the full potential of emerging markets and paving the way for sustainable growth,” says Karl Schmedders, Professor of Finance at IMD.  

Mitigating climate change with global collaboration

The dialogue on climate change urges nations to transcend blame and collaborate proactively. It confronts the presence of climate change deniers in influential roles, stressing the imperative for governments and businesses to align incentives, fostering green initiatives with a sense of urgency and shared commitment to a sustainable future. 

“Addressing climate change requires a commitment to collective responsibility, transcending geopolitical boundaries and fostering global collaboration,” says Richard Baldwin, Professor of Global Economics and Trade at IMD.  

AI’s transformative role in the global economy

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a critical role in the global economy; its unique attributes distinguish it from the digital economy. 

“AI is not just technology; it’s ‘Alien Technology,’ fundamentally distinct from the digital economy,” said Mikołaj Jan Piskorski, Professor of Digital Strategy, Analytics and Innovation at IMD and Dean of IMD Asia and Oceania. 

“AI goes beyond traditional computing approaches by enabling machines to learn, adapt, and perform tasks without explicit programming,” he explained. “Unlike conventional technologies that follow predefined instructions, AI systems have the capacity to evolve and improve over time, simulating aspects of human intelligence.” 

Rather than being confined to predetermined algorithms, AI systems can analyze vast datasets, identify patterns, and make decisions in ways that were once the exclusive domain of human cognition. This ability to learn from experience and operate independently introduces an element of unpredictability, challenging traditional notions of control and predictability associated with technology. 

Moreover, AI has the potential to redefine entire industries, disrupt traditional business models, and reshape the workforce. Its impact extends beyond automation to the creation of novel solutions and approaches, fostering innovation in ways that were previously unimaginable. 

The imperative for nations, including India, is to swiftly embrace comprehensive digital strategies to harness the transformative power of AI.  

Innovation and the future of communication

A call to empower India’s vibrant private sector as a job creator stresses the significance of robust digital infrastructure. While challenges persist, India’s competitive journey is a noteworthy example on the global stage that is lacking in national strategies.  

There is an emphasis on the evolving trade and development landscape, as well as India’s view of services as a development catalyst and the transformative concept of telemigration. 

“This paradigm shift, influenced by international wage variations and accelerated by digital technology, signals a future shaped by Simultaneous Speech Translation,” said Arturo Bris, Professor of Finance at IMD and Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center. 

“The convergence of international wage dynamics and digital advancements, especially in the realm of SST, makes the global workforce more interconnected than ever before. This shift is not just a response to economic considerations; it reflects our collective journey toward a more inclusive, collaborative, and borderless professional landscape.” This evolution foresees a future where SST emerges as a pivotal force. The impact of disparate global wage structures, coupled with the rapid advancements in digital technology, propels a significant transformation and suggests a world where real-time language translation becomes a driving factor, breaking down linguistic barriers.  

This shift will facilitate smoother communication and foster international collaboration and understanding across diverse linguistic contexts. 

With a wide variety of expert voices onstage at the CII Global Economic Policy Forum 2023, the event provided a much-needed holistic perspective on today’s most pressing economic issues. Celebrating India’s unique development paths, it brought many of the country’s success stories to light – a welcome example for nations struggling with the complex challenges of navigating the post-pandemic period.