Eve-of-Davos survey shows people place trust in companies over governments

A person passes by a World Economic Forum logo in Davos, Switzerland, January 20, 2019. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)
Updated 21 January 2019

Eve-of-Davos survey shows people place trust in companies over governments

  • Only one in five people believe the economic, political and social system is working for them
  • Nearly 60 percent think trade conflicts are hurting their companies and putting their jobs at risk

DAVOS, Switzerland: People around the world place much more trust in their companies than their political leaders, according to a major survey that suggests a mood of uncertainty and pessimism on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The annual Edelman Trust Barometer shows only one in five people believe the economic, political and social system is working for them, while nearly 60 percent think trade conflicts are hurting their companies and putting their jobs at risk.
The sense of gloom is strongest in developed markets led by Japan, where 84 percent of the general public — excluding the ‘informed public’ who are college-educated, earn above-average incomes and consume news regularly — do not believe they will be better off in five years’ time, followed by France at 79 percent, Germany at 74 percent and Britain at 72 percent. That is far above the average 49 percent of the 27 countries examined in the research.
Amid low confidence that politicians will fix the problems, these people are turning to companies, with 75 percent saying they trust “my employer,” compared to 48 percent for government and 47 percent for the media.
“CEOs now have to be visible, show personal commitment, absolutely step into the void, because we’ve got a leadership void in the world,” Richard Edelman, head of the communications marketing firm that commissioned the research, told Reuters.
Optimism was higher in the United States, where nearly half of the general public believed they would be better off in the next five years. The corresponding figure there was 62 percent for the better-educated, higher-earning “informed public.”
“The stock market was very good, the deregulation and lower taxes for the wealthy — it’s pretty good if you are an elite,” Edelman said of the US findings.
The survey, based on the opinions of over 33,000 people and conducted between Oct. 19 and Nov. 16, is published on the eve of the Davos gathering in the Swiss Alps, which this year brings together some 3,000 business and world leaders amid anxiety over the US-China trade war, Brexit and a slowdown in global growth.
“Violation of trust“
The pessimism in Japan, France, Germany and Britain reflects a variety of factors.
“I think Japan’s never really recovered from Fukushima, there was such a violation of trust when that happened,” said Edelman, referring to the authorities’ botched response to a massive nuclear accident in 2011.
Signs of slowing global demand and a sharp rise in the yen have clouded the outlook for Japan’s export-reliant economy, and the government plans tax hikes to pay for ballooning health care costs for its rapidly aging population.
“The problem for the three (European) countries.... is that given the reality of the potentially diminished economic future, there is deep anger in advance,” Edelman said.
In France, what started as a grassroots rebellion by low-paid workers to protest taxes on diesel fuel and a squeeze on household incomes has morphed into an assault on President Emmanuel Macron and his reforms, seen by the protesters as favoring the wealthy.
And in Britain, the Brexit crisis intensified last week after Prime Minister Theresa May’s two-year attempt to forge an amicable divorce from the European Union was crushed by parliament in the biggest defeat for a British leader in modern history.
The survey found that while only 49 percent of the wider population trusted institutions such as governments, this figure rose to 65 percent among high-income, college-educated and well-informed people — the biggest gap since the research began 19 years ago.
Despite widespread distrust of the media, uncertainty about the future has led to a sharp jump in people’s consumption and sharing of news and information, up 22 percentage points in a year to 72 percent.
But more than 70 percent said they worry about false information or fake news being used as a weapon.
In the United States, where President Donald Trump has repeatedly denounced the media as purveyors of fake news, trust in media varied widely depending on political affiliations.
Those who identified themselves as Republican voters showed only 33 percent trust in media, while 69 percent of Democrats did so.


Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

Updated 11 min 41 sec ago

Russian court sentences 11 for Saint Petersburg bombing

  • All 10 people had denied the charges, and said they were tortured
  • The defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents

SAINT PETERSBURG: A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced 11 people to terms including life in prison after finding them guilty of a deadly bomb attack on the Saint Petersburg metro in 2017.
Abror Azimov, a 29-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, was sentenced by a military court in Russia’s second biggest city to life in prison for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.
Ten other people who are also from Central Asia were sentenced to between 19 and 28 years in prison.
All had denied the charges, and said they were tortured.
Shokhista Karimova, 48, pounded the glass of the courtroom cage and cried “let me go” after she was handed a 20-year term.
The bomb blast in April 2017 killed 15 people in the Saint Petersburg metro and wounded dozens more.
The alleged perpetrator, Akbarjon Djalilov, a 22-year-old from Kyrgyzstan, died in the attack.
Ten of the defendants were accused of acting as accomplices, notably by providing Djalilov with explosives and false documents.
The charges ranged from organizing a terrorist group and perpetrating an “act of terror” to weapons trafficking and making explosive devices.
Critics of the case say the defendants’ connection to the attack was not proven and some claimed they were framed by Russia’s FSB security service.
The suspects had been arrested in different Russian cities and detained in Moscow before being transferred to Saint Petersburg for the trial.
The prosecution said the defendants formed two “terrorist cells” in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and helped Djalilov by wiring him money and providing the explosives.
Defense lawyers and prison monitors have pointed to numerous irregularities in the case however and claim that evidence was planted.
One defendant claimed he was kidnapped from a hospital in Kyrgyzstan, while another said last month that they had been framed by the FSB after it “missed the terrorist.”
The bombing was claimed by an obscure group, the Imam Shamil Battalion, which experts say is linked to Al-Qaeda.