No one has perfected the veiled threat as well as Larry Summers, President Obama’s chief economic adviser. It was on fine display at the World Economic Forum on Saturday.
He was speaking on the main economy panel with Zhu Min, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, so it was a great cast list. Mr Zhu’s contribution was to say how he recognised China couldn’t rely on the US consumer for growth in the future, understood there was excess capacity in certain Chinese heavy industries and vowed policy was to make structural changes so that demand would re-balance away from exports and towards consumption.
That is all very well and such cooperative noised certainly please the Davos crowd, but four years ago, his boss made almost the identical contribution to the same panel debate, pledging to slow China’s reserve accumulation and shift demand towards domestic consumption. When asked why anyone should trust Mr Zhu’s words today when there is no evidence of a serious shift from four years ago, he made a half-promise: “It’s a long process … you will see progress day-by-day, year-by-year”. My bet is that the first half of his sentence turns out to be true. Read more
Davos women are gathered to listen to the likes of Arianna Huffington and the impressive Indonesian trade minister, Mari Pangestu, and to network amongst other women. Seemingly stuck at just 15 per cent of participants, the ‘tribe’ (as its referred to by Harvard prof Rosabeth Kanter)looks quite different all gathered together vs as a light sprinkling. As I’m sitting down and slightly wondering what I need to be doing here for children, most of the women at the table tell me they happen to be Save the Children supporters – it’s great to be able to say thank you.
The Google party is even cooler this year with wetsuit, snorkel-clad waiters serving sushi, and coloured pure oxygen tanks for those in need of a blast. Media moguls, politicos, all the young global leaders and even some royalty hit the dance floor. Read more
The BBC’s Politics Show presenter Jon Sopel is moderating a discussion on cross-sector partnerships. I’m on the panel with Accenture and IKEA. Amazingly it’s a decent turnout at 7am (after a late night for most compounded with jet lag for many). Are NGOs and businesses converging? What will partnerships look like in another decade? Classic Davos fringe meeting. Encouraging levels of enthusiasm and a few new partnership ideas emerge.
I’m catching quick meetings with CEOs I’d struggle to get time with normally. So I miss what I hear was a great session on global talent mobility – a big issue for Save the Children. Read more
Here are further glimpses of the Davos kaleidoscope.
First, my friend Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy, gave me a new acronym on the global recovery. It is LUV. The L is for the L-shaped recovery of the European economies. The U is for the U-shaped recovery of the US economy. The V is for the shape of the recovery of big emerging economies. Read more
Although the conference dribbles on until Sunday morning, by Friday evening the tone has been set. So what is the verdict?
The mood is certainly better than last year, when the world was ending, but it is worse than at the beginning of last week. Alessandro Profumo of Unicredit acutely observed that Davos is likely to accentuate whatever mood you arrived in, rather as alcohol does, I guess. So those who arrived nervous about the economic prospects are leaving even more jittery. If you arrived feeling pessimistic, you will leave somewhere between suicidal and homicidal.
The market background has not helped. Anxiety about Greece has grown over the past three days. In the circumstances, it was strange to see both the Greek prime minister and his finance minister here. Maybe the subtext was to show that there can be no crisis if they are munching muesli in the mountains, but though some may have been reassured, more people asked who was at home minding the taverna. Read more
On Friday I talked at the World Economic Forum about how I see the next 10 years as the Decade of Vaccines – a time when we will make more progress than ever on immunisations that save lives in the developing world.
The Decade of Vaccines will build on the phenomenal progress of the past 10 years. Since its creation in 2000, the GAVI Alliance has helped immunise more than 250m children in poor countries, averting 5m deaths and preventing a great deal of sickness and suffering. (You can read more about GAVI’s work in my 2010 Annual Letter, which was released this week.) Read more
By Chris Giles, the FT’s economics editor
I had an ulterior motive last night when I went to a dinner on Shakespeare and the crisis. I thought the session, led by Carol and Ken Adelman, founders of Movers and Shakespeares, would be ripe for ridicule and typical of some of the enjoyable nonsense of Davos. Their website, after all, does talk guff about teaching ”critical business skills through Shakespeare’s greatest works”. Read more
By Chris Giles, the FT’s economics editor
In a recent speech, Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England railed against the inconsistencies of national recovery strategies, saying that, “a present there is no political mechanism for achieving that consistency”. Read more