God it must be fun being Nourieil Roubini. Once dismissed as a bit of a crackpot by the Davos elite, Dr Doom is now the star of the show – billed as “the man who got it right”. At dinners, seminars and parties, everybody now wants to hear from the great Roubini. What is going to happen next? Nothing very good, apparently - he thinks the US banking system is basically insolvent, and the same goes for Europe.
Three hundred powerful Davos executives standing up with their arms outstretched, singing Happy Birthday at the top of their voices to a complete stranger balancing precariously on a chair at the front?That’s what happens when you attend a session led by the conductor and management guru Benjamin Zander. That’s what happens when you mix the arts and business and that is typical of the mixing that goes on here at Davos.
I started my day in Davos with Richard Edelman of the eponymous public relations company at a breakfast to launch its annual trust barometer report.
The conclusion is that trust in chief executives and private enterprise is at an all-time low. Trust in US business fell from 58 per cent last year to 38 per cent, bringing it in line with levels similar to the other side of the Atlantic.
The statistic I found most interesting is that only 49 per cent of Americans, living in the country of capitalism and free enterprise, thought the free market should be allowed to operate independently.
Returning to Davos this year has a “back to school” feel about it. Last year I was a just a new boy but already I feel like a veteran amongst this year’s newbies with whom I shared the short flight from London and the long coach ride from Zurich up into the mountains of Davos and Kloisters.
I dispensed sage advice to the usual eclectic mix of Davos attendees; the Oxford academic Director of a cutting edge research institute, the charming Chatham House diplomat, the Dutch developing country agriculture specialist who had just flown in from Delhi via Beijing.
No prizes for guessing what is worrying the 2,500-odd delegates due to arrive in Davos this week (albeit probably not too visibly in their corporate jets this year). Within minutes of the World Economic Forum permitting delegates to sign up for events at the meeting, which starts on Wednesday, some sessions were hugely oversubscribed.
A worthy debate on how corporations can affirm the “community” (featuring Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase) was not one of these; yesterday that still had plenty of space.