Monthly Archives: January 2012

Havana may be a looking-glass kind of place. Still, occasionally its
topsy-turvey view of the world can force you back to first principles.

Take the eurozone crisis. One country, Germany, wants to assume the role of budget overlord in the economic area. Member states will also be subject to strict economic criteria set from an unelected central authority – in this case Brussels. Read more

It might have gone largely unnoticed. But there was a sting in the opening remarks made by Jia Qinglin to African heads of state at their annual summit.

The sting was aimed in Europe’s direction. Mr Jia, the fourth-ranking member of China’s ruling communist party, made much of Africa’s rich history and culture and of China’s long and brotherly relationship with the continent in his speech at the brand new $200m-headquarters Beijing had gifted to the African Union. Africa was the cradle of mankind, he reminded the audience. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

If nothing else, Newt Gingrich’s campaign for the US presidency has contributed an excellent new phrase to the language. His coinage – “pious baloney” – kept popping into my head in Davos last week, every time I saw the World Economic Forum’s ubiquitous slogan: “Committed to improving the state of the world”.

Will EU leaders make strides towards recovery?(Photo AP)

Welcome back to the FT’s rolling coverage of the eurozone crisis. By John Aglionby and Tom Burgis in London and Anjli Raval in New York, with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

Today’s main event is the European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels, where growth and Greece’s debt are expected to top the agenda. We expect more movement towards a fiscal discipline pact, too.

Also today Portuguese bond yields have soared, an Italian bond sale went satisfactorily and widening eurozone spreads over German debt suggest unease is setting in anew.

00.22 Talks ground to a halt in Brussels as European leaders left for the night without reaching an agreement on how to plug Greece’s widening budget deficit. While the bargaining with Greece over a debt writedown and its economic management will continue for yet another day, we are going to close down the blog for the evening. Here is our updated EU summit story on today’s agreed fiscal discipline treaty. Read more


By Esther Bintliff in London, with contributions from FT writers and editors in Davos.

All times GMT.

18.30: That’s all from us for now folks! But you can stay up to date with all the FT’s coverage of the World Economic Forum 2012 at  For now, we’ll leave you with a quick recap of some of today’s top news and views:

  • Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, put it bluntly when she got out her handbag and told a WEF panel: “I’m here with my little bag to collect a bit of money” (see the 11.23 post)
  • At a global economy session, Chris Giles reported that the debate was “more sober than the general mood in Davos of increasing optimism”, with Donald Tsang, chief executive of Hong Kong, saying: “I have never been as scared as now” (see 11.45)
  • Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s first female PM, was studiously vague when asked by Gideon Rachman whether and when her brother Thaksin would be allowed to return to Thailand (see 12.30)
  • In his round-up on Davos 2012, Martin Wolf noted that Mario Draghi has emerged as the hero of the hour (see 13.15), a point confirmed by Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor, in his video interview (15.20)
  • “Doha is dead. Long live the multilateral trading system” – Chris Giles on the message the World Trade Organisation wanted to send from Davos on Saturday (see 17.30)

  Read more



By Esther Bintliff and Claire Jones in London, with contributions from FT writers and editors in Davos.

All times GMT. This post should update automatically every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices.

19.32 NEWS JUST IN. Lifen Zhang, editor-in-chief of FTChinese, writes that World Economic Forum officials are open to moving the date of next year’s event so that it does not clash with Chinese New Year.

The absence of Chinese senior officials – who stayed away from Davos this year due to the forum’s clash with Chinese lunar new year festivities – has been something of an embarrassment for organisers.
Especially this year, when there will be the once-a-decade leadership shuffle in China, it made sense for senior Chinese officials to stay home and celebrate the new year at home, where they can be be seen with the people during the festivities.
Now it appears that the World Economic Forum is open to moving the annual Davos gathering to an earlier date, possibly in mid-January, to ease the way for Chinese leaders to attend.

 Read more

Sarkozy trails in the polls and US Republicans’ search for a candidate continues

France’s Presidential campaign has begun ahead of the first round of voting in April, and Socialist challenger Francois Hollande is leading opinion polls. Paris bureau chief Hugh Carnegy and Europe editor Ben Hall join Shawn Donnan to discuss whether Nicolas Sarkozy could be facing defeat. Across the Atlantic, as Barack Obama set out his stall in the State of the Union address this week, the Republican party’s search for a candidate to oppose him in November grew ever more acrimonious and colourful. Chief US commentator Ed Luce and Washington bureau chief Richard McGregor join the show to discuss the campaign.

Yesterday, I moderated a panel on “The Future of Economics”. The panel included two Nobel laureates in economics – Peter Diamond of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Joe Stiglitz of Columbia. (For pedants, this is the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.) It also had Robert Shiller of Yale and Brian Arthur of the Santa Fe Institute. So it would be fair to say that the panel was packed.

Three of the participants are definitely of the so-called saltwater school of economics (sceptics of the efficiency of markets in all circumstances who live on the US coasts). Professor Arthur is even more heterodox than they: he is interested in the impact of technology and increasing returns. It would have been wonderful, however, also to have had a fully committed member of the “markets are always right unless governments mess them up” freshwater school, associated particularly with the University of Chicago.

It is impossible to summarise all of such a rich discussion. But here are some of the highlights.

 Read more

REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

By Esther Bintliff and Claire Jones in London, with contributions from FT editors and writers in Davos. All times GMT.

18.49 That’s it for today’s live blog.

The eurozone crisis and income inequality remained the key issues on day 2.

What’s in store for delegates this evening?

For those that still have the stamina to tackle the big issues, there’s a panel on what will emerge as the new European identity in the 21stcentury, and another discussion with no fewer than eight Nobel laureates on the state of the world.

For those looking for a little light relief, Paulo Coelho talks on the art of storytelling.

Join us tomorrow from 07.30 for day 3 of Davos.

18.45 The FT’s banking editor Patrick Jenkins spoke to Jamie Dimon, the straight-talking chief executive of JPMorgan, this afternoon. Mr Dimon revealed that the US bank had considered pulling its operations in the eurozone’s more troubled member states. Here are a selection of the best quotes. Read more

An Occupy WEF protestor builds an igloo to protest against against the World Economic Forum (WEF) on January 23, 2012 in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos. Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images


As highlighted in Gillian Tett’s post last night, and Jasmine Whitbread’s post in our rolling blogincome inequality is a big issue demanding the attention of Davos delegates this year, whether they like it or not.

So, we organised a quick email Q&A with David Roth, the spokesman for OccupyWEF, asking him to tell us why he’s protesting this year and what he hopes to achieve. Here’s what he had to say. Do add your comments below. Read more



Welcome to the FT’s rolling coverage of the World Economic Forum. By Esther Bintliff and Claire Jones in London, with contributions from FT editors and writers in Davos.

18.30 That’s it for day 1 of our Davos rolling blog.

The eurozone crisis dominated proceedings, but Merkel’s speech was a bit of a let-down by most accounts, notably Martin Wolf’s (see post at 17.25).

Income inequality was another talking point – see posts at 13.45  and 15.00 and Gillian Tett’s blog here.

This evening delegates can catch a screening of “The Lady” with director Luc Besson, find out their social network status, or share a nightcap with “the princess of Africa”, singer and president of the Princess of Africa Foundation Yvonne Ntombizodwa Chaka Chaka.

Join us again tomorrow at 07.30 when we’ll bring you more trenchant analysis, quotes (both vacuous and profound), and hats from the slopes of Davos.

18.11 A tip from the FT’s banking editor Patrick Jenkins: if you’re going to Davos never book a hotel in Klosters. Read more

By Gillian Tett

When the World Economic Forum published its annual risk assessment report earlier this month, it featured a fascinating detail: for the first time ever, the issue of “income disparity” featured on the list of risks that WEF members expected to see this year.

More startling, this risk actually topped the list, beating out issues such as financial collapse, fiscal crisis or environmental issues. Welcome to a theme that I expect to crop up repeatedly in debate this week in Davos.

As the annual WEF meeting gets underway, the Occupy Wall Street movement has not yet stormed any cocktail parties (although I am told that protesters have built an igloo). But the issue of social and political protest is creeping into debate, even amid the canapés and wine. Read more

Workers clean the stage of the main Congress Hall in Davos on Tuesday. Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Workers clean the stage of the main Congress Hall in Davos on Tuesday. Photo: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

The World Economic Forum kicks off on Wednesday, and the FT will be running a rolling blog to bring you the latest news and views from the Alpine resort-turned-world’s-biggest-talking-shop.

Among the attendees will be some of the world’s most powerful, most wealthy, and most learned men and women. Yet their collective profile could hardly be at a lower ebb. If Davos Man walked, his pinstripe suit would surely be tattered, his bowler hat squashed, his nose a little bloodied. Read more

A year ago, Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address contained a laboured gag about salmon being regulated by a different US government agency when they were in the sea to when they swam into fresh water. This bureaucratic horror story was related to plug the idea of reorganising the agencies that regulate and promote trade. When that proposal finally saw the light of day this month, it managed a rare bipartisan achievement of uniting Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill in oppositionRead more

By Gideon Rachman

At last, the US presidential election is getting unserious. For months, the media have glumly reported the steady procession of the deadly dull Mitt Romney to the Republican nomination.

The Arab League seems to have had a testosterone rush. This was an organisation that used to be a byword for caution and hypocrisy. It was good for a stern statement on Israel, and little else. Yet, suddenly, here we have the League calling for regime change in Syria, followed by a peaceful transition to democracy. It is also taking its demands to the UN Security Council. So what is going on? Read more

Mitt Romney had a bad day yesterday. A slew of new polls in South Carolina which votes on Saturday, show that Romney has fallen behind Newt Gingrich. If Romney wins the first test in the South, the nomination would effectively be his. But if he loses, the race is still on. Then it was announced that a re-count shows that Romney actually came second in the Iowa caucus to Rick Santorum – damaging the notion that he is sweeping all before him. On Thursday, too, Rick Perry dropped out of the race – which means that the conservative vote will now only be split two ways, between Santorum and Gingrich. Finally, the day ended with a television debate in South Carolina. And that didn’t go too well for Romney either. Read more

Tensions rise between Iran and the west and Nigeria tries to end a costly fuel subsidy

James Blitz, diplomatic editor, Javier Blas, commodities editor, and Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, join Shawn Donnan to discuss the growing tensions between Iran and the west as the EU prepares an oil embargo. Read more

In his third video on the US 2012 presidential election campaign, FT columnist Edward Luce comments on the Republican nomination race from South Carolina, the next primary state. He says the conservative candidates, above all Newt Gingrich, are scrambling to prevent favourite Mitt Romney from clinching victory.

William Hague travels this week to Brazil; the UK foreign secretary wants to curry favour and, more importantly, greater trade with Latin America’s rising powers. “Britain is coming back,” he says. “We are turning around decades of British withdrawal in Latin America.”

What a shame, then, that next door in Argentina much of British diplomacy has literally slipped back into the semaphore age – at least when it comes to the Falklands/Malvinas issue. Read more