I had hoped that my 25th trip to Davos would be marked by the award of a silver fondu set, at the very least. No such luck. The only prize is to be asked yet again to work on “reshaping the world”, this year’s theme.
That degree of repeat offending suggests either an astonishing inability to learn from experience, or some residual belief that the exercise is indeed worthwhile. Whether the state of the world has been improved over the 44 years the World Economic Forum has existed is a moot point: it depends on the hand you have been dealt. Chinese princelings, whether on the strength at JP Morgan or not, would no doubt tick the box; Syrian refugees, whose plight is firmly on this year’s agenda, would beg to differ. Read more
There are many party games to play at Davos. Some work better than others. The fashion now, perhaps driven by the success of TED conferences, is for strictly time-limited interventions, as short as possible. One economic historian was asked to summarise the development of the global monetary system over the last 150 years, and forecast the future of the dollar, the renminbi and the euro out to 2030 – all in three minutes. Actually he made a more than decent stab at it, but others, who may well have something interesting to say, have barely cleared their throats before the bar comes down.
One innovation in the last few years which does work well is the so-called Ideaslab. I approached this with trepidation when asked to lead one a couple of years ago. Again, each presentation must be three minutes, no more, no less, and is accompanied by a slideshow of related images – not charts and graphs – which the speaker cannot control in any way. It’s a Swiss version of the BBC radio panel game “Just a Minute”: no hesitation, deviation or repetition allowed. Read more
I arrived in VIP-full Davos with one prediction in mind: 2014 will be the year the world returns to normality or at least the semblance of normality with the tapered exit from quantitative easing.
After three days at high altitude, the prediction is intact and I have five other takeaways. Read more
At a debate in Davos Joseph Nye, the American political scientist, asked the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, what he felt about the comments of the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Sino-Japanese relations earlier in the week and especially the parallel Mr Abe drew between the pre-world war one relationships in Europe and those between China and Japan today.
These were Mr Yang’s key points in reply: Read more
One of the World Economic Forum annual meeting’s core themes this week has been climate change, something those of us arriving in Switzerland from Australia have certainly experienced. Here in Davos you’re lucky to get out of single figures during the day, and night-time temperatures plummet below freezing. Last week, Cost Centre #2, who is staying on in Australia for part of his gap year, posted a picture on Facebook with the caption, “I am not built for 46C.”
Nor am I, so planning my wardrobe was especially difficult. I made sure to change planes in London, specifically to collect my fur coat and walking boots, but what else to wear? My guidance to other female delegates has always been to pack that staple of every working woman’s wardrobe: the black trouser suit. And especially if you are going to be on a platform during one of the debates.
There may be clouds over emerging markets and plenty of blue-sky talk coming out of the World Economic Forum in Davos. But just check how clear the airspace above the Swiss town looks as delegates break for lunch.
Mykola Azarov (c) Getty Images
How humiliating for a political leader to be in Davos – but to be kept away from the Congress Centre itself. That is the fate that has befallen Mykola Azarov, the prime minister of Ukraine, who is in Davos – and was hoping to speak at the forum. Unfortunately, for him, his government’s reputation has now sunk so low that Mr Azarov did not make it inside the security perimeter.
Instead, he is holed up at the Hotel National, about a mile down the road. Among the visitors he received yesterday were Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate; Jorma Ollila, the chairman of Shell – and me.
When I asked him whether he regretted being unable to speak at the WEF, Mr Azarov replied stiffly – “The forum had a unique opportunity to listen to the head of government of Ukraine, to get a wider point of view – it’s hard to tell who lost more in this affair.” And why was he in Davos, anyway – given the chaos back home? The Azarov spin was that his presence shows that the government of Ukraine continues to function normally. Read more
European equities are flat at Friday’s open, with a dearth of data meaning speeches in Davos later today are more likely to move the markets.
The FTSE 100 is trading level at 6,771, as is the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt at 9,622. The CAC 40 in Paris is up nearly 0.2 per cent though, at 4,287.
FT senior foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman reports on his meeting with Ukraine prime minister Mykola Azarov who has not been invited to the main events at Davos. They discuss the violence in Kiev and the sanctions threat.
By Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive officer of Save the Children
This years findings on the low levels of trust in government, with business faring a little better, provoked a serious debate, moderated by the FT’s Gillian Tett. Richard Edelman highlighted the risks and opportunities for business, including partnering with better-trusted NGOs. But unless companies and CEOs put purpose and responsibility at the core of their business instead of seeing this as an add-on, it will backfire on the trust front. NGOs won’t want partners who undermine trust. Being honest about challenges such as supply chain standards, or social impact of products, and transparently taking steps to fix them is the only option that will be trusted.