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FRANCE 24 Economics Reporter

World economic forum kicks off in Davos

Le 22-01-2013

It’s become an annual ritual; the world’s rich and powerful are jetting to Davos for the World Economic Forum.

The crowd is highly exclusive; politicians, millionaires, royalty and the odd movie-star or singer.

This year – and for the first time since the outbreak of the financial crisis – many observers say decision makers are not in crisis-fighting mode.

For the time being at least, the Eurozone debt crisis appears to be in check and the United States has been able to avert the ’Fiscal Cliff’ that got journalists so juiced up at the end of 2012.

Meanwhile, emerging markets continue to provide much of the growth in the global economy, albeit tempered by continued weakness in their Western export markets.

That being said, there will be plenty to reflect on for participants when it comes to the future course of global business and the world economy.

In a recent pre-Davos briefing in Paris, the founder of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab said: ”The more trouble there is in the world, the higher the interest in Davos.”

Resilient dynamism

Will Europe get its ducks in a row in the longer term? Will the United States find a way to reduce its runaway debt? Could anything come in the way of China’s continued economic rise?

The theme of the annual meetings is meant to reflect those questions. The World Economic Forum wants the enigmatic ”Resilient Dynamism” to act like a guiding light.

As almost every year, journalists have been engaged in plenty of head scratching as they try to figure out what is actually intended by those words.

Klaus Schwab says he wants to re-establish confidence, to stimulate investment, and to work out how to make the global economy tick over in the longer term.

”If we had introduced a resilient financial system before 2007 then the financial crisis would not have happened”, Schwab said.

Global interest

Around 700 chief executives will be attending the annual meetings alongside some 40 prime ministers and heads of state. There will also be a fair amount of journalists.

Some participants have travelled thousands of miles and some of the businessmen and women have paid a healthy sum to attend.

”In the next 2-3 days I will have meetings with the chief executives and marketing directors of our 10 biggest customers […] In 24-48 hours I can have a string of meetings that otherwise would have taken 6 months ”, says David Jones, the chief executive of advertising group Havas.

The World Economic Forum has its critics, and this year is no exception. The Davos event is labelled as elitist and as a place where powerful people go to carve up the world with little or no scrutiny.

To counter the "rich man’s club" image, the World Economic Forum invites organisations like Amnesty International and Oxfam to take part in the debate.

”It’s a multi-stakeholder environment - you have labour leaders, faith leaders, academic leaders” says Lee Howell, the Managing Director of the World Economic Forum.

No major decisions will have been taken at the end of the week in Davos, at least none we know about. There won’t be an all-encompassing final communique either.

What the world can expect is an exchange of ideas that may or may not result in tangible action and the pay off could take time.