Economic uncertainty to dominate Davos
From today’s Financial Times:
The hot ticket at Davos last year was the “dialogue in the dark” event, when delegates at the World Economic Forum were plunged into complete darkness to experience the loss of sight. This seems an apt metaphor for the blindness of the world’s elite to the fragility of the global financial system.
Unlike the Financial Times itself, of course, whose writers all saw this coming from miles away…
With the state of the financial world having seen a dramatic turnabout in the past year, WEF organisers have staged a series of high-profile debates on financial stability and banking risk, and there will be a flurry of senior bankers in attendance, ranging from JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon to Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein – as well as some of the newly appointed Wall Street chief executives such as John Thain at Merrill Lynch.
They will be joined by a clutch of senior European policymakers – such as Jean Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank and many European finance ministers – allowing a flurry of transatlantic behind-the-scenes debate about global policy responses to the credit crunch before next month’s crucial meeting of the Group of Seven finance ministers and the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Another notable swathe of attendees – which marks a contrast with earlier years – comes from the sovereign wealth funds, and other manifestations of the cash that continues to swirl around Asia’s exporters and the oil-rich Gulf. Officials from the China Investment Corporation and Dubai International Capital, for example, will all be in attendance – and a planned debate on their investments could be a highlight of the meeting.
Indeed, sovereign wealth funds could overshadow one topic that was prominent at last year’s event: the role that private equity now plays in the global economy. For while the Harvard professor Josh Lerner is due to release a landmark report on the sector – which was commissioned at last year’s Davos event – the turn in the credit cycle means that buy-out funds are no longer generating so much fear.
It would appear, then, that the days of Davos meeting concerning themselves with what to do about the world’s poor and the world’s problems are over, for now. We have our own problems – the poor are on their own. I should be very surprised if these rooms of wealthy elite are brimming with debate over the Copenhagen Consensus.
This, specifically, was actually worrying (for me):
Another sign of the shift in sentiment is the inclusion of a new set of topics on this year’s agenda: competition for global commodity resources. For the first time Davos is staging a series of debates about food supplies – a topic that could generate lively debate given the recent sharp rise in many agricultural commodity prices, and the political challenges this is generating in emerging economies.
Yes, that’s the OECD core of economic power, getting together to trade notes on securing the world’s stockpiles of commodities. Meaning the developing world is probably about to fall about another century behind.