The World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, the premier gathering of world economic leaders, is taking place this week. This year, even the pristine Swiss Alps won’t be enough to calm edgy nerves in a recession climate.
Attendants of the invitation-only gathering are casually referred to as “Davos Men”. The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington wryly noted that the Davos Man had no concern for national boundaries, instead viewing national governments as “residues from the past”, whose only function was to facilitate business interests.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
But this year’s Davos Man may be a bit uneasy, receding behind his national government, hoping, it seems, for government intervention— maybe a credit line or stimulus package.
And instead, he may be deferring to the Davos Statesman. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and British Premier Gordon Brown are among the ranks of high-profile attendees listed in the programme. All told, 40 heads of state and government will be in Davos this week.
To be sure, some global business titans, such as Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp., and Anand Mahindra, vice-chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra, will also be in attendance.
But the fanfare surrounding previous forums will be tempered to reflect the sombre economic outlook. Many may recall the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)’s “India Everywhere” campaign, a festive coming-of-age party for India at the 2006 conference. In the midst of job cuts, foreclosures and financial fraud, such indulgences are more than passé.
Yet the list of players turning out this year still reads like a who’s who of the Indian business world, including Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan and Wipro chairman Azim H. Premji, among others.
Sitting out this year is disgraced Satyam founder, B. Ramalinga Raju, who would likely have much to share about financial catastrophe. Raju has been a notable presence in recent years, partaking in numerous panels. Not this year. Unless there’s a satellite link from his Hyderabad jail cell.
While the Davos Man appears in crisis, the forum’s organizers seem to think the worst of global recession has passed; this year’s programme is curiously titled “Shaping the Post-Crisis World”. What about starting with “Shaping a World in Crisis?”
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