What’s going on here? I can’t believe the only story that we allow to come out of Davos is that we are fearful of the present and frightened of the future. Of course there is economic uncertainty and that’s what we see in the markets. But there are so many pressing issues on which urgent leadership is required, on which consensus must be built, and which are fundamentally more important than the gyrations of the financial markets.
Climate change, the scarcity of water, and political uncertainty (are such issues) to name just three. Securing the continued economic progress of India, when critical elections lie ahead and political stability remains in doubt across the border in Pakistan, is a matter of immediate concern for all of us citizens of this interdependent world.
Everyone here at Davos has lived through times of economic turbulence before. They know the clouds will pass. The shadow of the current storm cannot be allowed to obscure debates of far greater long-term consequence.
And, despite the impression that we may be giving out, opportunities are being created in Davos, new partnerships are being forged, and new markets explored.
Over dinner, in the company of politicians, business folk and journalists from around the world, discussion focused on whether the Western economic model has had its day. It seems to me that the balance of power is simply shifting, and we are discovering a new reality. It’s impressive to see how finance from the Middle and Far East has moved to recapitalize ailing American banks in recent times. A crisis has been recognized and responded to in an entirely new way, at a global level, and with eye-popping speed. That’s what happens in a truly networked world.
I found it fascinating to hear the views of colleagues for whom the management of surplus is the key economic challenge. Amongst them are the famous sovereign funds which are actively looking for opportunities to create wealth through investment for their successor generations. And the Chinese, whose economy I just learn is now growing at a record 11.5%.
So, doom and gloom may be the flavour of the day for many of those who hold the pencils, but not for me. I think these sentiments reflect only the surface of what’s happening at the World Economic Forum. Look a little deeper and I have been energized and inspired by the new ideas, the appetite for new investment and the new confidence of the emerging nations that I have encountered here in the snow.
Ben Verwaayen is CEO of BT Group Plc. He is writing an exclusive column for Mint on the World Economic Forum that started on Wednesday in Davos. Readers can send their comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org