Davos: Land of the $43 hot dogs and $55 salads

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 highlights from World Economic Forum in Davos.

Approximately 2,500 global government and business leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, this week for one of the hottest tickets in international relations. Full of global leaders, policymakers, business gurus and the odd music star, the attendees at the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos aren’t short of a dollar or two.

Apparently agreeing to leave finger-pointing behind, trade ministers from many of the world’s biggest economies have agreed to push this year to complete an elusive trade round launched in Doha, Qatar, in 2001. German Chancellor Angela Merkel calmly took the stage midweek and spoke in vague and measured tones about European unity while offstage the entire European financial community waited with bated breath for the European Central Bank to make a decision on monetary stimulus. While the meeting has garnered criticism as a “summit for the 1%”, it provides a rare opportunity to get in front of some of the world’s most influential people. Twenty-one members of the World Trade Organization — among them Brazil, China, the European Union, Japan, Russia and the United States — backed efforts to conclude the so-called Doha Round negotiations with the aim of dramatically lowering trade barriers and revising trade rules, according to Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann. In a model of German efficiency, Merkel stepped offstage at precisely the moment the ECB announced it would purchase 60 billion euros in bonds every month — the plan amounts to about $1.3 trillion in total — to ward off inflation and kick-start growth across the 19 nations that share the euro currency. 2.

He hoped the stimulus, which is designed to boost the ailing eurozone economy, will give governments the space and encouragement to embark on a raft of structural reforms such as making job markets more flexible. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made an emotional speech in which he again accused Moscow of being the aggressor in a conflict that has killed close to 5,000 people.

I’d also ask them to consider how inequality will increase if climate change is not attended urgently and how markets will collapse if inequality is not levelled. But equal opportunity for women is high on the agenda here, with a dozen public and private panels, meals, and other events devoted to the issue, and celebrity champions such as the actor Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame). Some in Europe, particularly in Germany, are worried however that the ECB’s bond-buying program may ease the pressure on governments to reform their economies.

I would ask business leaders to shift to renewable energy sources for 80% of their energy requirements in the next 10 years, covering energy requirements of every aspect of their business lifecycle – from procurement, to production, to marketing & distribution, to end lifecycle. Veteran Davos attendee Rick Goings, CEO of Tupperware, says that gender issues were never mentioned during his first year at the forum, a dozen years ago. Sitting in silence on a chair and thinking of nothing is not something you’d think people come to do at Davos, a famous Swiss ski resort and a haven for a business networking. Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said Merkel and Poroshenko speak frequently with Russian President Vladimir Putin to push him toward a diplomatic solution. 3.

The knitted couture that she sells comes from Italy, meaning the sudden appreciation of the Swiss franc last week – and the cheaper euro – has left her with more than a few problems. “It has really affected us,” she told CNBC. A lot got discussed behind closed doors with world leaders and bigwig CEOs, including Jack Ma from China’s Alibaba and John Chambers of Cisco, that we can’t tell you about. Her current stock has been discounted, although January sales means this is usually the norm, but she said that her next batch would be priced 20 percent lower.

World leaders engaged in backroom talks, too, including French President Francois Hollande and Iraqi leader Haider Al-Abadi, who continued to press international supporters for more arms, ammunition and airstrikes for his country’s fight against the Islamic State. This is the kind of clear business message that resonates with the Davos crowd, and one that’s not always apparent amidst the platitudes in the forum’s public sessions. But will anything come of it, or is women’s equality just the latest Davos fad, to be displaced next year by another equally worthy and intractable cause? Several leaders including Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and King Abdullah II of Jordan had to leave early to attend the funeral of the Saudi king.

President Obama, who was not here, confirmed that he, too, would travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to pay his respects to the family of King Abdullah. I’ve now got a group of people around me who are also all-in on this—we watch what they’re doing and they see what we’re doing.” Those initial connections were made in the Alps. “That’s why Davos matters,” he says. With a Swiss franc that’s now around 30 percent stronger against the euro than it used to be, there’s a real concern that these tourists won’t be flocking anywhere near Switzerland, let alone the town of Davos.

In another attempt at accelerating gender parity, a female protester disrobed on Davos’ main strip while shouting, “Women need change.” During a panel Saturday, panelists including Melinda Gates and Rwandan President Paul Kagame urged more action on the topic. The retailers are now all anxiously waiting on whether the hotel rooms will stay full during the year and for next season, with the summer traditionally being a quieter period for tourists. At the check-in desk at the Hotel Europe Davos, in the center of town, there was no talk of cutting prices and with the policy announcement by the Swiss National Bank only last week, it’s still too early to tell whether the holiday goers have been put off. In the local supermarket the mood was very different, selling mainly Swiss food and drink, prices had not gone up or down and were unlikely to anytime soon, according to staff at the Coop. And with a slew of supermarkets in the town – including the German discount supermarket Aldi, it looks like the grocery industry used to fighting tough battles.

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