New reality at Davos
The theme of this year’s annual get-together of business and political leaders in Davos is “Shared norms for the new reality”.
One of the main examples of that new reality is the shift in political and economic power from West to East and North to South, according to Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum that organises the meeting. The change, cemented by the economic crisis, will cause upheaval, he told reporters.
This year it seems the new reality is striking close to home.
Among the 2,500 participants will be 25 heads of government and more than 80 ministers, with every G20 country represented at one level or another.
But look closely at the list and it is the absence of leaders from Brazil, China and India that stands out.
Brazil is represented by its foreign minister, central bank chief and head of the development bank BNDES. India has half a dozen ministers, including finance and home affairs, and China is limited to a minister and a few senior officials.
To be fair, the other BRIC, Russia, is there in force, with President Dmitry Medvedev opening the meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 26.
And organisers says there is a record turnout of Chinese and Indian executives and bankers, up fivefold and fourfold respectively over the past decade.
One reason is scheduling. Just as the forum’s proximity to the U.S. State of the Union message limits attendance from Washington, timing the meeting close to Chinese New Year is bound to lessen attendance from the Middle Kingdom. And the WEF can make up for the absences at its regional forums, such as one in Rio in April.
But the conclusion must be that the poltical elite of the world’s emerging powers do not find it necesseary to make the annual pilgrimage to Davos.
New reality indeed.