Davos Notebook

Royals in Davos

Among world political leaders and business executives, there are several royals who are making appearence in Davos.

Why are they here? I met some of them but didn’t dare ask.  Some have said that royals want to play a key role as opinion leaders to promote public debate in “rebuilding” the world — the main theme of the World Economic Forum this year.

The most high-profile would be the Queen Rania of Jordan, whose twitter updates have been followed by more than 1.2 million people.

Davos regulars include: Crown Prince of Bahrain, Crown Prince of Norway, Princess Mathilde of Belgium and Duke of York of Britain.

In the video at the top of the page, H.R.H. Haakon of Norway talks about his global initiatives.

Davos no-shows play a dangerous game

High profile no-shows are a feature of this year’s Davos meeting, and today’s session on global governance with a panel of political leaders showed the dangers of not being present.

Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, whose country is chairing the G20, exempted present company when he pointed the finger at hurdles on the path to wrapping up Doha trade talks this year.

“I am not going to name names, all countries expect and hope we can conclude by end of year, but we are going to have countries taking into account other countries’ needs and necessities,” he said. ”There are countries who are to blame for the slow progress in the Doha round negotiations,” he said.

Sprechen sie Davos?

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Ever wonder if Davos Man is a different breed? They sure can talk a different language.

Here’s Jaime Caruana, head of the Bank for International Settlements, on Obama’s job creation plan: “What we need is a system that is sustainable, that is stable. What we don’t need is where we were before, that looked sustainable because it lasted for a long time, but was not sustainable because it was creating endogenously elements of instability.”

And listen to Sergio Ermotti, deputy chief executive of Italian bank Unicredit on economic recovery: “We cannot be complacent. To underestimate the current financial dynamics could be a mistake. There is still a lack of transparency and probably some non-too-solid players. This uncertainty needs to be solved through transparency.”

Challenge for Asian banks is to assert their legitimate right

Asian countries have learnt their financial lesson the hard way when they were hit by multiple currency crisis more than a decade ago.

This time around they have fared better than Europe and the United States but they will nonetheless be hit by a West-led regulatory wave that could fundamentally change the way banks operate.

“We never went into a lot of new-fangled financial engineering. A lot of this “sexy” staff was not there,” says V. Shankar, a member of the group management committee of Standard Chartered bank, while in Davos to attend World Economic Forum.

Failure of Copenhagen cannot be repeated, SAP chief says

Failure to agree a successor to the Kyoto protocol would lead to countries pursuing their own objectives and expose world economies to protectionism, CEO of business software company SAP Léo Apotheker said while in Davos to attend the World Economic Forum.

“Copenhagen was supposed to be the big successor of Kyoto but, as we all know, it was not a big success,” Apotheker said. “I felt already at Copenhagen that this was midnight. Now it is probably already a minute past midnight and we cannot afford yet another failure.”

“The danger of not coming to an agreement is that many countries will go on a unilateral path to achieve their own objectives at which point in time we might fall into protectionism,” Apotheker added. This situation, combined with the effects of climate change, would be a “double whammy disaster.”

Africa feels the heat on climate change

kilimaIt may have contributed less than any other continent to CO2 emissions, but Africa is on the front line when it comes to the impact of climate change.

Just ask Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

“It is a threat for us,” he told a panel at the World Economic Forum.  “On Kilimanjaro the snow is fast disappearing, sea levels are rising — we have one island that has already been submerged — and we’ve towns around the coast where we have to incur huge costs of adaptation to erect walls.”

In theory, Africa is also in a strong position, given its virgin forests that represent one of the world’s great carbon sinks. But setting up workable offset-trading schemes is easier said than done.  “I can assure you, it is so difficult to access these facilities,” Kikwete said.

Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Davos Debates

Business columnist and chief M&A reporter at the NYTimes, Andrew Ross Sorkin, speaks about his experience at Davos 2010.

from Felix Salmon:

Youthful swearing at Davos

I like James Gibney's evisceration of Davospeak:

Dr. Schwab and Company have made a handsome business out of enabling old-fashioned clubby capitalism by wrapping it in feel-good globoblather: "unprecedented multistakeholder, multimedia dialogue…look at all issues on the global agenda in a systemic, integrated and strategic way…intensify collaboration and develop innovative solutions…generate an unprecedented process of discussion and deliberation." As George Orwell tellingly observed, "When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink." The next time you hear "multistakeholder," remember that, in Davos at least, corporations hold the biggest stake.

It was probably unfortunate, then, that no sooner had I read that than I stumbled across the Global Business Oath of the Young Global Leaders. What is a Young Global Leader? You really can't make this stuff up:

The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a unique multi-stakeholder community of exceptional young leaders who shares a commitment to shaping the global leader.

from MacroScope:

Growth is not enough for Africa

Lots of talk at the moment about how Africa's economy is looking up.  The International Monetary Fund, for one, reckons sub-Saharan growth will be 1 percentage point above the world average this year and it has put eight African countries in its top 20 fastest growing economies list for 2010.

Reuters has written a special report on the subject as part of its Davos coverage. You can read it here.

But before taking its place alongside Asia and Latin America, the continent has quite a lot of work to do with investors. It could start by giving them something to buy (beyond commodities that is).

George Osborne discusses banking

George Osborne, finance spokesman for the UK Conservative Party, relays his thoughts on the discussion of the banking system taking place at Davos.