First day highlights from the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Former Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, joins the Davos Debates to answer the following question posted on youtube.com/davos: If education helps prevent disease and poverty rates, why do governments not offer more to help in developing countries?
Is financial reform shattering into so many different pieces that it'll never become the strong, coherent, globally-unified project that it needs to be to get popular support and avoid regulatory arbitrage? I fear so.
Nicolas Sarkozy gave a rather predictable speech to kick off the World Economic Forum today. He started out with fiery populism, talking about how "without state intervention, the world would have imploded", and how globalization had created, pre-crisis, "a world where everything was given over to capital, and nothing to labor, in which the entrepreneur gave way to the speculator". But then, after bashing excessive pay packages and warning of dire consequences if Davos Man didn't change his ways, he spent most of his speech becoming vaguer and vaguer, devolving into standard Davos platitudes, and talking -- as all Davos speakers do -- about being bold and tackling poverty and changing the world and so on and so forth. By the time it was all over, he had proposed absolutely nothing concrete, and the assembled plutocrats were happy to give him a loud ovation.
Being bullish is, of course, part of the job if you are a CEO.
But sentiment really is improving. The annual PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 1,200 industry bosses from 52 countries shows a nice pick in in the short- and long-term confidence curves, with 31 percent of those questioned now “very confident” about revenue prospects for the next 12 months and 81 percent plain-vanilla confident.
One of the more annoying aspects of the Davos echo-chamber is the way in which people are constantly asking each other what "the mood" is this year; the result is an inchoate consensus that since the crisis is over, markets are up, and countries are growing again, there must be grounds for optimism and the kind of yes-we-can thinking in which the World Economic Form has always specialized.
As the World Economic Forum kicks off in earnest, the only real cause of buzz so far has been the apparent suicide of its long-time security chief, Markus Reinhardt. Reinhardt was an aggressive man: he took the decision to fire water cannons at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures in 2001; he was also acquitted of murder in 2002 after ordering the lethal shooting of a man.