Davos Notebook

Groundhog Day in Davos

groundhog

The programme may strike a different  note — this year’s Davos is apparently all about Shared Norms for the New Reality — but much of the discussion at the 41st World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos this month will have a distinctly familiar ring to it.

Last January, the five-day talkfest in the Swiss Alps was dominated by Greece’s near-death experience at the hands of the bond market and recriminations over the role of bankers in the financial crisis, as well as worries about China’s rapid economic ascent and a lot of calls for a new trade deal.

Fast forward 12 months and not much has changed.

Ireland has joined Greece in the euro zone’s intensive care unit and Portugal and  Spain are getting round-the-clock monitoring. The annual round of bankers’ bonuses is once again stirring up trouble. China looms larger than ever on the global stage, after overtaking Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second-biggest economy. And trade ministers who signally failed to make headway last year say they really must get down to business when they meet on the sidelines of Davos this time round.

For a sense of the deja vu, take a look at the WEF’s latest hot-off-the-press report on Global Risks — a 50-page tome on the spider’s web of interconnected threats now facing the world. Not much progress in addressing them has been made, it seems. Government debt and the danger of sovereign default remains top of the risk hit-list, alongside macroeconomic imbalances, the fragility of the economic recovery and resource limits. It is a very similar litany as a year ago.

Worryingly, while the threats remain all too visible, the report’s authors conclude that the world is now uniquely vulnerable to any further shocks in the wake of the financial crisis.

Ask Nouriel Roubini

US-ECONOMY/ROUBINIGot a question you would like to ask economist Nouriel Roubini? Now’s your chance. Roubini will be joining us in Davos later today for a social media interview and we want you to send us questions to put to him.

Roubini, Professor of Economics at New York University and co-founder of RGE Monitor)  is one of the few economists to accurately predict the global financial crisis, warning of turbulence in the housing market, loss of consumer confidence and a deep recession.

The interview will be streamed live and you can watch it in this blog post or on our Davos 2010 live blog at 5:20pm GMT (12:20 ET and 6:20pm local time). Reuters columnist Felix Salmon will conduct the interview and put your questions to Roubini.

The answer, dear bankers, lies not in yourselves, but in Shakespeare

Many of the bankers blamed for the world financial crisis have been conspicuous by their absence from this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

They haven’t just missed conventional debate on how to prevent a re-run. They’ve also skipped the chance to hear Richard Olivier, theatre director and son of acting legend Laurence Olivier, draw comparisons between the masters of the universe and Shakespeare’s murderous tragic hero Macbeth.

“Macbeth didn’t set out to be evil,” Olivier told Reuters. On the face of it, he was the kind of bright, ambitious young man who could be trusted with big investment decisions. Equally, Lady Macbeth, who stands for “the familial culture of an organisation” thought she was just nurturing his career.

Music no second fiddle to the credit crisis

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, is a unique participant to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum dominated by movers and shakers of the business and political world.

Zander says the financial world could learn from how the conductor and the orchestra operate — the conductor, or the leader, does not play the music himself, and let the orchestra do the job.

“There is even more need for music in times of trouble,” he said before delivering a speech on an artist’s approach to managing complexity.