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.

Watch Felix Salmon interview Nouriel Roubini

Yesterday evening Reuters.com streamed an interview with renowned economist Nouriel Roubini live from our studio at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Reuters columinst Felix Salmon presented the interview and all the questions he put to Roubini were sent in by visitors to our Davos 2010 live blog.

Greece’s economic woes, U.S. GDP and the trustworthiness of statistics coming out of China were just some of the issues being discussed. If you missed it, or if you want to see it again, watch the interview in the player below.

Italian CEO says retail banks need time to adapt

Yesterday I spoke to Antonio Vigni, CEO of Siena-based Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank. Below are two video clips of Vigni answering questions on lending in Italy and the hot topic of regulation.

In this first clip, Vigni says bank lending is holding up in Italy and he sees improvement.

In the next clip, Vigni says that retail banks may need more time to adapt to the brave new regulatory world.

Next year’s potential guest to Davos?

osamaThe World Economic Forum is all about promoting debate and finding solutions to problems the world is facing.

One thing the world’s political and business leaders have been discussing is the role of the dollar in the global economy.

The world’s most wanted man Osama bin Laden has been offering his take on solving global imbalances. He urges the world to stop relying on the dollar in order to solve the global financial crisis.

Africa needs to bargain more

africaAfrica is one area we at Reuters is focusing at this year’s Davos (click for our special report)

Kola Karim, chif executive of Lagos/London-based Shoreline Energy International, says moves by Korea, Saudi Arabia and other emerging countries to buy up thousands of hectares of land in Africa to grow food “is sending fears to Africans.”

“Africa needs to ask, are these deals for us? Or for them. There’s a mismatch. We’re talking about countries that lack food. There’s no food for us,” he tells Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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.

What (not) to wear in Davos

As World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos in earnest on Wednesday, one focus (of the fashionistas) will be what key movers and shakers are wearing.

fashion

While it’s snowing outside with temperatures often dipping below zero, inside the main congress centre is boiling hot not least because participants are engaged in heated debate over how to reshape the world.

The dress code is smart casual, but from my own experiences people wearing anything but black or dark blue would stand out, just because everyone would still be wearing normal — or boring — business suits.

Davos VIP dropouts

The world’s top politicians are dropping out from the WEF‘s highly publicised list of top VIPs.

wefprepareLast-minute cancellations happen more or less every year, but this year it’s at an alarming rate.

Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama, mired in domestic political turmoil and facing busy Parliament sessions at home, has pulled out of  the forum and is sending his strategy minister Sengoku instead.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai  has decided not to make a detour from London where he’s due to attend a conference on Afghanistan this week.

from The Great Debate:

Business must take the lead on carbon management

APOTHEKER

Léo Apotheker is CEO of SAP. The views expressed are his own.

Most people who followed the Copenhagen climate talks in December will have been disappointed.

While the agreement brokered by the group of countries that included the United States, Brazil, China, India and South Africa and ratified by most of the attending countries is being touted as a success of sorts, it fell far short of the expectations that had built up, and achieved very little in concrete terms.

Now with the World Economic Forum approaching, the issue of climate change and sustainability will once again dominate discussions among the business and political leaders who attend the annual gathering in Davos.

On wealth versus well-being

Back in the Middle Ages, no-one took any notice of Copernicus when he said the Earth was not at the centre of the universe.

Stewart Wallis, executive director of London-based “think-and-do-tank” the New Economics Foundation and one of the thousands attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, can sympathise.

“I don’t mind being called an idealistic idiot,” he told Reuters, with reference to a philosophy he summed up as “the macro-economic text-books are works of fiction”.