Non, non, a thousand times, non

January 27, 2007

Royal-watchers could have had a pretty good time in Davos. The king and queen of Jordan, who host a Middle East Davos most years on the banks of the Dead Sea, have been speaking. Britain’s Duke of York has been wandering about. So has Belgium’s Prince Philippe.
 
But one Royal that has not been here is Segolene, presidential candidate for France’s Socialists. Nor for that matter have many French officials, candidates or otherwise, been around. Germany, Britain, the United States, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa have been most evident. La France, non.
 
The reason, French journalists say, is that Davos is altogether too into globalisation for gallic taste. Irony of ironies, then, that one of the top Frenchmen here is Pascal Lamy, secretary general of the World Trade Organisation.
 
France’s Davosophobia has triggered the ire of at least one of the country’s columnists — Nicolas Barre in Le Figaro. His gist is that France is hurting itself by snubbing Davos. That France is angry about globalisation is nothing new, he says, but that is no reason to shout it from the rooftop of the world.

School’s (almost) out

January 27, 2007

The snow is falling heavily and there is a kind of end-of-term feeling in Davos as the WEF annual meeting enters its lasIMG_2298[1].JPGt full day. Not a bad time, then, to ask why people really bother to come here.
 
There is a lot of scepticism among outsiders that Davos is just a big talking shop, full of self-importance and hot air. Some of this doubtless comes from the way the WEF presents itself. “Shaping the Global Agenda” is hardly a modest goal.

Big names, big continent

January 26, 2007

Africa_davos.jpgPeople who come to Davos are a sophisticated lot but a little celebrity can cause a frisson in even the most jaded boardroom executive. No question where the excitement was in Davos on the third day — the Africa session.
 
There was Bono, who took off his Fidel Castro cap beforehand, and Tony Blair, who still has the power to draw a crowd despite an upcoming departure. Bill Gates was also there. That was enough to guarantee a rapt audience.
 
What seems to be different is that people are not just wringing their hands about Africa and wondering if it will ever get out from under its corruption and debt burden. They are
talking up good news. Immunization is improving, education is more widespread and money is moving in.
 
I asked Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete — Davos is that kind of place — whether things really were getting better sub-Sahara. He said yes, at least compared with a few years ago.
 
(Pictures: Bono wanders through the crowd (left), Blair and Bono (Reuters/right)

It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it

January 26, 2007

minks.jpgSome glitz has turned up at Davos. Claudia Schiffer is here to talk about the environment.

Avatars of the world unite!

January 26, 2007
A single demonstrator has broken through the World Economic Forum’s otherwise thorough security cordon, sneaking past rows of efficient guards to wave a large anti-Davos placard right in the temple itself.

A babble of bloggers at Davos

January 26, 2007

The idea of bloggers writing about bloggers is less than bracing, but at Davos the phenomenon is so widespread and talked about that Monty Python’s Spam sketch comes to mind – blog, blog, blog, blog etc.

Freedom

January 26, 2007

The titles of panel meetings at the World Economic Forum can sometimes be pretty dire. Frankly, “Strategies for a New Power Equation” or “The Future of Urban Mobility” do not really set the pulse racing. So it was with some delight that I came across this gem being moderated by Laura Tyson, Bill Clinton’s former economic adviser — “Is Freedom Overrated?”

Getting decidedly nervous on Doha talks

January 25, 2007

davos3.jpgA few things are becoming clear as the WEF’s annual meeting slides out of its second day. For one, businesses are getting decidedly nervous about the possibility that the Doha Trade round will not restart.
    Microsoft’s Bill Gates had a private chat with World Trade Organisation director general Pasal Lamy on the sidelines here.
Gates was coy about the meeting but it came as other very interested parties started to get the gloves out. Fifteen heavy hitters, including bosses from Unilever, British Airways, Alcoa and Goldman Sach made it clear they had had enough of stalled trade negotiations.
    Words like “damage”, “destruction” and “failure” peppered a joint statement that had some here noting that business was suddenly realising that Doha, which is stalled, could end completely. Trade ministers meet at the weekend.
    Climate change is the other big item. Although some have
complained that it is simply a trendy subject, it is a top item. That can be seen from Chinese officials pledging to have the huge developing market become more efficient in energy use — even if they reckon the big job is for the West.
    Bono and Blair get their turn on Friday so Africa may get its moment in the snow.

Trekking up a Swiss hill for Nasdaq

January 25, 2007

Why do we journalists always fall for it? Nasdaq, the U.S.
stock market group, just persuaded a bunch of us to trek way up a steep, slippery hillside in the cold to watch them open trading against a backdrop of yodel-ay-ee-oo Switzerland. There we were, TV cameras rolling and stills snapping (or whatever digitals do), while corporate America waved, yelled and grinned in front of us.

Stars in their eyes

January 25, 2007

I didn’t come out here to go celeb-spotting but the fact that celebrities are short on the ground in Davos hasn’t escaped the notice of some of the myriad journalists and bloggers following events at the World Economic Forum.