The world’s political and business elite will shelter from the chill winds buffeting the global economy and plot a new path for capitalism at the annual Davos forum that began yesterday
Some 40 heads of government will rub shoulders over the next five days in the Swiss Alps with titans of commerce and industry to discuss everything from the eurozone crisis to Iran’s nuclear program as well as trends in science and the arts.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was to deliver the keynote address yesterday while fellow G20 leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, will address delegates later in the week.
They will be joined by a new generation of prime ministers from countries such as Tunisia and Thailand, which are trying to emerge from periods of turmoil as well as African heads of state, including Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as his country grapples with an intensifying Islamist insurgency.
However, it is the title of the debates that catches the eye as much as the participants with the first posing the question: “Is 20th Century Capitalism Failing 21st Century Society?”
Other discussions scheduled include “Fixing Capitalism,” “Has Globalization Reached its Economic and Political Limits?” and “How Will the Eurozone Countries Emerge from the Eurozone Crisis?”
While US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will ponder the challenges for the US economy, a sizeable contingent from emerging powers including India and Southeast Asian nations will consider the theme: “Is this truly the Asian century?”
Noticeable by their absence however are leaders from eurozone laggards Greece, Spain and Italy. There is also a low-key turnout from Russia in an election year and the Chinese are busy celebrating the Lunar New Year. However, if austerity measures are forcing some to stay away, leaders from the biggest 1,000 companies are here in force, despite the annual membership fee of 35,000 euros (US$45,000).
According to Klaus Schwab, the founder and organizer of Davos, this year’s meeting will focus on how to develop a new world model as “capitalism in its current form, has no place in the world around us.”
“The danger for the world is that the political leadership is overwhelmed,” Schwab said on Tuesday evening as he welcomed delegates.