Davos diary: Thinking big at WEF

But will lofty ambitions to 'rethink' the global economy be overshadowed by Haiti crisis?

    This year the World Economic Forum's slogan is 'Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild' [AFP]

    The 40th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum will be taking place in Davos, Switzerland from January 27 to January 31.

    Al Jazeera's Tristan Redman is in Davos and will be writing daily on the events taking place there.

    All quiet on eve of forum

    This is the 40th year that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has taken over the small Alpine resort town of Davos.

    Right now the place is locked down by security, the roads are blocked up and you are nobody unless you are shuttled around in a chauffeured Audi.

    But on the day before the summit, it is remarkable how little attention the locals pay to the circus that has hit town. The skiers keep on skiing. The schools are open. The buses are running. People here have either got used to it, or they are just not that interested.

    Perhaps it is understandable. Everyone is a skier here. And from the slopes 2,000m up the mountain, the self-important people down in the valley look pretty insignificant.

    There is a subdued atmosphere in the conference centre this year. A lot of the big names have stayed away. There is no Bono and no Angelina Jolie. Henry Kissinger is not coming.

    Thinking big

    But that has not stopped the organisers from thinking big. They are pledging to "Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild" the global economy.

    It all sounds a little too familiar, though. A year ago they were pledging to "shape the post crisis world". So have they run out of ideas, or have we not moved on since 2009?
    Either way, it is unclear what this year's WEF will be about. Many are expecting it to be overshadowed by the catastrophe in Haiti. There are two special sessions scheduled about the relief effort, one of them led by Bill Clinton.

    Reaction to the Afghanistan summit in London on Thursday will also feature. Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, the three main candidates in Afghanistan's election, will all attend.

    Others are saying Davos will be dominated by wrangling over Barack Obama's proposals to reform banking.
    In the last few years, though, the most memorable events have been the ones nobody expected.

    In 2009, it was Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, walking out on Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, and vowing never to return to Davos.

    In 2008, it was speculation about Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel and the missing billions. That feels a long time ago. Now we live in the post-Madoff world where $7.2bn is small change.

    Maybe this year the forum will surprise us all and stick to the programme.
    A familiar feeling hit me this afternoon, the day before the start of the forum. Then I realised the last time I felt it, years ago. I was at school and it was the night before my exams.

    There is a lot of work to do in the next four days. I am not sure yet if it will be fun. But I know that it will feel great when it is over.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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