|Financiers and politicians say they can work 20 meetings in just three or four days at Davos [AFP]|
On the fourth day of the Davos World Economic Forum, politics was again at the top of the agenda.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli prime minister and a front-runner in Israel’s upcoming elections, said that keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands was more important than the economy because the financial meltdown is reversible, and a nuclear Iran would not be.
“What is not reversible is the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a fanatic radical regime … We have never had, since the dawn of the nuclear age, nuclear weapons in the hands of such a fanatical regime,” he said.
Iran maintains that its nuclear ambitions are not part of a weapons programme but that it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes – namely energy.
When it came to international energy markets today, Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, warned that it was ready to make more production cuts if oil prices do not start rising soon.
Abdullah Salem el-Badri, the organisation’s secretary-general, expressed hope that global oil demand would pick up “by the end of this year or beginning of next year”.
El-Badri said Opec members would have reached the group’s pledge of a drop of 4.2 million barrels a day by the end of January.
After that “if we still have some downward problems, then Opec will not hesitate to take some quantity out of the market,” he said.
The meeting took place amid economic gloom that has seen personal fortunes trimmed, companies shuttered and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost.
The failure of the world’s financial community and of regulators to detect and deflect the spiralling crisis has left many looking for answers and questioning what went wrong.
One panel meeting said that global co-operation, not a retreat from globalisation, is the best approach for solving the current economic crisis and could set the pattern for dealing with other critical international challenges such as climate change, poverty and energy security.
|El-Badri said that Opec members could cut their oil output even further [AFP]|
The panel, representing the governments of four of the G20 countries, called for co-ordinated action on a number of fronts: fiscal and monetary policy, measures to stabilise or reform the global financial system, a recapitalisation of the major multilateral lending institutions and a resumption of stalled free trade talks to combat a turn to protectionism.
Above all, they stressed the ability of the public and private sectors to work together to solve these and other global problems.
Gordon Brown, the British prime minister said: “We need to recognise that these problems were created by humans and can be solved by humans.
“Rather than losing faith and letting the protectionists take over, or returning to a failed laissez-faire model that says there is nothing we can do, we have to grapple with these problems and prove we can come together and solve them.”
Despite the bravado, however, the long shadow of the global economy hung over Davos as it had never before.
Several notable entrepreneurs were missing.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, did come and suggested a UN economic council along the lines of a security council – it’s an idea she has suggested before but so far to only lukewarm reaction.
Al Gore, the Nobel Laureate and former US vice president, said the world was running out of time to find what he called a planetary solution to a planetary crisis.
Gore said that it was possible because Barack Obama, the US president, was “the greenest man in the room”.
He did not say what colour he thought George Bush, the former US president, was.
Davos is a massive networking party.
Financiers and politicians all said they could work 20 meetings here in the course of three or four days, meetings that would normally take six months to organise.
But is there value in this, apart from saving time?
Those taking part of the conference are certainly thinking big – global economy, wars, poverty, energy, and banking. The even occasionally came up with solutions, but do the same solutions succeed in changing the world?
It only seems obvious that the jury is out on that question.