World

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Alps welcome princes, plutocrats and PMs to shape future of world

Published 24/01/2013 | 05:00

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ONE of the most amusing things about Davos is how true to national stereotypes most of the participants are.

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The Russian oligarchs all seem to have a three-day beard and preternaturally beautiful partners, the German business leaders have doctorates and steel-rimmed glasses, while the Japanese are inscrutable and use ancient sayings that sound like Haikus to get their point across.

Toshiba chairman Atsutoshi Nishida was one of those living up to this stereotype when he told an audience at one stage in his strongly accented English that "good leaders should think of the storm when the weather is fine".

Some bankers never change

In a corridor outside, as Saudi princes and Nigerian plutocrats dressed in traditional garb watched on, the relentlessly aggressive US chief executive Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan was busy telling reporters that he does "not know what austerity means" and criticising governments for living beyond their means just a few years after the same governments were forced to borrow trillions to save banks like his.

Apple a day keeps Davos OK

The international relations professor Samuel Huntington has written disparagingly of Davos Man – people he describes as global players who owe nothing to their home countries and see international borders as nothing more than inconvenient barriers to free travel and the business of money making. An up-to-date version of that seminal article on Davos Man would have to include a love of all things Apple.

When not engaged in the sort of intense networking that is the real point of the World Economic Forum for many, Davos Man and his female counterparts are staring intently at their iPhone, iPad and Mac books. Often all three at once.

In the many areas set aside for those who want to regain their breath or communicate with the world beyond the Alpine playground, iPads and iPhones are being used with an intensity that would make a teen blanche. Technology, at least the Apple kind, truly knows no barriers of age, wealth or country.

Blair goes off the grid

One man who famously never sent an email during his period in office was Tony Blair. The former British prime minister was in Davos yesterday, pressing the flesh and grinning in his somewhat unnerving manner as his successor, David Cameron, got up to speak in London and promise a referendum on EU membership.

Mr Blair was staying tight-lipped about the speech, for now anyway, as he moved swiftly from group to group. Whether he has mastered emails by now remains a mystery, he certainly was one of the few people not carrying any sort of electronic device, Apple or otherwise.

Kenny shaken but not stirred

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who said last week that it would be a catastrophe if the UK left the EU, flew into Zurich last night and then travelled overland to Davos itself. As a relatively old hand, he will have known that the darkness which had fallen hid one of the world's great natural sights: the valley of Davos and Klosters – a sight so loved by James Bond creator Ian Fleming that he mentioned it in several of his thrillers and set large parts of 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' there.

Mr Kenny will take the stage tomorrow, but earlier in the day he will attend a lunch in the city's famous Cresta Hotel with UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne as well as European Commissioner Olli Rehn and European Parliament President Martin Schultz.

An unlikely star is born

The star of yesterday's presentations was undoubtedly Dmitry Medvedev. The Russian prime minister gave a fluent and lengthy speech on Russia's future that brimmed with optimism despite the publication of a pessimistic report that warned that Russia was squandering the benefits of high oil prices and needs to get to grips with corruption.

One thing that Davos Man does not lack is confidence and Mr Medvedev positively brimmed with the quality.

Questioners from the floor included oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which caused a ripple among those familiar with the charges hanging over the oligarch – but no problems for Mr Medvedev.

Fact of the day

Women make up 65pc of the global workforce but earn 10pc of the global salaries: Coca-Cola boss Muhtar Kent.

Hot air of the day

"We must expand sustainability footprints through innovation."

Read Thomas Molloy's blog from Davos on www.independent.ie

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