Thursday 19 October 2017

Buddy, can you spare a room?

Participants take a break between sessions at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos
Participants take a break between sessions at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos

ACCOMMODATION is an endless problem at Davos. The town is small and the number of delegates, journalists, chauffeurs, security personnel and assorted hangers-on who must be accommodated is large. Your unsuspecting diarist was booked into a hotel in St Moritz on the basis that it is only 6km from Davos itself. Turns out that those few kilometres take two and a half hours by train because a few mountains and valleys stand in the way. I eventually ended up in Davos in a spare room in a flat belonging to two ski instructors at around 200 Swiss francs a night.

That's grist to the mill for reporters but not, it seems, for the leaders of the world's biggest country. Chinese communist party bigwig and billionaire Wang Jianlin complained at a debate on China's role in the world that he was forced to sleep in a hostel last year. This year, he told the eccentric German WEF founder Klaus Schwab that he would only return to speak if he got a hotel room. Schwab got Wang a room in the Sheraton. Cue envy from half the audience.

PRAISE FROM AN UNLIKELY SOURCE

An interesting theme at this year's forum was income inequality. Worrying about this brought out possibly unexpected beliefs in many of the delegates including businessman Denis O'Brien. "If I was to be totally frank I'd have a sneaking regard for the Wall Street protesters," he said yesterday. "There are some fairly coherent people (in the group) and some of the points they make are right. This might sound a bit wild to say it but the world really does need a different version of capitalism." Among the tweaks O'Brien would like to see are "the reining-in of investment banks" and the dismemberment of some of the world's major banks "because they are a system risk".

HOW TO BE HOST WITH THE MOST

Nightlife is a major part of the Davos experience and hosting parties is every bit as competitive for governments and banks as everything else Davos-related. Bono was undoubtedly one of the stars this year. Both Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan appeared elated yesterday after a late-night dinner sponsored by the IDA, which saw the U2 singer attend in between debates. While the party was private, sources say it was among the best thrown by our government anywhere in recent times. Both Enda Kenny and Bono were in great form and gave great speeches, our mole adds.

It's lucky for Ireland that there are draws like Bono because it would be hard to compete otherwise with the legendary Davos parties at the Belvedere hotel. The parties there tend towards the boisterous, with last year's highlights, sponsored by salesforce.com, drawing in the crowds with a giant multi-floor disco and a vast array of stuffed animal heads with laser eyes and Grammy Award-winner John Legend on the piano.

Irish Independent

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