Davos 2016: High and mighty face cliffhangers like market rout at Swiss peak summit
Published 19/01/2016 | 02:30
The organisers of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, want attendees to focus on the challenges of the future.
The theme of this year's annual meeting, which kicks off on Wednesday, is Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a catch-all rubric that describes advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics.
The problems of the here and now, though, are likely to be a more popular topic of discussion.
Among the assembled politicians, chief executive officers, and financiers will be many key players in simmering global crises, including China's stock market meltdown, the emerging cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Russia's economic slump.
They'll be meeting a couple of weeks after billionaire George Soros, a Davos stalwart, warned that the China-induced turmoil in financial markets is starting to remind him of "the crisis we had in 2008". Others are also voicing concerns. "This is a very stressful time," says John Veihmeyer, the global chairman of consulting firm KPMG International, who's heading to Davos.
"Geopolitical risks are becoming much more relevant, and concern about them is accelerating."
Davos attendees hoping for insight into the spiralling conflicts in the Middle East are unlikely to be disappointed.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led his country's talks with world powers to win a nuclear deal, will be wandering the halls of the Congress Centre. It may be hard for him to avoid bumping into officials from arch rival Saudi Arabia, including his counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir. Prince Turki Al Faisal, Saudi's former intelligence chief and one-time ambassador to Washington, will headline a panel on understanding Islam.
Eager not to miss a chance to buttonhole so many key negotiating partners in its last year in office, the Obama administration is sending its most high-ranking delegation ever.
US vice president Joe Biden is slated to be accompanied by John Kerry, Jacob Lew, and Ashton Carter - the secretaries of state, the treasury, and defence, respectively. Both Biden and Kerry will give solo speeches, an honour typically reserved for top heavyweights. (Bloomberg)