Sunday 18 March 2018

All you need to know about the World Economic Forum

A Swiss policeman patrols before the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos
A Swiss policeman patrols before the start of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos
Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

Q What’s all the fuss about?

A The World Economic Forum at Davos is like Woodstock for anoraks. A festival of capitalism for around 2,500 global political leaders and the chief executives of the world’s biggest companies, as well as hundreds of journalists. Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan are among the Irish attending, along with Denis O’Brien, Bono and Archbishop Diarmiud Martin.

Q So it’s a pretty eclectic mix then?

A Not really to be honest. Most people are very rich, white and male, but it is interesting. Just 15pc of Davos members this year will be female. Still, these people really are among those who rule the world and watching them network is an experience in itself. Almost everybody who goes to Davos has a long list of people they want to meet. What makes Davos unusual is having so many powerful people from different disciplines in the same spot for nearly a week.

Q I could do with brushing up my contacts book. How do I bag an invite?

A The simple answer is become rich and famous. You need to be invited and the average cost of attending is estimated at $40,000 (€30,000). Your ticket is around $20k but then you have to include travel, lodging and the helicopter from Zurich  costs about $10,000. Or you could go as a ‘strategic partner’ and pay $500,000 for the pleasure of setting the “intellectual agenda”.

Q Perhaps I’ll just follow the coverage in the ‘Irish Independent’. What will they be talking about anyway?

A The main theme is decided by founder Klaus Schwab and he has picked “income inequality” for this year’s meeting.

Q That’s rich! A load of rich guys talking about income distribution.

A Even the 1pc worry that the 99pc might revolt. Besides, there is a lot of research that suggests that too much income inequality is bad for capitalism. Interestingly, a poll taken before this year’s forum shows that the vast bulk of the uber rich believe capitalism is not working anymore.

Q Any other themes?

A Cyber security and the “lost generation” of young people coming of age in the 2010s who face either unemployment or underemployment.

Business leaders are being told to do more to protect themselves and their companies against a potential cyber attack.

Q And will anything come of all this chatter in the Alps?

A Who knows? The forum has been most effective when it discusses ideas such as free trade – a discussion which ultimately led to the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But who can track the influence of an idea or a chance meeting? One thing is for sure – all these busy people don’t cram themselves into this otherwise obscure ski resort for no reason.

Irish Independent

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