Banking turmoil and growth tops Davos agenda
Responsible banks and aid for Haiti -- not invincible billionaires, high-charged diplomacy or rock stars -- are the watchwords at this year's World Economic Forum at Davos.
This rarefied Swiss resort will still host its share of bankers rich on post-meltdown bonuses and perhaps less of the humility that marked last year's gathering of many of the world's rich and powerful, then struggling through government bailouts and questioning their future.
Yet participants and organisers of this week's five-day forum, opening tomorrow with more than 2,500 leading figures in business and politics on deck, suggest Davos is marking its 40th birthday by adapting to a more sober and dispersed modern economy, one where Beijing weighs increasingly on the market balance, and where poverty and public outrage demand the attention of the world's moneymakers.
"The euphoria about globalisation that marked Davos for years has in a sense been undermined by the global crisis," Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and frequent participant at Davos.
While US President Barack Obama's administration will be only modestly represented at this year's forum, his plan to clamp down on the size and activity of banks will be on many chief bankers' minds.
The forum's founder, Klaus Schwab, said the event was opening in a "mood of reflection".
"There is nothing at the moment to be celebrating," he added.
Rising global unemployment and sluggish recovery from recession form the backdrop for the forum, which will host more than 30 presidents and prime ministers from January 27-31. The event, titled 'Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild', will be opened by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
This year's agenda looks at reforming banks and barriers to world trade as well as cybercrime, corruption and how businesses can respond to climate change.
Political headliners include presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Lee Myung-Bak of South Korea and Jacob Zuma of South Africa and prime ministers Stephen Harper of Canada and Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain. But the number of top leaders is sparser than in years past.
Former President Bill Clinton's appearance will focus not on US economic policy but on Haiti.
As the UN special envoy to Haiti, he will encourage Davos participants to give some thought, and cash, to helping rebuild the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation after the earthquake that killed as many as 200,000 earlier this month, one of history's deadliest. (AP)