Every year, for the past 37 years, leaders of government, companies, as well as wealthy individuals from Europe, the Americas, and Asia come together to the resort town of Davos, Switzerland. It is called the World Economic Forum (WEF), a Geneva-based foundation whose annual meeting of top business leaders, national political leaders (presidents, prime ministers and others), and selected intellectuals and journalists meeet and try to discuss the current world economic concerns. From January 23-27, 2008, these individuals hammered on this year's Davos question: What one thing do you think that countries, companies, or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?
The 11 sessions of Davos were held in a bunkerlike conference center, with no view of the surrounding beautiful mountains and the conference of the world's top achievers focused on global uncertainties, both economic and political. For the first time however, participants not only included corporate executives who can shell out $35,000 in annual meeting fees, but, thanks to Google's You tube, vloggers and simple citizens like you and me can post a reply or submit an answer or a solution to the Davos question. Check out this unique solution from You tube vlogger "jotarius" from Canada which makes a lot of sense:
On the other hand, who would have imagined the drama that happened when just as 2,500 of the world's most important economic, business and political leaders are arriving in a Swiss resort town for the annual meeting of the Davos World Economic Forum including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. stock market goes into wild gyrations and the Fed stops a free fall with a historic rate cut.
The global business elite is watching anxiously to see whether the United States can limit the damage from the mortgage lending mess and the banking crisis that has resulted.
As economists say, "When the United States sneezes, does the world still catch cold?" The title of one panel examined whether - as in the past - a U.S. economic slowdown, or recession, will undercut the global economy. As the delegates arrived, people also discussed the U.S. elections, and wondering whether the next president will pull America back from the world stage.
But here's what is different this year: The rich and the powerful at Davos are already looking beyond the United States as present and future global leader. The talk is about whether emerging economies, primarily China, India, and resource-rich Russia, can pick up the economic slack if America falters and maintain global growth.
No one underestimates the continued importance of America. But a series of policy setbacks - the failure to foresee or head off this mortgage debacle, the decline of the dollar, the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - has created the sense that the era of the American hyperpower is history. George W. Bush is already regarded as a lame duck; the meager results of his recent trip to the Middle East showed how little he is able to achieve. Everyone worries about an outflow of capital and talent to Asia, leading to permanent job losses with China which at present is enjoying a 3-1 ratio of engineers to the United States.
The unease about America's ability to right its own ship is reflected in the subject matter of many Davos panels. At Davos you can see new global players in the wings. China had a strong delegation . India has sent powerhouse executives. Brazil is more in evidence. Russia's new power, born of huge oil and gas resources, is causing much discussion. Iran has sent a large contingent, not including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but with representatives of several different political factions.
Rock Star Bono responds to the Davos Question:
Davos attendees would like to see America recoup. They are hoping, uncertainly, that 2008 elections might help the United States get its groove back. But the murky uncertainties of the market reflect the unease here about where America is headed, and what the world will look like with America no longer firmly in the lead.
In the words of author Thomas Friedman in his book "The World is Flat", we came from a world of two Superpowers (U.S. and Russia), to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the world of one Superpower, and now, are going into a world of NO Superpower....everything is fluid.
Check out the ongoing conversation at Youtube/Davos
The World Economic Forum annual Davos gathering of the world's political and business elite invitation list includes 27 heads of state or government, 113 cabinet ministers and several hundred A-list corporate titans.
(Compiled by Jay Fermin ppp-usa)