Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Storm gathers over Davos
It's Tuesday, it's snowing, I'm already cold ... it can only be Davos.
Technically the World Economic Forum doesn't begin until Wednesday, but in the mind of its thousands of participants and millions of observers, the debate has already begun.
Whereas the "R" word was merely "on everyone's lips" last week, here it will be the lingua franca; a common currency uniting politician and economist, film star and human rights campaigner. And if there was ever a time to sandwich "economic" back between the bread and butter of "world" and "forum," it'd be now.
What should have been a gradual start to proceedings for CNN evolved quickly into a decision to immediately ramp up coverage following a rout of epic proportions on global equity markets. The gathering storm: gathered. Time to sideline cliches and focus on the task in hand. Richard Quest and Todd Benjamin are already putting the world to rights; paving the way for the likes of Bill Gates, Bono and Queen Rania ... All of whom we'll talk to in the coming days.
The snow is coming down heavier and heavier right now and the circus is moving into town, train by train, car by car, bus by bus. Not two by two, but 4x4 and with snow chains. Helicopters have been put off by the snow, but the security is already a thick blanket enveloping Davos. Soldiers drill in the snow while workers drill inside the conference building, still adding the finishing touches to the corridors of power. An Alpine town of barbed wire and beauty. You get the sense that participants will be knee deep in two things this week.
Some say this Swiss ski resort is a last resort, a chance to brainstorm and solve what lies in wait for our world. Others consider the Forum a sort of mental chewing gum, refreshing and stimulating but ultimately always discarded. Talking off camera with WEF's founder Klaus Schwab he was quick to point out that last year's debate highlighted the rising damp of the US subprime market, showing that Davos is "on the money."
Afterwards I wondered why, with so many of the financial elite gathered, it took them more than six months to act? Some of those who discussed the issue last year have now lost their jobs to subprime; their skiing will be done elsewhere at this time of year.
So as the resort gradually fills with both participants, snow and expectation in equal measures, I may opt for a brief chance to sleep. My one window of skiing opportunity closed by the virtual white out. Still, already I am feeling the first clutch of fatigue, and I sense that as the peace of Davos is disturbed by economic disquiet, an extra dose of rest is exactly what the doctor ordered. Perhaps the global economy could do with the same. Ben Bernanke, can you hear me?
-- From CNNI Senior Planning Editor James Partington
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