Davos Kaleidoscope

Despite all the bitching that goes on about Davos being the playground for the rich and the richer, there is a lot to pick up at the WEF. As usual, there were questions about how effective it has been all these years; has it really transformed views and policy for the good of society as a whole. The answer unfortunately is a resounding no, but that cannot be held against the process of debate and discussion which sometimes can target the elephant in the room. BRICs was under the scanner and in a panel discussion among Finance Ministers of these countries. The Chinese Finance Minister stood out both for his delivery and content. He took the audience through the issues facing the Chinese economy and the steps, often harsh, that were in place to support the growth required for an economy that size.

In a panel on the ‘middle class squeeze’, it was made apparent that the developed and the developing economies were on two different trajectories. The squeeze was definitely not felt in the emerging markets though with rising inflation and stalling growth things may be changing, at least in the short term.

Academics of the world are uniting to unravel the mysteries of Happiness – over dinner Jeffrey Sachs, Michael Porter, Joseph Stieglitz and a couple of others told us that happiness was more than just getting rich. After lengthy expositions from each of them, we came to the conclusion that academics speak is not for lay persons even if they are alpha males. Hope the project is successful and we all learn how to be happy.

Prof. Nye, former dean of the most prestigious international relations school, the Kennedy School at Harvard upset Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China on a buying spree in the West. He was commenting on China’s use of hard power against its neighbours versus a judicious mix of soft, hard and military power. Jianlin expressed his displeasure in words normally not heard in Davos. It was a vindication of China’s rising power when Lloyd Blankfein, Nick Clegg and others on the panel made every attempt to appease the China man. Moral of the story – Chinese will not take advice lying down.

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