Davos meeting: Gloomy about economy, worried about capitalism

The annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, will discuss not only the Europe's debt woes but also the future of capitalism. Even some billionaires in Davos are worried about income inequality.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP
Protesters from the Occupy movement release a banner on the first day of the 42nd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Some of the billionaires attending have expressed their own concerns about income inequality.

If the annual gathering of world leaders, corporate chieftains, and economists in secluded Davos in the Swiss Alps is a good barometer of the global economic outlook, then the reading this year is gloomy.

The European debt crisis dominates the conversation, of course. But the outlook everywhere seems to suggest a global slowdown. "The global recovery is threatened by intensifying stains in the euro area and fragilities elsewhere,” concluded a report from the International Monetary Fund, which cut its 2012 forecast of world growth from 4 percent to 3.25 percent.

Beneath the gloom lies a broader worry among many participants that capitalism is failing to provide the widespread economic benefits that it used to.

"Capitalism, in its current form, has no place in the world around us," Al Jazeera quoted economist Klaus Schwab as saying. Mr. Schwab is founder of the World Economic Forum. The WEF's theme this year – The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models – may be adding to the angst.

"I think we have three to four years in the West to improve the economic model that we have," said David Rubenstein, billionaire and co-founder of The Carlyle Group, according to the AFP news agency. "If we don't do that soon, I think we've lost the game."

From Jan. 25 to 29, more than 1,600 chief executive officers, 40 world leaders, and others will talk and meet to explore potential solutions to this systemic crisis.  

"We must redesign the model. We must reset it. Stop the greed," Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union ConfederationAFP reports. "Unless employers and workers sit down with governments, the system will continue to fail." Burrow said, 

Traditionally, the remote alpine ski resort keeps away voices of dissent. Not this year. For a few days, the luxurious hotel complexes that stretch the picturesque Landwasser high valley, will have to coexist with the igloos that a small number of Occupy protesters have constructed.

"In the last 42 years, I've never seen so much snow in Davos," WEF founder Klaus Schwab tweeted.

"Perfect snow to build igloos!" Occupy Davos protesters tweeted back, according to The Huffington Post.

"We believe that the leaders at World Economic Forum are just trying to implement new systems to maximize their profits, not to help the world," Amadeus Thiemann, a Zurich engineer who traveled to Davos to protest corporate greed, told USA Today.

The protest is resonating with some of the billionaires attending Davos. Bloomberg reports that a half-dozen of the approximately 70 billionaire attendees, interviewed before the conference, underlined the need to tackle the problem.

“Many who will be in Davos are the people being blamed for economic inequalities,”  Vikas Oberoi, director of one of India’s biggest real estate developers, told Bloomberg. “I hope it’s not just about glamour and people having a big party.”

George Soros also “recognizes that income inequality is a problem” and is supportive of tax increases for the wealthy, said his spokesman, Michael Vachon. 

Launched in 1971, the WEF is "committed to improving the state of the world" by engaging politicians, businesspeople, academics and other prominent international figures to address pressing global issues like terrorism, water supply, HIV/AIDS, as well as furthering dialogue between the West and Islam.  

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Davos meeting: Gloomy about economy, worried about capitalism
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today