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Davos elites want reform of 'outdated' capitalism

Published: 23 Jan 2012 09:07 GMT+01:00

Economic and political elites meeting this week at the Swiss resort of Davos will be asked to urgently find ways to reform a capitalist system that has been described as "outdated and crumbling."

"We have a general morality gap, we are over-leveraged, we have neglected to invest in the future, we have undermined social coherence, and we are in danger of completely losing the confidence of future generations," said Klaus Schwab, host and founder of the annual World Economic Forum.

"Solving problems in the context of outdated and crumbling models will only dig us deeper into the hole.

"We are in an era of profound change that urgently requires new ways of thinking instead of more business-as-usual," the 73-year-old said, adding that "capitalism in its current form, has no place in the world around us."

Some 1,600 economic and political leaders, including 40 heads of states and governments, will be asked to come up with new ideas as they converge at eastern Switzerland's chic ski station for the 42nd edition of the five-day World Economic Forum which opens on Wednesday.

The eurozone's failure to get a grip on its debt crisis and the spectre this is casting over the global economy will dominate discussions.

"The main issue would be the preoccupation with the global economy. There will be relatively less conversation about social responsibility and environment issues -- those tend to come to the fore when the economy is doing well," John Quelch, dean of the China European International Business School, told AFP.

"The main conversation will be about a deficit of leadership in Europe as a prime problem," he added.

The annual talk-shop comes barely a week after the eurozone's reputation took a further battering, as ratings agency Standard and Poor's downgraded the credit-worthiness of nine eurozone countries, including stripping France of its triple-A grade.

While saved from the downgrade embarrassment, the region's economic powerhouse Germany has nevertheless been forced to lower its growth forecast, dragged down by its neighbours' debt woes and weaker demand from emerging markets.

The forum will centre on the issue from the beginning, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel opens with a keynote speech.

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde will also give a broader insight into the international economic impact of the eurozone crisis.

The World Bank slashed its global economic growth forecasts to 2.5 percent for 2012 and 3.1 percent in 2013 -- sharply lower than previous estimates of 3.6 percent for both years.

Beyond economic issues, the forum will address a plethora of other subjects.

Sessions will range from scientific discoveries expected to shape 2012, to a discussion on the differences perceived when a Beethoven sonata is played on historic and modern instruments, to how virtual games can be harnessed for innovation in the real world.

It will also hear about the profound changes in the Arab world after a series of revolutions swept across the region in 2011. New Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and Egyptian presidential candidate Amre Moussa will both be present at the meeting.

Political issues in other regions will be addressed, with the participation of Mexican Felipe Calderon, his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan and Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the fledgling South Sudan.

Up to 5,000 Swiss soldiers have been mobilised to secure the location, and the air space around eastern Switzerland's Davos region will also be severely restricted during the week.

But anti-capitalist demonstrators are planning to make their presence felt.

The Occupy WEF protestors have built igloos in the middle of the village perched 1,500 metres above sea level and are planning a protest against those they call "self-proclaimed elites."

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