Leaders pessimistic ahead of Davos meet

Global business leaders are downbeat on the potential for economic growth in 2015, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday, bringing a gloomy start to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Leaders pessimistic ahead of Davos meet
Photo: World Economic Forum

In a Davos tradition, consulting group PwC surveyed 1,300 business leaders in the run-up to the high altitude gabfest, and their responses fell in line with the International Monetary Fund, which on Tuesday slashed its world growth forecast for this year and next.
The poor outlook comes despite a sharp drop in oil prices and will weigh heavily as the world elite gather over the next four days in the Alpine village in the canton of Graubünden in eastern Switzerland.
French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be among the 2,500 prominent figures attending the meeting, along with Nobel laureates, top bankers and CEOs.
Asked how they saw the big economic picture at the start of the year, only 37 percent of the PwC respondents said they expected the economy to improve in the next 12 months, down from 44 percent a year ago.
Even worse, 17 percent of business leaders said the economy would turn for the worse in 2015, more than double the seven percent last year.
For the first time in five years, the United States came ahead of China as the country respondents felt would best boost the world economy over the next 12 months.
As ever, over-regulation by governments was cited as the biggest barrier to growth, but cyber-security, the uncontrolled advance of technology and the lack of qualified talent also rose as worries.
The IMF sharply cut its 2015-2016 world growth forecast of only six months ago, despite hopes that lower oil prices would offset pervasive weaknesses around the globe.
The fund said poorer prospects in China, Russia, the euro area and Japan will hold world GDP growth to just 3.5 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2016.

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Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May

The World Economic Forum announced Wednesday that its postponed 2021 Davos summit, themed as "The Great Reset" in the coronavirus crisis, will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland from May 18 to 21.

Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May
Participants at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2020. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The annual gathering of the world's political, economic and business elite traditionally takes place in January against the idyllic snowy backdrop of the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.

But it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, charged with remodelling the world economy in the wake of the crisis, will now be held 125 kilometres (75 miles) away in the plush Burgenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne.

“The meeting will take place as long as all conditions are in place to guarantee the health and safety of participants and the host community,” WEF spokesman Adrian Monck said in a statement.

“The meeting will focus on the solutions required to address the world's most pressing challenges. “Global leaders will come together to design a common recovery path, to shape 'The Great Reset' in the post-Covid-19 era and rebuild a more cohesive and sustainable society.”

Hybrid format

The WEF announced in June that the 51st edition of its annual meeting would take place in a hybrid format, then in August said it was being delayed for several months to reduce any risks to participants from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lucerne summit will combine both in-person and virtual elements, with participants linked to a network of around 400 hubs worldwide to incorporate dialogue with the WEF's “young global shapers, to ensure openness and inclusion”, said Monck.

The summit will be preceded during the week of January 25 by digitally-convened high-level “Davos Dialogues”, when global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1.04 million people while at least 35.5 million infections have been recorded since the outbreak emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

The pandemic has also triggered a global economic downturn, though the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that while it is far from over, it will not be as bad as originally feared thanks to a flood of government spending.

The World Trade Organization said likewise, forecasting a global trade contraction of 9.2 percent this year, rather than its previous “optimistic scenario” prediction of 12.9 percent.

But global trade will then grow by only 7.2 percent next year, rather than the previous 21.3-percent estimate issued in April, the WTO added.

Swiss cases rising

The WEF announcement comes as Switzerland announced Wednesday that daily coronavirus cases had jumped over the 1,000-mark for the first time since April 1, when the peak of the pandemic's initial wave began to recede.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has urged the country to “get a grip” and be more rigorous in applying the basic measures to control the spread of the virus.

The 2020 edition of the WEF summit, hosted in January just as the world was beginning to become aware of the new coronavirus spreading in China, drew more than 50 heads of state and government to Davos.

It focused on themes of sustainability and finding a more inclusive model for capitalism. US President Donald Trump and Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg were among its top speakers.

The WEF said it aims to be back in Davos for 2022.