Davos never fixes global economy

Steve Sedgwick
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GH is enough. No more snow please. As an Englishman, I know deep down we are atrocious at handling Alpine conditions in this country. Britain’s recent heavy snowfall is threatening to send the country flying into a triple dip (or whatever number we are up to now) recession, as the UK economy grinds to a halt under three inches of the white stuff.

But there are no such problems for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. It positively welcomes more downpours. Poor weather rarely stops the great and the good from getting up the valley from Zurich, and makes the whole place look extremely pretty. Heavy Swiss snowfall has the added attraction of making it almost impossible for protestors to get anywhere near the annual C-suite love in without freezing their placard-carrying arms off.

But there are larger challenges than the weather for anyone following the Forum. The biggest will be to discover from the multitude of VIP attendees exactly why they are there and what they aim to achieve. This year’s line-up is certainly very impressive. Mark Carney, the next governor of the Bank of England, will jostle for place alongside Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund. But beyond the schmoozing, great parties, business card swapping and grandstanding, just what are they really doing there?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is essential for everyone to pay attention. These are some of the most important decision makers in the world. I just have a feeling that, when you look back at the major issues discussed under the big thematic headline topics each year, the Forum gets it wrong as often as not. Let me give you a couple of examples to back up my concerns.

In 2007, the major theme of Davos was The Shifting Power Equation, which in the WEF’s own words was “focusing in particular on political and socio-economic issues”. Now call me an old cynic, but did they not miss the tiny little global financial meltdown that was building up nicely at about that time? Wouldn’t “How we don’t fall into the abyss in the global financial markets?” have been a slightly more relevant title?

And, don’t laugh, back in 2009 WEF’s meeting was labelled Shaping The Post-Crisis World. So, if 2009 was post-crisis territory, then what have the last three years been about?

OK, enough of the cynicism. This year’s theme is Resilient Dynamism. According to the blurb, that means the world needs resilience to adapt to changing political and economic contexts, and dynamism to overcome the ongoing economic malaise. I don’t think too many of us will disagree with those lofty aims. Let’s just hope that, this time, the WEF grandees can deliver something along those lines before they toddle off back down the slopes to the day jobs.

Steve Sedgwick is anchor for SquawkBox Europe at CNBC.