A score for good sense at the FT/HSBC breakfast event: six men were settled into white armchairs onstage for a panel debate yesterday, but only one man’s sensibly clad feet stood out. Gao Xiqing, president of China’s sovereign wealth fund, shunned the standard suede or polished leather business shoe. Not for him the peril of slipping on Davos’ icy pavements, or the inconvenience of changing shoes every time he entered the Belvedere. Instead, this free spirit and reported climbing fan sported a clunky pair of brown walking boots. It turns out that when you have $200bn in assets under management, you can wear whatever shoes you like.
SHAKIRA IS THE ONE
As for free spirits of another kind, Gao’s fellow panellist Colombian finance minister Juan Carlos Echeverry was determined to add a little philosophy to the mix to spice up his remarks. Asked about what rising prices mean for commodities exporters, he took an unusual angle: “I think of Nietzsche and the trans-valuation of all values,” he said. “What used to be good is bad and what used to be bad – to be poor and resource-rich – is good.” So who is Echeverry’s modern “übermensch”? It turns out, it’s Shakira (pictured right). “If Nietzsche were born today, Shakira would be his über-frau,” he declared. We didn’t quite catch the rationale, but hell, anyone who can put Shakira and Nietsche together in a debate about capital flows deserves brownie points
CLIMATE CHANGE IS COOL
It’s not just about networking, Davos’ most ardent supporters insist. It’s about getting together to solve the world’s problems. A plethora of events sets out to prove the point, with Climate Group holding a lunch this week for “a select group of international leaders from the finance and energy sectors to discuss the collective leadership needed to support progressive policy measures and finance solutions”, sponsored by HSBC and Standard Chartered. A sceptic might wonder how all this caviar-munching, champagne-quaffing and speech-giving helps the environment?
Of course, it doesn’t do any harm – unless, that is, you count the thousands of flights delegates took to get here, the lines of traffic crowding the town, the gratuitous patio heaters on balconies that no one is occupying and the helicopters and private jets shedding their airy exhaust over the pristine Alps.
One director told me she was actually getting quite tired of being ferried around in shiny Mercedes. Yesterday’s shimmering sunny weather was one for walking – if you could cross the road between the fleets of shiny executive-carriers crawling along the Promenade. It’s all in a day’s climate action.
TIME TO RELAX
Never to miss a chance to make extra cash off its delegates' thirst for self-promotion, the World Economic Forum has this year invested in an entire stand-alone temporary extension to the Belvedere Hotel. The structure is a behemoth of purchased offices and lounges, with a variety of firms and media outlets setting up shop in the new building. One of the most important requirements, of course, is ample space for “lounging”, without which many of the delegates would be at a loss for large chunks of the day.