It's that time of the year again in Switzerland. Between hotels where the room costs $ 500 per night, and the security cordons of armored limos, in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos a strange camp has appeared. It's made of igloos! Protesters have built it as a warning to the super-powerful dignitaries who've gathered inside the hotel: "Be careful, or you could be sleeping in the snow by the same time next year". Or maybe that's just some wishful thinking. Certainly so.
The thing is, the prospects for prosperity are getting ever slimmer in most countries, the public trust for both government representatives, corporate CEOs and the systems they represent, has been plunging. There's a sense of uncertainty floating around the Euro zone, and don't get them started on the ulcers that are Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea! Now the Occupy movement of course registered some presence at the annual global economic summit in Davos, where a couple thousand famous and not so well known but still VIPs from more than 100 countries are meeting as we speak, presumably to find solutions to the world's economic problems.
In Davos the VIP guests usually enjoy hyper security, they're concealed from their critics so they could, perhaps, find those coveted solutions. This year the global anti-corporate movement is represented by a small but very vocal group of protesters who've prepared to meet the world official and unofficial leaders with a camp of igloos and tents, and anti-capitalist slogans. Even weather is favorable to the protesters. It has stopped snowing and the sun is trying to break out among the clouds. There are even some "crazy" billionaires who've taken the side of the "99%-ers" and are bemoaning the social injustices of the world.
People here are saying they've never seen so much snow in Davos for the last few decades. I don't believe them, but fine. "The snow is perfect for the igloos though!", some of the Occupy guys said for a local newspaper. I suppose in a way they're enjoying all of this. Meanwhile, the world aristocracy doesn't seem to be giving a damn about all the yelling. They'd pass beside the loose crowds in total silence, watching dispassionately from behind the dark windows of their limos - and that's at least one familiar sight from previous years. Familiar things tend to give us a sense of stability and predictability, no? ;)
Because of the huge amount of problems they're supposed to solve this year, many of the Davos guests may well prefer indulging in less painful and more lucrative activities instead, like doing secret corporate deals behind closed doors, which is the trademark of these economic forums. The US and other politicians will be trying to recruit new investors for their respective regions, and in turn the investors will look for promising young entrepreneurs, and all of them will probably be hoping that someone would come up with a genius idea.
The truth about Davos is that even if nothing is achieved on the policy front, at least one thing is for sure - a number of nice business deals will become a fact once the summit is over, ones that we may never learn about, or would learn in many months post-factum. I expect that this year the focus will be on the CEOs of the Chinese corporations who are making a real invasion in Europe, and Europe itself will be undoubtedly the fading star on this forum. Ironically, Europe who has worked for many years for expanding the forum and introducing some non-European, non-North-American participants, will now be pushed further to the sidelines by that new generation of Asian, South American and even African businesspeople. And I'm not just talking about BRICS.
Angela Merkel will open the official part of the meeting with what is expected to be a keystone speech, which will probably outline the direction of Germany's policy on the European debt crisis for the coming months. Because Germany is basically the only player that matters there, being the economic juggernaut of the continent, and all that. The list of participants in Davos this year is longer than ever in its 40 year history, including dozens of heads of state and chairmen of the most important central banks. It's the cream of the world's leaders in one place, no doubt.
If one is to take part in this brainstorm along with these dignitaries, they'd need a special invitation, and those guys don't invite just anyone. You have to be a promising business leader, a prominent scientist, or leading analyst, and surprisingly there are some human rights activists as well, just for color I suppose. The bottom-line of all this hubbub is to shape the world order for the coming year(s). If there's one place where the global economic climate is being set, it's in Davos.
Four years after the sub-prime mortgage crash and the financial collapse, growth in the developed world is still very shy. It's no secret that many people on both sides of the Atlantic are feeling betrayed by their leaders' decisions which they think only benefit those same bank(st)ers and the big financial sharks who are being primarily blamed for the crisis. While people are wondering who to blame, the governments or the financiers, or both, the social and economic gap is widening.
The Occupy movement may not be as numerous here as in the US, maybe because Davos is located in one of the remotest places, in the middle of the highest Swiss Alps, and in a tightly guarded valley. But still, those who ventured to make the trip haven't wasted their time - they kept themselves occupied with carving huge ice blocks to build igloos out of, while waiting for the despised world leaders to arrive. I was told it takes 4 people about 6 hours to build one of those igloos.
I saw a protest sign on a street in Geneva, saying "If voting could really change anything, it would have been made illegal". That may tell us a few things about the moods of disappointment with democracy that are floating around.
The organizers of the forum are warning that all these moods could urge some governments to resort to state protectionism, and push societies towards populist nationalism and widespread public discontent, including social unrest and violence. This is particularly valid for the three world powers where 2012 happens to be an election year - America, Russia and France. And the Arab world too, of course. Probably the mantra that's the most frequently heard is "a new model". Apparently all the current models have failed, and new ones will be sought there. What exactly those would look like, remains a mystery so far.
The most important question for many government officials seems to be "When will growth be restored?" And this, despite the growing indebtedness and the diminishing confidence in the markets. And the biz leaders will be holding private talks about how more young people could be hired and how the trust in the leadership could be restored, and how to make sustainable energy resources a more attractive option, and how to benefit from the new technologies. All that sounds very nice, I'm sure.
And I'm sure the guys who are calling the shots in those economies and who are pulling the strings of the politicians will be having some hard talks with the officially elected representatives of the people. And some chiding will be done, and some instructions will be issued. The results of all that will be seen in the next 12 months. Of course, you won't see any minutes of the meetings being released anywhere on the media. So those who can read between the lines will have to indirectly deduce what had been talked there.
I haven't seen Alex Jones anywhere around, though. But he still has time to make it to this remote corner in the Alps. ;)