Sunday, January 24, 2016

Davos In The Spotlight!

A Gathering Of Powerful-brokers And Public Servants?
It is that time of year again when the rich, powerful, and well-connected migrate to Davos for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. I feel such a large gathering of those who "call the shots" merits a bit of sound reflection as to the possible ramifications for the world. It is important and prudent that we at least weigh in on what they plan to do with us in coming years. Around 2,500 participants from more than 100 countries, including 40 heads of state, will attend the event formally known as the 2016 World Economic Forum. This year, the theme is "Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution." Some of the key issues high on the agenda are involuntary immigration, extreme weather, and climate change, geopolitical conflict, terrorism, sustainable growth, as well as how robotics and other trends will play out and mold the world in coming years.

Davos, Beautiful, Serene, And Expensive
The tiny town of Davos, Switzerland with a population of just over 11,000 sports a very cold below zero average temperature in January. It has been the location of this annual event for decades. Aside from tradition, a major factor elevating this beautiful and serene setting to be chosen as the site hosting this event is security, it is far easier to secure a small town wedged between the mountains than a conference center in a big city. This is very important to the 40 heads of states that are attending. Organizers don't release specific information, but it is estimated that around 5,000 of the finest Swiss troops, police and security personnel guard the town.

Switzerland is famously expensive, and this extends to the WEF and Davos. To start we are talking about the ticket which is around $20,000 and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Travel generally cost thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands as private and government jets descend on the area. Then there is the cost of lodging, a night in a medium-range hotel is around $600, but such accommodations will not do for many of those attending the event. When we add to it wining, dining, and essential accessories like snow boots, the total bill can quickly exceed $40,000. To our so-called "public servants" getting invited to an all paid trip to Davos is the golden ring.

As to who attends this exclusive event the gathering often includes nearly everyone who matters in the world of business. Bill Gates will be there, as will Mary Barra, Satya Nadella, Jack Ma, Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg and dozens of other CEOs. This will give them face time with the IMF chief Christine Lagarde, with ECB President Mario Draghi and the governors of 10 national central banks. The U.S. will be represented by Joe Biden and John Kerry. Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, is also coming, as is Penny Pritzker, the Secretary of Commerce. The King and Queen of Jordan will be there, as will Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio, Yao Chen and As usual, the whole bunch will be closely followed by a massive group of journalists hoping for interviews and a moment in the spotlight.

As noted earlier organizers of this premier gala pull out all stops to insure a safe conference.
  • Security includes two surface-to-air missile systems.
  • About 100 of the 2,500 participants get special security coverage.
  • Attendees will be hemmed in by 46 kilometers of fences, 10 percent more than a year ago.
  • Zurich Airport will contend with about 1,000 additional plane and helicopter takeoffs and landings during the meeting.

This Bash Includes Parties to cajole and influence
Each year as this "ultimate extravagant" unfolds I seem to get a pain in my stomach that some might consider envy, but having attended my share of events I consider it more of a sickening feeling related to the over the top self-importance of many attending. It often seems my angst is directed mostly at the politicians and such that have their travel expense picked up by governments. How ironic that we pay the same clowns that create so many of our problems to gather in luxury to discuss their deeds. I find it so interesting that someone flying across the globe on a private aircraft can sit down and discuss their environmental concerns and how each of us must do more to save the planet.

I should add this giant high dollar bash also includes the parties needed to cajole, influence, and build future connections to insure a good spot at the table in many coming events. The topics holding the spotlight often are focused on issues related to wealth, whether it has to do with stock price swings, bonds, or commodities. The distribution of societal benefits tends to take a backseat to those at Davos. This year it seems participants are getting a little jittery with several world events such as Donald Trump rising, oil prices falling, and economic growth slowing in China. This means that many of the people attending have a great deal of interest in keeping the good times rolling by pseudo-economics, hocus-pocus, or any other policy that extends the good times.

Already reassuring words are being cast out over the airwaves to us, the minions of the world. For example on Saturday IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the Chinese economy is unlikely to see 'hard landing' and it would be in the interest of the world that China returns to a sustained growth path,  Lagarde also indicated the fourth industrial revolution currently underway would bring about major change in the world and would require change in the way GDP is calculated. With such a startling and revealing statement it is no wonder she is hailed as a world renown financial leader. If I sound cynical it could be because I suspect this is not for our benefit, we are just given the honor of paying for it in some way or form.

Footnote; This is an extension of a topic I have written about before. I do not hold in high regard those in Washington and across the world who love power and access to the public purse. It seems they can always come up with a justification for the outlandish and the absurd, to those making the rules, the cost is often not relevant. The takeaway is, of the many choices we make worse things could happen to you then becoming a "public servant" 
It is not uncommon to see our public servants, some as low as a mayor or agency head climbing out of a limousine, being wined and dined, or on an exotic visit or fact-finding mission, all paid for by the taxpayer. The article below looks into whether these people are really public servants or the new elite.


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