Lead­ers with a gripe won’t be there

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Bloomberg

NEVER be­fore has the gap be­tween Davos Man and the real world yawned so widely.

The top ex­ec­u­tives, fi­nanciers, aca­demics and politi­cians mak­ing their way up the moun­tain to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) will be talk­ing a lot about such non-es­tab­lish­ment lead­ers as pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump – whose in­au­gu­ra­tion in Wash­ing­ton oc­curs on the event’s last day – France’s Na­tional Front chief Marine Le Pen and Ital­ian pop­ulist Beppe Grillo of the Five Star Move­ment.

But they won’t be meet­ing them. Not one of the lead­ers bent on over­turn­ing the world or­der as Davos has de­signed it will be present.

A fo­rum spokesman says an “ex­tra­or­di­nary range” of po­lit­i­cal fig­ures will at­tend – almost en­tirely of­fice-hold­ers.

The up­starts will loom over the proceedings, though.

Strong feel­ings

Trump, who won’t have an of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive there, has ex­pressed strong feel­ings about some of the coun­tries that were send­ing del­e­ga­tions, in­clud­ing his own.

Europe’s pop­ulist lead­ers, for their part, have their own view of the an­nual gath­er­ing of the rich, the pow­er­ful, the fa­mous and the syco­phan­tic.

At­ten­dees ap­pear to be less fo­cused on Trump’s pres­i­dency or on up­com­ing elec­tions in France, the Nether­lands, Ger­many and pos­si­bly Italy than on other global con­cerns.

The fo­rum’s an­nual sur­vey of mem­bers on the most likely risks for 2017 found that “ex­treme weather events” was the top worry.

“Failed na­tional gov­er­nance”, the clos­est cat­e­gory to such sur­prise events last year as Brexit and Trump’s elec­tion, was not in the top five, al­though it had been placed third in 2015.

Big­gest star

What at­ten­dees will be pay­ing at­ten­tion to is the del­e­ga­tion from China, the largest yet to at­tend the fo­rum. The big­gest star: Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, the first Chi­nese head of state to ad­dress the gath­er­ing.

What’s not new: the share of fe­male at­ten­dees. At 20 per­cent, it is marginally higher than in pre­vi­ous years, but progress has been slow.

One thing that’s up: rev­enue for the WEF it­self. Pay­ments from part­ner­ships – the cor­po­ra­tions and con­sult­ing firms that take cen­tre stage at Davos – was up 25 per­cent over the pre­vi­ous year.

Mem­ber­ships and par­tic­i­pa­tion in­come was flat, but the or­gan­i­sa­tion en­joyed an over­all in­crease of 14 per­cent.

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