Kenny to pursue goals at Davos forum
When Taoiseach Enda Kenny enters the Davos spotlight this morning, he will be hoping to attract the right kind of attention.
A year after his controversial “mad borrowing” remarks, a more cautious Mr Kenny will use this year’s World Economic Forum to advance the Government’s debt relief campaign with the old slogan beloved of Fianna Fáil and Iarnród Éireann: a lot done, more to do.
To that end he will meet IMF chief Christine Lagarde this morning, followed by meetings with Bank of America president Brian Moynihan, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and executives from Diageo and Western Union.
Mr Kenny joins Dutch, Polish and Italian leaders for a podium discussion on “Restoring Europe’s Vibrancy” and attends a lunchtime briefing alongside British chancellor George Osborne and EU economics affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn.
Leaders value Davos where, in a few short hours shuttling between closed-door meetings, they can get more work done than in weeks back in the real world.
Love it or loathe it, the 40-year-old forum remains the world’s premier stage to position your company – or country – for the year ahead.
“In the years I’ve been coming, Ireland has moved from model to problem to solution,” said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a 12-year forum veteran, of how Ireland is perceived at Davos.
Known as the Magic Mountain, after the Thomas Mann novel set here, opinion remains divided over whether Davos attracts white or black magic. Its stated goal – to improve the state of the world – often gets lost in the lobbying, partying and empty management semantics such as “leading through adversity”.
This year’s blurry buzzword is “context”, with sessions on the “leadership context”, the “values context” and even the “human development context”.
And, once again, what began as a discreet mountaintop meeting has expanded. This year’s proceedings, attracting more than 2,500 participants from 100 countries, kicked off on Tuesday night with a “Crystal Award” for actor Charlize Theron in honour of her outreach project on HIV/Aids in sub-Saharan South Africa.
With Ireland not necessarily prominent on international minds, Irish participants say Davos is a chance to change that.
Peter Sutherland, another Irish Davos veteran, detects a more upbeat atmosphere this year than last, offering a chance for Ireland to pitch its debt relief message as a positive progress report.
“We have complied with our obligations, we are doing well and we are going to come through it – the positive message to present is that it can be done,” said Mr Sutherland, a former European commissioner and president of Goldman Sachs International.
He suggests Mr Kenny should not shy away from presenting the looming uncertainties of not agreeing a debt deal for fear of scaring the horses.
“Arguably they are not scared enough because the deficit is still enormous,” said Mr Sutherland. “I think the external vista of Ireland is sufficiently rosy enough to sustain the fact that we still have issues. People are sufficiently sophisticated to make a judgment.”