Global elite gather to talk shop at Davos

More than 40 heads of state will rub shoulders with 2,500 senior figures in business, social justice and economics at four-day event

Thousands of the world's top business and political leaders are gathering for the 45th annual World Economic Forum in the chic Swiss ski resort of Davos, Switzerland close to the Austrian border.

More than 40 heads of state, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, will rub shoulders with more than 2,500 senior figures from the business, social justice and economics world at the four-day event which aims to be a crossroads for "public-private co-operation".

But for the global elite, their annual sojourn in the Swiss Alps has just become a little pricier.

The Swiss Central Bank’s decision last week to remove its three-year-old currency cap with the euro has bumped up the price of a trip to Switzerland as the value of the Swiss franc has soared.


The recent currency fluctuation is unlikely to deter the thousands of Davos regulars, however. A report from Oxfam found that despite the slowdown in the global economy, the combined wealth of the world's richest 1 per cent would overtake that of the other 99 per cent next year if the current trend of rising inequality went unchecked.

Kenny was one of the first out of the blocks in pushing his country’s credentials in advance of the world’s largest networking event. In an online opinion piece published prominently on the World Economic Forum’s website, the Taoiseach sets out the reasons for Ireland’s recent economic turnaround over the last number of years.

‘Back from the Brink’


How Ireland Pulled B

ack from the Brink,

the piece says “there is now growing confidence and hope for the future in Ireland”. Ireland has won back investor confidence in part because “the government chose the path of constructive engagement and negotiation” when others were advocating unilateral actions and confrontation with creditors, the Taoiseach writes.

Among the A-list attendees visiting Davos are IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, as well as Tony Blair, Mary Robinson, Al Gore and Google chief Eric Schmidt.

Just as important are the thousands of smaller businesses and social justice and climate change groups which will use the four-day event to network with the world’s business and political elites. The Taoiseach and IDA officials will be holding bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit with prospective client companies throughout their stay in Davos.

Quantitative easing

This week’s summit takes place against a bleak economic background, opening just a day after the IMF cut its global economic forecast. Tomorrow all eyes in the Alpine resort will turn to Frankfurt where the

European Central Bank

is widely expected to announce some form of quantitative easing in a bid to tackle the euro zone’s deflationary cycle.

The plethora of economic discussions to take place over the coming days will also be overshadowed by Sunday's election in Greece which is expected to see big victories for radical left party Syriza. With Syriza pledging to seek further debt relief from international lenders, the outcome of the election could have a bearing on the economic and political future of the euro zone.

The spectre of terrorism and continuing geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine will also provide a backdrop to this year's World Economic Forum.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent