Quest Means Business
January 31, 2009
Posted: 1150 GMT

DAVOS, Switzerland - My grandmother always warned me about "too much of a good thing". I used to think she was being mean not wanting me to gorge myself on cakes, biscuits, and candies. Only tooth cavities later did I realise the wisdom of her words...

Too much of a good thing is dangerous thing. It's the same at Davos. After three days of walking around this congress center, my head is spinning at the sheer number of "world" dignitaries with whom I have rubbed shoulders.

Today's crop included the Secretary General of the U.N., the Head of UNICEF, the presidents of Israel and Mongolia (not at the same time!) a "hello" with the CEO of Coca Cola, a handshake with Bill Gates and an interview with Prince Andrew. Phew.

As the WEF 2009 enters its final days, delegates head home having heard from the horse's mouth about how bad the situation is and the options on the table for putting it right.

Government ministers compared notes on stimulus plans, bankers discussed their lending problems, industrialists bemoaned the lack of markets.

It is fashionable at this point to declare, usually in ringing tones, that Davos is a talking shop of no real value and that I won't come back again. To anyone who says this (with the possible exception of the Turkish prime minister) the only response is "rubbish." There is no single event in the world that gives you as much access to as many important people in a relatively relaxed atmosphere.

Davos succeeds because it is unique. You couldn't invent it, and certainly couldn't replicate it today.

But "get real" Richard.

The key is to remember when it's time to leave. I don't normally mix in these circles and I shall return from whence I came. I have enjoyed hobnobbing with the world elite, but now it's time to go home. Grandma would be proud. I have remembered... too much of a good thing.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Business •Davos •Quest Means Business


Share this on:
January 30, 2009
Posted: 1238 GMT

DAVOS, Switzerland - Let me start by saying sorry. There is no way to get through this blog without a dose of shameless namedropping. How else can I tell you what the great and good have been telling me?

When Richard met Tony... sort of...

When Richard met Tony... sort of...

For instance, this morning it was a short coffee bar chat with HRH Prince Andrew on British industry and how it's weathering the recession. Prince Andrew told me he is spending a lot of time in the UK talking to industry. As Special Representative for UK Trade he can act as a link between all sides in the economy. I will press on this in my Friday interview with him which you can see on tonight's  show. Then there was a quiet talk with James Hogan, the CEO of the Abu Dhabi airline Etihad about his plans for his new A380s.

Sometimes these "meetings" are mere nods in corridors (for instance with the Russian deputy prime minister), other times they are full-frontal interviews such as discussing the Ukraine-Russia gas dispute with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

There is something about being in Davos that lets leaders become more reflective and often expansive. Trevor Manuel, finance minister of South Africa, for instance, talked to me about whether he will remain FM after the election (yes, if asked, but not forever was his answer).

Often these meetings are nothing more than "bragging rights."

"Oh yes, I saw Tony Blair," I will tell friends, conveniently leaving out the fact Blair was being rushed to the front of a security line; I was standing near the back... we brushed shoulders. But - hey - I "met" him.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Business •Davos •Quest Means Business


Share this on:
January 29, 2009
Posted: 1229 GMT

DAVOS, Switzerland - If Angelina or Brad had been at Davos this year, they would have been given the treatment ‘Royal celebs' deserve. But they are not here, so in the absence of glitz we have to find other ‘stars' to hang onto.

Thankfully there are plenty of alternative delegates worthy of our attention. For instance, economists like Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley Asia and Joseph Stiglitz formerly of the World Bank. Not heard of them? Not hanging on to their every utterance? Tut tut. No wonder you're in this mess!

These men may not have the good looks or dashing manner of Hollywood stars, but here at Davos this year they are ‘rock stars' in their own right.

When they walk through the hallways they are feted. Crowds gather to hear the words from their lips. A private chat with one or the other is economic nirvana.

Just this morning as I walked through the lobby, there was Roach holding court; cameras recording his words, journalists jostling to hear his view on how bad things would get.

For some time both men have been forecasting the horrible financial disaster we now face and were sneered at. They said it was going to get worse...and it did. And now at Davos both men can look us in the face and say "told you so". Neither is actually saying that of course. Instead they are putting forward ideas and solutions to get us out of the mess.

What worries me is Roach and Stiglitz are saying the plans on the table won't work, from stimulus packages, to co-ordination, to regulatory reform, they claim more needs to be done. We have ignored these economic rock stars before, to our cost. Let's not make THAT mistake again.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT to catch my new show, ‘Quest Means Business.'

For more coverage of this year’s World Economic Forum, go to our special Davos page.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Davos •Quest Means Business


Share this on:
January 28, 2009
Posted: 2244 GMT

DAVOS, Switzerland - I often ask myself why do I bother to come here? Then I remember, I am here as a journalist covering what the leaders say and do. But why do so many delegates, who have a choice, come here? Surely they would be better off tending to their business back home?

Ordinary delegates say they want to hear what world leaders say about crisis.

Ordinary delegates say they want to hear what world leaders say about crisis.

This morning I got the official schedule. Some of the sessions are extremely timely and relevant. The "Brainstorm - What happened to the Global Economy?" panel promises to be good. But other sessions, like "What is Good Design?" or "Political Art: What Now?" while interesting in an esoteric way, are hardly vital at this time of crisis.

In the registration hall I asked "ordinary" delegates why they came. Not the high and mighty - just mid-level executives and officials who make up the bulk of Davos.

Some said they wanted to hear world leaders and decision makers talk about the best way out of the financial mess (after all Vladmir Putin, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown Wen Jiabao are all scheduled to speak). Others come to continue their dialogue with clients and suppliers and discuss what they need to do next.

Representatives from NGOs and aid groups like UNICEF attend, to make sure their causes are not forgotten in this moment of crisis. One lucky businessman is here to talk to investors in medical research - yes, there are still some people with money to invest.

Lots of delegates have been coming to Davos for many years - this event is part of their calendar. Just as you don't stop going to visit relatives at Christmas, so you still come to Davos in a crisis; even more so, they would say.

Perhaps the real reason to be here is summed up by the delegate from Asia who said "opportunity is the opposite of crisis." Quite!

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT to catch ‘Quest Means Business.’

For more coverage of this year’s World Economic Forum, go to our special Davos page.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Business •Davos •Quest Means Business


Share this on:
January 27, 2009
Posted: 2312 GMT

DAVOS, Switzerland - If we needed reminding why this week's World Economic Forum is important, look at the pages of any newspaper: job losses, bank write downs, economic collapse and no end in sight.

In previous years at Davos there has been the feeling that the delegates have been deciding the best way to improve the world; rarely tempered by doubts of failure or mistake. Now the errors, the failures, the disasters of decision making are as evident as the mountain itself. So this year when some delegates sound off about what must be done, they might be met with, "You got us into this mess in the first place."

Klaus Schwab the founder of the WEF recognises this, telling me this year's forum will be "...more modest. People see that they have failed to a certain extent as leaders. Even in Davos ...nobody was really listening."

Which begs the question why we are bothering to listen to these people again? Simple. They are the ones who have to get us out of the mess. Schwab points out "take the bankers, they are part of the problem but they are also part of the solution so that's the reason we still integrate them here. "

Klaus Schwab agreed that there had to be more humility at this years forum. Ultimately he admits that means hearing bankers and leaders say "sorry."

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT to catch Richard's new show, 'Quest Means Business.'

For more coverage of this year’s World Economic Forum, go to our special Davos page.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Business •Davos •Quest Means Business


Share this on:
January 26, 2009
Posted: 2319 GMT

DAVOS, Switzerland - I like to arrive in Davos a few days before the World Economic Forum begins when I can experience the picturesque Swiss town without the thousands of delegates. During the Davos week, getting a hotel room here is impossible.

Many stay in apartments, or worse, in nearby towns (oh the shame of it!). This year I made a bit of Quest Personal History (QPH)! I am so early I am the only person staying in my hotel. The existing guests checked out (a group of German skiers) and the manager asked me what time I wanted him to come in to make my breakfast, since I am the only person here.

In all my years of travel for CNN Business Traveller, I have stayed in big hotels, small hotels, grand hotels, shocking hotels… but I have never been the ONLY guest staying in a hotel.

By this evening, other early birders will have arrived and I shall have to ‘share’ my hotel! In the days ahead I shall write about the issues at Davos.

Until then I shall enjoy another moment of QPH… today I will ski! I know of no real research into this, but delegates always ask each other, “have you ever actually skied during Davos?” The answer is usually long and rambling about why best intentions have been thwarted; panels, meetings, lunches “got in the way."

This year I will get up the mountain, then when the question is asked I can be very smug and say “of course I have skied, oh, and I even had the hotel to myself!”

Hotels and skiing… this is indeed going to be an historic Davos meeting!

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT to catch Richard’s new show, Quest Means Business.

For more coverage of this year's World Economic Forum, go to our special Davos page.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Business •Davos •Quest Means Business


Share this on:

Powered by WordPress.com VIP