Lobster in the mountains, riots on the Nile
Updated on Sunday, January 30, 2011, 13:23 Print Email Bookmark and Share
Lobster in the mountains, riots on the Nile
Davos: The global elite, dining on Norwegian lobster and reindeer at the end of the World Economic Forum on Saturday, felt pretty chipper despite growing concerns about the inequality of the economic recovery.

While they believe the global financial and euro zone debt crises are abating, the real world intruded with a different and much more acute crisis in Egypt that made their debates about inequality and food security less theoretical than anticipated.

This year`s four-day talkfest in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos was a fragmented affair.

The issue expected to dominate discussion, the euro zone debt crisis, turned out to be a relatively damp squib, with a growing consensus among bankers and policymakers that a resolution of the issue may be near.

If there was one common strand in Davos this year it was growing divisions -- whether between fast-growing emerging markets and sluggish developed world economies, or between rich and poor within countries.

As residents in Cairo and Alexandria counted the cost of a further night of clashes between protesters and police on Saturday, politicians and business leaders urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to start a dialogue with his people.

The corporate world is nervous.

Egypt has, after all, been one of the darlings of African and Middle Eastern investors, and the world is stepping into unknown territory with the rapid spread of unrest from country to country, propelled by the Internet and mobile technology.

Lesson of Egypt

"The lesson from Egypt is clear: people will no longer accept oppression, particularly when oppression is married with rising food prices, a lack of employment and the destruction of hope for a young generation," Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said.

Yet the mood among 2,500 business leaders and policy-makers in Davos was still predominantly positive, albeit tempered with caution after the worst economic slump in 75 years.

"Compared to last year and the year before, there is certainly much greater confidence about stability, more optimism about the global economic outlook," said the International Monetary Fund`s first deputy managing director John Lipsky.

For many CEOs and bankers, there is simply the reassurance of having put yet another year`s distance between themselves and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which brought the world economy to the brink.

As a result, the panicky mood evident at the last two annual meetings in Davos has evaporated and business bosses are starting to look again at spending the trillions of dollars of cash sitting on their balance sheets.

"It is quite obvious that the mood has changed. Everybody is much calmer," said Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg.

Bureau Report
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