The planets most powerful people descended onto Davos to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world – but what actually happened?
The rich and powerful headed to the snow steeped Swiss mountain village to “create a shared future in a fractured world” – the theme of this year’s World Economic Forum. Check out our roundup on six key moments from the Alpine elite.
It’s nearly ten years since the global financial crisis. Two recessions and seven state bailouts across the EU, plus the risk of Greece leaving the euro and the UK’s impending departure has been a cause of concern globally. However, optimism was a dominant force at WEF with hope linked to the ability of EU leaders in carrying out reform to strengthen the bloc.
The International Monetary Fund publishing its latest estimates of economic growth added to a feeling of renewed confidence. Foreseeing a global expansion of 3.9% in 2018, the IMF predicts Euroland growing by 2.2%, the United States 2.7%, and Britain by 1.5% - down from 1.6% previously.
Time is up
While the global elite were optimistic about worldwide economics to a degree, there was cause for concern elsewhere. Only one in five of attendees at Davos were women. During Davos, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau called for a “critical discussion” on women’s rights and equality, with Malala Yousafzai telling the WEF that women must “raise up their voices.” This all came the same week the FT’s report into the sordid behaviour at Britain’s Presidents Club charity dinner was released.
Social media in the dock
Criticism was also directed at tech monopolies by billionaire investor George Soros. At his annual WEF dinner, Mr Soros warned that social media platforms were “obstacles to innovation.” Referencing Facebook and Google in his speech, he raised concerns on their power to shape people’s attentions, and also drew on how tax policies and regulations could catch up with them.
The double edged sword of artificial intelligence
On one hand, world leaders fret that there is a new technology skill shortage, and on the other there’s the fear of traditional economic roles being made redundant by the fourth Industrial Revolution. Data shows that two-thirds of primary school aged children will go into jobs that don’t even exist yet. Theresa May also made her speech all about AI, albeit a rather perceived empty one talking about Britain tiptoeing into AI, with the promise of safety, ethics and innovation in an imagined world.
A new USD policy?
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at The World Economic Forum, said he publicly favoured a lower dollar, stating that “a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities". Mr Mnuchin was later contradicted by the president.
It was not the first time the US administration had expressed a preference for a weaker dollar but it was arguably the most blatant. A year ago Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that, “…our currency is too strong. And it’s killing us.” The comment marked a switch by the incoming president from criticising China's supposed currency manipulation to doing it himself.
A reassuring Tri-ump?
Donald Trump’s politics may have been angry in the past, but the US president showed a softer side in the Swiss Alps – the first sitting US president in almost two decades to attend the gathering. Instead of the feared trade protectionism many thought Trump would tout, he said that “America First did not mean America Alone.” With emerging Asian markets, South America and Europe muscling in on traditional US trading partners, the country seems to benefit from globalisation far more than protectionism. Mr Trump’s message of “fair and reciprocal trade” was a mantra of fair trade, not trade war.
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