WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: Risk of Complacency Clouds the Peaks ; A Year Ago It Was Financial Crises; Now High Growth, the Internet and E-Commerce Are Heading the Davos Agenda
Warner, Jeremy, The Independent (London, England)
THE ANNUAL World Economic Forum of business and political leaders got under way in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos yesterday with a very different set of concerns to the agenda a year ago.
With the Asian and Russian financial crises still fresh in the mind, debate then was dominated by ways to avoid future meltdowns in the financial system and prevent the world slipping into recession or worse.
Today the picture is very different. World growth has picked up sharply, unemployment in the developed world is falling to new lows, and excitement about the "new economy" and the business potential of the Internet is at fever pitch. Discussion is as much about how to avoid complacency as we enter the new century as about the dynamics and transforming powers of the new economy.
Davos has managed to attract its usual starry cast of business and political leaders, undeterred by threats from anti-free trade lobbyists and environmentalists of a Seattle-style protest.
Both Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and President Bill Clinton are attending for the first time, Mr Clinton only for a fleeting moment in a punishing schedule between pre-arranged functions on consecutive nights in the US. Mr Blair plans to repeat calls for urgent European reform and increased flexibility to better equip the Continent for the demands of the new economy.
Business leaders representing 60 to 80 per cent of world production are expected to attend the conference over the next five days, including nearly all of America's leading players in the technology and Internet revolution. As a result, Davos has become as much a focus for anti-free traders and environmentalists as the World Trade Organisation. …