January 28th, 2009
10:44 PM GMT
Share this on:

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.



January 28th, 2009
02:43 PM GMT
Share this on:

30x30.todd.benjamin

I remember being at a gathering in Mumbai last November, and a CEO of a major company got up and said that as CEOs we've lost our confidence. It struck me not only for its bluntness but that he was saying it publicly. Now his pronouncement has become commonplace.

A new global survey of 1,124 executives by PricewaterhouseCoopers is echoing those doubts. Only 34 percent described themselves as very confident about the outlook for growth over the next three years, down from 42 percent last year. Only one in five are very confident their revenues will increase over the next 12 months, compared to 50 percent in last year's survey.

Every executive I've spoken with has told me he can't remember a time as bad as this.

The head of PwC, Sam DiPiazza, Jr., put it this way: "The speed and intensity of the recession have rocked the psyche of CEOs and created a global crisis of confidence. CEOs are most concerned about the immediate survival of their companies."

The overwhelming majority of chief executives, 80 percent, are facing higher finance costs, and nearly 70 percent anticipate postponing investments.

Given all the above, it's not suprising that about 76,000 layoffs were announced in just one day this month, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

One economist described the global economy like a car stuck in the mud. Authorities keep pushing the fiscal and monetary accelerator, and the wheels keep spinning. If the CEOs surveyed are right about the recession being a long, drawn-out affair, get used to the wheels spinning.

Do you think global CEOs are being too pessimistic about the economy? What advice would you have for a CEO facing a severe economic downturn?

Posted by: ,
Filed under: BusinessQuestion of the week


January 28th, 2009
02:40 PM GMT
Share this on:

DAVOS, Switzerland - The new Davos zeitgeist is everywhere. Even the technology is deleveraging.

Charles Hodson shows off his Davos pedometer.
Charles Hodson shows off his Davos pedometer.

Once upon a time, about a year ago, this was the place to learn about new gadgets. The iPaq passes as almost quaint these days but it was here that I for one first used one, linked in through a whizzy wireless network. A few years later I made friends with an iPod.

But this year a rather less exotic gadget was handed to me with my accreditation badge, forum program and briefing documents. Small, blue, plastic and emblazoned with the World Economic Forum logo, it was introduced as ... a pedometer.

It has a little display showing the number of steps taken since it was last reset and the idea is, you clip it onto your waistband, go about your business at Davos and then at the end of the week there's a prize for the person who has walked the farthest.

What better way of underlining the new austerity that now clings to Davos as tightly as its winter coating of thick snow! Had it not been for the absence of an airfield up here, we'd have been treated to opulent displays of executive jets in previous years; instead, though, the real movers and shakers swung in and out in noisy helicopters, while the merely influential slummed in it up the mountains in limos and luxury German sedans.

This year, I realise, it's what we Brits call "Shanks's pony" that is the vehicle of choice for the Davos glitterati: your own two feet. Even a lift in one of the courtesy World Economic Forum shuttle buses might undo any cred you might have had here.

The high-speed, high-spending, high-lending economy is dead. It's the good old-fashioned footslog that will get us all out of jail: no excessive cost, no impact on global warming and no undue risk - unless of course you fall victim to the many icy pavements.

To keep us all on our toes, the security officers have instituted a serious of pointless detours: entrances to the congress center that were open to all yesterday are now only for VIPs, and the rest of us are asked (with impeccable Swiss courtesy) to use another one several hundred yards away.

As one of life's great pedestrians, it all comes naturally to me, I must say. For the record, I have taken 9,918 steps since this time yesterday - and counting.

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



January 28th, 2009
01:09 PM GMT
Share this on:

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 Richard’s new show, ‘Quest Means Business.’

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



January 28th, 2009
06:25 AM GMT
Share this on:

DAVOS, Switzerland - OK, OK, so Davos is known for its parties. And even in these hard times, a few social shindigs are bound to survive the blizzard of bad news that is blowing through the World Economic Forum.

Workers install chairs at the Davos Congress Center in advance of the opening of the World Economic Forum.
Workers install chairs at the Davos Congress Center in advance of the opening of the World Economic Forum.

There are, in fact, four parties written into the official program: the "welcome reception" as participants arrive on the Tuesday night, the "opening buffet" on the Wednesday, the lavish "cultural soiree" on the Saturday night and the "farewell buffet lunch" on the Sunday.

Even in 2009, all four are there in black and white. But on the basis of the first of them, those who come here for a break from the recession will be badly disappointed.

Even the space in which the first reception was held – in the plush Hotel Belvedere - tonight seemed somehow shrunken, if not misshapen. The proffered glass was modest, and the canapés (some of which I remembered as being so large and extravagant as to challenge one's dignity and good manners) positively normal in their dimensions.

As in previous years, CNN had asked permission to send in a camera to shoot some footage of participants enjoying their happy reunion. "No," came the polite reply, to our initial puzzlement.

Then the Swiss centime dropped. Davos is not about having a glass in one's hand any more. Parties are off-limits to our lenses; the WEF doubtless frets that such images sit badly with the image of an earnest and penitent gathering of business and political leaders, bent on finding The Way Out Of This.

Eager to relax after a long day but shamed into doing something more worthy, I take out my notepad, cross the hall and join what is billed as a cocktail party cum press briefing by a large consultancy firm.

CEOs, I learn, have never been so glum about their prospects, and expect any recovery to be protracted and hesitant. They are losing sleep at the thought of disruption to capital markets (the credit crunch, to you and me), over-regulation burgeoning energy costs and a lack of key talent. This clearly was never a party intended to go with a swing.

And why should it? Welcome to Davos in the recession. These truly are different times.



About Business 360

CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.

 
 
Powered by WordPress.com VIP