January 28th, 2009
06:25 AM GMT
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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.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Michael C. McHugh

    Marie Antoinette didn't actually say "Let them eat cake" when she was informed that the people had no bread. What she really said was "Let them eat grass."

    Just another happy reminder from history. From time to time, the masses really do get very, very tired of the aristocracy.

    January 28, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  2. Phil

    Davos is useless – another expense for the Government and big Companies to spend money. They haven't accomplished anything since it was started, except to make money for Davos.

    January 29, 2009 at 8:44 am |
  3. Rajendra K. Aneja*



    Rajendra K. Aneja

    The International Labor Organization (ILO) has forecast that up to 51 million jobs globally could be lost due to the recession in 2009. It has opined that 30 million people could lose jobs, but the worst case scenario could be 51 million. The earlier estimate of job loss was 20 million.

    On the 27th January, 72,000 people lost their jobs globally, across the world. The political/economic failure of global leaders across the world, combined with unbridled greed of mortgage and investment bankers has led to the current crisis of confidence.

    Some of the steps that need to be taken to avert further agony are:

    1. Leaders’ Confidence: Global leaders with formal authority like Presidents and Prime Ministers, should show and express confidence that the deteriorating situation can be arrested and will be resolved. When leaders themselves appear hesitant and floundering, they create more panic. Good quality management can defy the recession. For instance: In January, Panasonic is set to close three of its plants with the loss of more than 500 jobs after a drop in expected profits. But, UK retail giant ASDA - part of the Wal-Mart empire – announced it was to add 7,000 staff this very year!!

    2. Employment generating Projects: Governments should divert funds to employment generating projects. The private sector may be myopic and chase short run profits and refrain from investments. Governments must invest aggressively, but productively! USA must stop squandering money on space programmes and build garment factories, to reduce their dependence on imports of underwears!

    3. Infrastructure Projects: Governments must invest heavily in public infrastructure e.g. railways, airlines, dams, power generation, projects, etc. India should stop wasting money on trying to reach the moon, and build toilets for 700 Mn. bereft citizens. What is the use of going to go to the skies/space, if the earth itself is muddled?

    4. Maturity-Corporate leaders: Sacking employees in large numbers is detrimental to the business they are trying to save. The most valuable assets of any company are its employees. The salary/wage component of any company ranges from 4-10% of it sales, depending on the business. So, termination of employees is not problem-resolving. The talents/skills of employees should be used to diversify, expand, enter new markets, evolve new products.

    5. Commercialisation of agriculture: Provides massive opportunities for employment and augmenting productivity. The world will always need food to eat. In 2007-2008, prices of foods rose by 30-50% due to shortages. Commercialization of agriculture, especially in developing countries, combined with better storage and transportation, can improve output, reduce waste and feed people at lower prices. It also creates productive jobs.

    6. Incentivize new Entrepreneurs: Governments should encourage new entrepreneurs and provide incentives like low interest rates, tax holidays, subsidized utilities. This will create more jobs and renew confidence.

    7. Start your business: Those who have lost jobs, should focus on re-education and re-engineering their skills and talents. Better still, start your own business, even if it is a tiny shop. Many great retail names like Wal-Mart, have grown from small stores. This is the time to become an entrepreneur, and control your own destiny in the future. You can also provide jobs to fellowmen and treat them better in difficult times.

    8. Part-time jobs: If you have a part time job, or have some spare time daily, take a second part-time job in a school, office, hotel, nursery. Or, convert a hobby like gardening into a profession by selling plants, seeds, etc. This is the time to be creative. If you are smart, you could make more money, than you made in your regular job! Every crisis, contains within it, seeds of opportunity!

    9. Shop sensibly: Shop at co-operatives, they are cheaper. Take advantage of sales, promotions, discount offers. Avoid wastage. This will reduce the monthly shopping bill by about 15%. Shun opulence.

    10. Keep fit in mind, body. Whether you lead a country or a company or you are an ordinary person like me, remember, that the recession will also end. Have confidence in the world and yourself. You, will overcome. Keep physically fit. Run/walk a kilometer daily. To fight tough times, you have to be physically and mentally tougher. Remember, tomorrow is another day, and good times are never far away!

    Rajendra K. Aneja
    Post Box no 29106
    Dubai, UAE

    Tele: 00971 50 624 1083

    January 29, 2009 at 11:41 am |

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