January 26th, 2010
03:54 PM GMT
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We were taken around for our television shoot today by a communications executive who works with a global public relations firm out of Riyadh. While awaiting clearance, he asked about my shuttle journalism between my London base and the Middle East, which this week will include Davos. That discussion led to analysis of “Davos Man” as depicted by historian Samuel Huntington.

The premise is that about 2000 people belong to a global village and they gather at meetings such as the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh where I am now. “Why Riyadh?” you may ask. It is a new destination for Davos Man because the government is spending about a half trillion dollars over the next five years to rebuild its economy. Chief Executives like those sort of numbers no doubt.

The problem according to Huntington is that it is difficult for new ideas to emerge because this club of people is sharing the same information. While it is partly true, the other side to that premise is that one gathers a lot of intelligence in the field.

A top tier Davos Man is Tony Blair, as a member of the World Economic Forum Foundation Board. The former British Prime Minister gave a thoughtful hour long speech here in Riyadh, especially impressive since he will be facing a tough grilling Friday before the Iraq enquiry Friday in London. He seemed pretty “zen-like” during our interview yesterday.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

Since Blair is in the air a great deal, as Middle East envoy and business consultant to an array of companies and governments, he does have his finger on the global pulse. Blair talked about the seven lessons for developing countries eager to participate in the global economy.

At the forefront of this effort says Blair is that the attitude of mind has to be opened not closed. This is especially intriguing in Saudi Arabia. The ruler, King Abudullah, is introducing quite radical change in the country, but he continues to meet resistance from religious conservatives. They see globalization as a threat not an opportunity. Blair talked of bringing in new ideas. The government is doing so, but will they filter out beyond the major economic hubs of Riyadh and Jeddah? That is still to be determined.

Blair also noted that it is not a race. One needs to learn before they teach others how to open up. He points to the Singapore model of development where they adopted the best global practices. It did not happen overnight but over a three decade span. Singapore now has a great deal to share with others – although it only had a small population to turn around.

Blair spoke of the changing paradigm in the world, that the shift to the East is both economic and geo-political. On our program we often look at what I like to call The New Silk Route, the rebuilding of business ties between the Middle East and Asia. You can feel the rebuilding of that route in Riyadh, as the Kingdom looks to become a much more influential player as it uses its role as the number one oil exporter to diversify and open up.

January 26th, 2010
03:27 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) – The fire is out. It is time to build the new house. That is the underlying theme of Davos 2010, or more elegantly expressed in Davosian-speak as Rebuild, Redesign and Rethink. The founder of Davos Klaus Schwab defines these three Rs as rethinking values, redesigning financial systems and rebuilding institutions.

Of course this is much easier said than done. Last year few sat around and hesitated over preventing financial Armageddon. Now there are plenty of arguments about what should come next. Lots of these different agendas will be up for debate at the World Economic Forum.

Klaus Schwab admitted in his interview with me, “everybody will try to push his own interests.” I guess there is nothing wrong with that. However, to build something that will withstand the next financial hurricane, it is essential that it has strength and depth. Everyone needs to guard against weak plans simply because they are acceptable to all. That is not rebuilding, redesigning and rethinking; it is a recipe for ruin.

Tune in to CNN International each evening at 1900 GMT (or your local time) to watch Richard Quest on ‘Quest Means Business’.

For more information on Davos please visit www.cnn.com/davos

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Filed under: BusinessDavosQuest Means Business

January 26th, 2010
01:21 PM GMT
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January 26th, 2010
12:49 PM GMT
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Davos, Switzerland (CNN) - Arriving in the Swiss Alps for my first taste of the annual Davos talkshop I felt like a boy on his first day of school as I filed awkwardly off the train behind a party of “conference veterans” from a British-based press agency.

CNN Davos hub

CNN technician Darran Eubanks in the CNN bunker

These weary vets had come to my attention during the stunning journey up from Zurich as I was snapping away at the procession of picture-postcard views. My artistic reverie was suddenly interrupted by a bored-sounding voice lamenting the need to “do Davos again.”

I thought perhaps this bored journalist had endured one fondue experience too many.

As a Davos “virgin,” I failed to see how a gathering of some of the world’s most influential people from the world of politics and business, from Nicolas Sarkozy to Bill Gates, could be anything but exciting – well thought-provoking at least.

Ignoring further comments about the World Economic Forum being a ski holiday for many of the 2,500 delegates, I headed for the CNN bunker - located deep inside the impressively fortified congress center – certain this year’s event would yield some positive stories after the gloom of the past two years.

After all the theme this year was all about the three “R's" - the need to “rethink, redesign [and] rebuild” the world.

See CNN's full Davos coverage

As I waited to put my bag through an airport-style x-ray machine, I chatted with a Swiss-based journalist about what she hopes to get out of the next few days. “I hope we’ll see some evidence that politicians and business leaders are actually back in control after the turmoil of last year,” she said. “But if nothing else it’s good for local businesses.”

And with that I moved on past several machine-gun toting guards and rows of satellite trucks belonging to the world’s media, before I finally entered the convention center itself and yet another checkpoint manned by suited guards this time.

With VIPs including Sarkozy due in town, this was something I would have to get used to. It soon emerged that the security guards have fun with the media by constantly changing the routes in and out of this maze-like facility.

I just hope the delegates appreciate Davos is serious business these days.

January 26th, 2010
12:17 PM GMT
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The UK Q4 GDP figures announced this morning were a shocker. However, the British economy scraped its way from recession in Q4 by its dirty finger nails. The median forecast of a 0.4 percent gain in GDP by the majority of renowned economists were rubbished and the official figure of 0.1 percent increase is a massive set back.

I wondered why Lord Mandelson was so guarded about the recovery, reiterating that it was so brittle. The services sector underperformed. It expanded by just 0.1 percent and not the 0.5 or 0.6 percent rise suggested by the business surveys.

With household incomes under pressure, credit in short supply and a major fiscal squeeze looming, the path to a full recovery is going to be a long and tortuous.  I am in the minority that believes that GDP will grow by just 1 percent in 2010. Talk of an exit of quantitative easing, despite opinion to the contrary, is not only precipitous, but also folly in the current circumstances.

The auto sector did well thanks to a stimulus program, which may be fully utilised before too long.

Going forward, this recovery may well be achieved with high unemployment. Last month’s retail sales rise of 0.3 percent was disappointing. Going forward we’re all skint with taxation likely to increase and with less disposable income finding its way to the shopping malls.  Retail is so important!

Perhaps Messrs Brown, Darling, Myners et all will desist from larruping the banks too much, whilst the economy is in such a parlous state. That does not presuppose that radical regulation is not a prerequisite ,as well as some taxation over a protracted period of time  to ensure the taxpayer is repaid in full. The bonus culture is being altered. Few disagree with that philosophy.

January 26th, 2010
06:14 AM GMT
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Beijing, China – A lot of strange stuff happens in China, especially when dealing with government departments.

In the ongoing Google versus China row, we contacted the China National Computer Network Emergency Response Team to speak with deputy operations chief Zhou Yonglin.

Zhou claimed during an interview with the state-run Xinhua news agency that China was the world’s largest target for hackers and he questioned Google’s claim that it had traced cyber attacks back to China.

The team sent us a two-page application form for our interview request with Zhou.

At the bottom of the first page is a column titled, “The Approval and Censorship of the Content Regarding the Interview,” in which it states the applicant and his/her media organization should promise that before the content of the interview regarding CNCERT is officially published, the to-be-published article or news should be censored and approved by CNCERT.

The articles or the news that haven’t been approved could not be published or released to a third party.

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