January 24th, 2011
05:56 PM GMT
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It is easy to take pot-shots at the World Economic Forum in Davos. As most of the developed world groans its way back to growth, there is something a bit obscene about rich, famous and powerful people getting together on a Swiss mountain side to talk about how to make things better.  It has a ring of “let them eat cake” about it.

This year’s jamboree will add fuel to the fire - with a large new Congress Centre entrance, with oodles of lights.

But as I say every year - that ignores what happens here.  I don’t for one moment think that the sometimes pretentiously titled panels are really what this event is about.  (Some are without doubt interesting and stimulate thought and debate, but you don’t need to schlep to Switzerland in winter to do that.)

Rather, Davos is about access, meetings, talking and schmoozing, which is why the most important rooms here are not the big halls where tedious panels will take place, but the bilateral rooms where government ministers and CEOs meet each other.

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January 24th, 2011
02:31 PM GMT
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Riyadh:  The home to the world’s largest oil reserves and the largest economy in the Middle East seems far removed from the populist youth revolt in Tunis, but government and business leaders in the region are keeping a watchful eye on the events in North Africa.

The fifth annual Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh, intentionally positioned just before Davos, is an excellent opportunity to take the pulse of the wealthier Gulf States and those who have an interest in seeing off the domino effect which has touched Algeria, Jordan, Egypt and Yemen.

The GCF is the “sand” component of what has built a reputation for being the “sand to snow” week, where about 100 participants go to both, including the chief executives from Rio Tinto, Alcoa and top cabinet members of the Kingdom.

While Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have ample surpluses to dole out food and wage subsidies to calm nerves from the protests in the region, they are mindful that in an era of social media and rapid file sharing, they don’t want to take chances.

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January 24th, 2011
01:18 PM GMT
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Out of work? Looking to find a new job? If you worked in construction, manufacturing or administrative services you may not want to even bother updating your resume. There is a good chance the job you lost during this last recession is never coming back. At least that is what some economists say.

Huge structural forces like globalization and technology mean companies can function without you. Sure, manufacturers still need to get products to market, but they are increasingly choosing to build and assemble them in Asia or India where people work for a fraction of the cost of an American.

Big blue-chip companies still need to do payroll and taxes, but they can now have a computer program do it … rather than a human being.

It is a brave new world out there where companies can be more profitable with less workers and employees need to retrain or get left behind …

Or is it?

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