Davos 2017 kicks off with renewed focus

Davos has become one of the most potent symbols of a growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

The World Economic Forum, which organizes the annual gathering of the global political and business elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, says the focus on economic growth, which has guided policymaking for decades, is no longer fit for purpose.

In a report published Monday, the WEF proposed a shift in policymaking to “respond more effectively to the insecurity and inequality accompanying technological change and globalization.”

The WEF’s main recommendation is that governments make improving living standards one of their key goals.

It says most countries are “missing important opportunities to raise economic growth and reduce inequality at the same time,” adding that measurements such as life expectancy, productivity and poverty rates should be priorities.

Under a new ranking system that incorporates so-called “inclusive development,” the WEF rated Norway top, followed by Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The issue of inequalities both within countries and across the world is a key focus of this year’s WEF, which officially opens Tuesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first Chinese head of state ever to attend the forum, is perhaps the standout among 46 heads of state expected to be on hand. Xi’s visit to Davos during an official visit to Switzerland is important, Schwab said, because it shows how the world is moving from a “unipolar to a multipolar world.”

As for the United States, the incoming Trump administration will be represented by adviser Anthony Scaramucci, a financier who has attended Davos in the past. Schwab said WEF organizers knew Trump wouldn’t attend this year because his inauguration Friday is on the conference’s last day.

Trump has never attended the forum “and I’m looking forward to having him here, and having him expressing his ideas,” Schwab said. “I hope he will join us. I cannot predict that, it depends very much on the future of the politics of the U.S. administration.”

At the Swiss ski resort itself, snow blowers were out, setup crews were drilling their last rivets and audiovisual technicians were putting the final touches on big screens set to welcome glitterati like Matt Damon, will.i.am and Forest Whitaker. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry will also be attending the forum at the nearly mile-high Alpine village.

Rightly or wrongly, Davos has become one of the most potent symbols of a growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots since the global financial crisis of 2008.


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