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Comment: Can Davos save the world?

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The World Economic Forum, which in past years featured glitzy receptions and boasted an attendee list including high-flying hedge fund managers, bankers and private equity moguls, has turn

The World Economic Forum, which in past years featured glitzy receptions and boasted an attendee list including high-flying hedge fund managers, bankers and private equity moguls, has turned sombre.

This year, gloom is everywhere, with the global economic downturn at the centre of every conversation. World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala observed: ‘I think every expert that has spoken in Davos has said that this is much worse than they had thought.’

Fabled hedge fund manager George Soros also fears that the slump will continue to worsen. ‘The size of the problem confronting us today is significantly larger than in the 1930s,’ he said. ‘The situation will continue to deteriorate.’

But despite all the gloom and doom, Davos remains one of the biggest networking events for a who’s who of the world’s political, economic and financial elite, like a non-secretive Bilderberg meeting. And despite high-profile cancellations like that of Barclays investment banking boss Bob Diamond, there are still plenty of eminent and influential people in Switzerland this week.

Is the forum actually useful? Its unique asset is its ability to bring together so many of the world’s key decision-makers in one place. It may offer the best opportunity for the great and the good to discuss and devise solutions to the global crisis. If the Davos participants can’t come up with some bright ideas for saving the world’s economy, who can?

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