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28 Jan, 2009 11:54

Davos cuts back on caviar but keeps limos

More world leaders than ever before have shown up in the Swiss resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum. At the same time, a number of corporate bosses have decided to drop out of the discussion.

The World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos has always been the flame for the moths of global finance and politics, but now the times are changing. The world economy is in chaos, banking is in crisis and the mood in Davos is more sombre than suave.

There is a bright side, however, as the forum is the perfect chance to take real, global steps towards change. Vladimir Putin, this years' keynote speaker, has a lot of ideas on the matter,

“EU countries have worked out certain rules for themselves and are trying to follow them. I mean the budget deficit, for instance. You must know about certain agreements, benchmarks and so on. However, there are no such rules in the world at large. But they could play a stabilising role,” Putin told Bloomberg news agency ahead of the forum.

“Secondly, now, under the current conditions of globalisation, interdependence is so great that all countries could be interested in that and even have the right to that. For instance, the Russian
Federation has nearly 50 per cent of its gold-and-currency reserves as part of the U.S. economy, and we are not indifferent to the U.S. budget deficit forecasts for 2009”.

Russia’s interest in the U.S. is not just about finance.

As the Obama administration prepares to lay out its foreign policy, Russia is, according to Putin, ‘cautiously optimistic’:

“What we have heard in recent weeks, or maybe months, gives reasons to be somewhat optimistic. We’ve seen certain signals regarding the anti-missile defense. We’ve also noticed that in Obama’s circles there are talks about not rushing things, and the need for further analysis. We welcome such statements”.

Being together is all good and well, but it’s unlikely to happen in Davos. The U.S. is only sending top Obama advisor and confidant Valerie Jarrett.

Steven Schrage from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies explains why.

“It would convey a very bad signal to send a large contingent to an event that has an elite aura when there are real domestic problems,” he said.

In tougher times it is apt that Davos is distancing itself from champagne and caviar, but luxury is still prevalent, and the limos and helicopters attest to that.

Still it is hoped the Davos forum can provide real solutions to global financial troubles and organisers say Russia's role in the process is very clear.

“Russia is going to play a critical role both at Davos and much more broadly. On the economic side, it has an extremely important role to play. But also on the political side – we are delighted to have Prime Minister Putin here for that reason,” said Robert Greenhill, WEF managing director.

However, the media's scepticism about Davos is obvious. The headlines like ‘Chief executives make their Davos excuses’ (Financial Times), ‘Caviar days are over for Davos crisis debate’ (AFP) or ‘A chill wind blows through Davos as global crisis bites’ (Telegraph UK) attest to this.

Whatever happens this week, whether it is successful or not will not be known for a long time, but the participants are certainly set on doing all they can.