This week, one of the world’s most prestigious events — the 2011 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) –- will take place in Davos, Switzerland. More than two thousand CEOs, cultural leaders, and world-renowned innovators will meet to hash out new strategies for global cooperation and progress.
This year’s forum is attracting particular attention, in the form of pressure to offer solutions. While some Davos attendees in the financial sector may be breathing a touch easier as many economic disasters worldwide halted just short of the brink, the slow pace of recovery is filling the conference with a heightened sense of the need for concrete steps forward.
As the Global Risks Report 2011, published by the WEF leading up to the Davos meeting, sums it up: “The world is in no position to face major, new shocks. The financial crisis has reduced global economic resilience, while increasing geopolitical tension and heightened social concerns suggest that both governments and societies are less able than ever to cope with global challenges.”
While the theme of the 2011 conference is “Shared Norms for the New Reality,” which is meant to address the increasingly complex and interconnected nature of the world’s economies, the outlook for success is an open question. As Reuters points out in its Davos blog: “Reading the [WEF risk] report, you get the strong sense of a circular argument along these lines: ‘My tools are broken. How will I fix them? I will use my tools!’ About as close as the WEF gets to a solution for broken global governance is ‘a well-informed and well-mobilized public opinion sharing norms and values of global citizenship.’”
It’s why many attendees will be looking to chip away at problems this year with tools that are already working or deployable — or that can be adapted to new economic realities. Among the focus of GE’s team in Davos will be market-based solutions in clean energy, energy efficiency and energy security; key free trade issues that can enhance, or threaten, economic recoveries; and the way in which new technologies, such as the explosive power of social media tools, can play a tangible role in swaying public opinion and driving consumer action.
At the same, there’s also a spotlight being thrown on growth success stories — with the tech-driven one currently playing out in India being viewed as a key area of focus at Davos this year.
According to WEF founder and chairman Klaus Schwab, “At a time when the world is searching for a new model of economic development, India’s experience as a crucible for new types of inclusive growth gives it a special role among developing economies.” The Economist magazine recently echoed those thoughts in its in-depth look at India’s trajectory. “Firms now worth $5 billion expect soon to be worth $30 billion,” Vijay Govindarajan, a recent GE advisor and a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, told the magazine.
“Chetan Ahya and Tanvee Gupta of Morgan Stanley predict that India’s growth will start to outpace China’s within three to five years,” The Economist noted. “China will rumble along at 8% rather than double digits; India will rack up successive years of 9-10%. For the next 20-25 years, India will grow faster than any other large country, they expect. Other long-range forecasters paint a similar picture.”
Among Indian tactics that will be studied at Davos for their applicability abroad is the country’s commitment to higher education, which has paid off in a rapid increase in technological advances, according to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF. (GE is tapping into that homegrown talent via its giant Global Research Center in Bangalore.)
India is also building an economy based on entrepreneurs and local consumption, rather than exports, that drives business growth. (Dartmouth Professor Vijay Govindarajan describes GE’s successful work in designing products in India, for India in our stories on “Reverse Innovation.”)
As The Economist described it, “If India keeps growing as fast as it is now, it will change the world.” The question of just what obstacles will need to be overcome to do that – and how the WEF attendees can learn from and participate in it — will be one of the closely watched topics.
The WEF logo is seen on a window at the congress center during preparations for the upcoming Annual Meeting 2011 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2011. Copyright by World Economic Forum: swiss-image.ch/Photo by Jolanda Flubacher.
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