World Economic Forum meet kicks off tomorrow; India to have strong presence

Written by PTI | Davos | Updated: Jan 20 2014, 20:08pm hrs
WEF 2014Hundreds of top-notch CEOs will discuss state of global economy among themselves and around 40 heads of government at the annual talk-fest of rich and powerful people from across the world here for five days, beginning tomorrow. (AP)
Hundreds of top-notch CEOs will discuss state of global economy among themselves and around 40 heads of government at the annual talk-fest of rich and powerful people from across the world here for five days, beginning tomorrow.

At this Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum (WEF), being held for 43rd time in the Swiss skiing resort town of Davos, India will be represented by a nearly 125-member delegation including senior ministers and top corporate leaders.

Besides economic issues and hardcore business talks, problems in Syria, Iran's possible return to global diplomatic tables, as also the ever-evolving future of euro zone is expected to hog the limelight during the summit.

The 40 heads of state or government expected here include those from the UK, Australia, Japan, Iran, Israel, Brazil, Italy, Mauritius, Republic of Korea besides Switzerland itself.

The Indian leaders expected to attend the meeting include Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Minister for Urban Development & Parliamentary Affairs Kamal Nath.

Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Praful Patel, Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan are also scheduled to attend the meeting.

Besides WEF meetings, the Indian leaders are also expected to hold bilateral and multi-lateral meetings with their counterparts from other countries, as also with the CEOs of many top companies from across the world.

Among over 100 corporate leaders expected from India, the prominent names include Tata group chief Cyrus Mistry, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, as also other top businessmen such as Azim Premji, Adi Godrej, Gautam Adani, Rahul Bajaj, Sunil Mittal, Kris Gopalakrishnan, Prashant Ruia, Shivinder and Malvinder Mohan Singh, G M Rao, Pawan Munjal, Naina Lal Kidwai, Naresh Goyal and Uday Kotak.

WEF says that its 44th annual meeting would be attended by over 2,500 participants from almost 100 countries, including 1,500 business leaders, and this year's theme would be "The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business'.

Only once was the WEF meeting held outside Davos and the Co-Chairs of the Annual Meeting 2014 are Kris Gopalakrishnan (President, Confederation of Indian Industry and Vice-Chairman, Infosys), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO), Aliko Dangote (CEO of Nigeria's Dangote Group), Jiang Jianqing (Chairman of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), Joseph Jimenez (CEO of Novartis), Christophe de Margerie (CEO of Total) and Judith Rodin (President, Rockefeller Foundation).

Leaders of G-20 countries who will address the meeting include Australia's Tony Abbot, Japan's Shinzo Abe, UK's David Cameron, Italy's Enrico Letta, Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto, Park Geun-Hye from Republic of Korea and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff.

Other top leaders attending the meeting are World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, its President Shimon Peres, US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Myanmar President U Thein Sein.

Swiss Confederation President Didier Burkhalter, Queen of Jordan Rania Al Abdullah, Kofi Annan Foundation Chairman Kofi Annan, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, US Trade Representative Michael Froman and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria would also be present.

The five-day meeting would include close to 250 sessions, where top policymakers from across the world would discuss various issues with business leaders from hundreds of global companies.

They would include those from PepsiCo, ArcelorMittal, Google, Yahoo, Total, Bank of America, Microsoft, BP, Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Volkswagen, UBS, Unilever and Standard Chartered.

The annual meeting would officially start tomorrow evening with a welcome address by WEF chairman Klaus Schwab, to be followed by an awards ceremony and a special concert, in the evening, while official sessions would be held for four days between January 22-25.

Among the countries, the US comes on the top with 670 participants, followed by UK with 282 persons, while host country Switzerland would be represented by 202 persons.

At fourth place, India and Germany would have total of about 124 participants each expected to attend the WEF.

Among others, China would have 88 participants while others scheduled at the meeting include Japan's 69, Russia's 76, South Africa's 59, UAE's 46, Pakistan's 9, Indonesia's 21, Australia's 22, Brazil's 36, Nigeria's 22 and Italy's 36.

According to an analysis, there would be 1,500 business leaders including 288 dealing in government relations, 230 from banking & capital markets and 225 media leaders.

The female participation is expected to be 15 per cent. The average age of a Davos participant this year would be 52 years for men and 49 years for women.

The youngest is 21-year-old Umar Anwar Jahangir, a Shaper from the Islamabad Hub of Global Shapers, the CEO of Bahria Medics, a student run social welfare organisation, while 90-year-old Israel President Shimon Peres will be the oldest.

WEF said this year's Annual Meeting convenes at a time when the world is at a critical juncture, "as the subsidence of short-term economic crises gives way to a profound need for further structural reforms in emerging and developed markets, and international relations continue to be disrupted by an increasingly multipolar world". According to WEF, issues likely to be discussed at the meeting include disruptive innovations, inclusive growth and society's new expectations.

This year, a special focus would be on issues related to healthcare and climate change as also "the pressing youth unemployment challenge, economic prospects in major emerging economies including China and India as well as the future of North Africa and the Middle East".

Industry chamber CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) said the Indian delegation at the summit would highlight efforts taken by the government to turn the economy around.

"It will focus on the investor-friendly measures that have been taken such as easing restrictions on foreign investment, resolution of bottlenecks in project clearance and taking steps towards fiscal consolidation," CII added.

The meeting is being held at a time when global economic crises have given way to an "increased need for further structural reforms in emerging and developed markets, and India is no exception to the rapid economic changes being witnessed in the world," the industry body said.

"India is shaking off its sluggishness and is witnessing a rebound in growth," CII said in a statement.

As per World Bank's Global Economic Prospects 2014, Indian economy is expected to see a growth of 6.2 per cent in 2014-15 and 6.6 per cent in the following fiscal.

Meanwhile, CII will organise its traditional annual 'India Reception' and breakfast sessions in partnership with Indian companies on the sidelines of WEF.

Besides, companies like Wipro and Bajaj Auto will organise receptions and Bollywood music programmes in evenings in Davos.

Ahead of the meeting, WEF said a growing rich-poor income gap is the biggest risk the world is facing for the next decade, while failure to create a sustainable healthcare system may create social unrest in countries like India.

In its annual Global Risks 2014 report, WEF said income disparity was the most likely risk to cause an impact on a global scale in the next decade, while other significant risks include extreme weather events, unemployment and fiscal crises.

"In emerging markets, any failure to create sustainable universal healthcare systems - a constitutional obligation in Brazil and Turkey, and a stated ambition in India, Indonesia and South Africa - may arouse social unrest," the report said.

Based on a survey of 700 experts, the report has listed out 31 global risks that also include digital disintegration and various geopolitical risks. They are grouped into five categories -- economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological.

The deepening reliance on the Internet makes the risk of systemic failure - on a scale capable of breaking systems or even societies greater than ever in 2014, it said.