Mood At World Economic Forum ‘Anxious’
Every year, heads of state, international business leaders and a collection of celebrities gather in the village of Davos Swarovski , high in the Swiss Alps, at the World Economic Form.
This year’s meeting has a more somber tone, given the global financial collapse. There are no big ticket goodie bags or free iPods, and far fewer champagne and caviar soirees. The focus for the attendees, including more than 400 heads of state, is on the economy.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who has been attending the Davos conference annually for more than a decade, says that this year, more than any other, people are looking for an answer to the economic crisis. They’re trying to go to the right panels or have one on one conversations to give them tips for where their company should build, or where they should personally invest, he says.
“There’s almost an urgency of people trying to find ‘The Answer’ right now, and I’m not sure the answer is here or anywhere, but people a Swarovski re sure looking for it,” Friedman tells NPR’s Michele Norris.
Friedman says the person everyone wants to hear from is President Barack Obama. Obama isn’t attending Davos; his adviser Valerie Jarrett is.
“I think everybody understands that what’s so unique about this economic crisis is that it began in America,” Friedman says. “It didn’t begin in Thailand, didn’t begin in Korea. It didn’t begin in Mexio, it didn’t begin in Russia. When it began in other years in all those other places, everyone could insulate themselves from it. But when we get in America, no one can protect themselves from it.”
“I think the big question on everyone’s mind is, ‘When is Washington going to get well? Because until we get well, it’s going to be very hard for anyone else to really get well.”
But Friedman says he doesn’t sen Swarovski se that people at Davos are frustrated or angry with Obama for not being there or failing to send a larger delegation, because he just took office.
“I was at a dinner last year when this economic crisis was getting under way here, and I remember a prominent banker saying, ‘You Americans gave the world financial SARS,’ the disease that got exported out of China,” Friedman says. “I think people are over the finger pointing now, and they’re in a much more n Swarovski ervous and anxious state, and that’s just: ‘Give me the solution.’ “