Impressions of Davos: a rich man's world

Impressions of Davos: a rich man's world
By Isabelle Kumar
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It’s destination Davos for the world’s rich and influential, who come to the high altitude resort in their droves every year in January. But this year feels different somehow. The guest list seems to have an edge on previous years. The atmosphere is more positive.

Iran’s President Hassan Rohani is topping the bill and be sure to watch this space, inshallah, we have an interview scheduled. Syria and Geneva II talks risk overshadowing Rohani’s visit to Davos. But with a new deal on the country’s nuclear programme and an easing of sanctions, his presence show that Iran is open for business. Apparently Shell and BP could stand to benefit from that.

Interestingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also in town, but given the two nations’ sworn enmity there is no indication their paths will cross.

So far we have been very busy. This morning I spoke to the OECD’s Secretary General. We focused primarily on Europe. He congratulated many European countries on the tough structural reforms they have undertaken. He did sound a note of caution questioning whether some of Europe’s bigger economies would follow through on much needed reforms.

We both noted that with mature markets emerging from crisis, the atmosphere is much cheerier in Davos this year. There are still plenty of free cocktails parties (which we rarely get to attend!) where champagne flows freely. It’s the prime location for sealing business deals, networking and generally being seen to be schmoozing with the right people.

Despite the World Economic Forum pushing for greater gender equality this is still very much a man’s world. Most women I have spoken to as I look for interviews are often the chic wives of businessmen, dressed in tailored suits, minks, perfect hairdos and for the elder clientèle (and this does not only apply to women) a fair amount of cosmetic surgery.

Exclusive dinners are laid on to entertain clients, business leaders, and politicians. But such privilege comes at a premium: getting a ticket costs thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of euros. Each euro spent brings privileges such as exclusive audiences at the top tables with politicians and global business leaders.

And as ever, in the inimitable words of Withnail and I, this shindig is very cheap to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t!

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