Our Man in Davos: No more West versus East, please

Our blogger, Actis boss Paul Fletcher, gets set for Davos - and hopes this year's conference can take an optimistic stance.

by Paul Fletcher
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Snow, check. Snipers, check. Improving the state of the world, check. As I make my way up the mountain for this year's Davos (my fifth), there is a sense of inevitability.

While elsewhere, especially in the UK, Davos is seen as stale, pale and male - there has been much beating of breasts in the newspapers about the absence of any Big Ideas on this year's agenda and a sense of the same cast of characters revisiting similar themes - here there is still that familiar crackle of anticipation.

There remains something remarkable, to me almost akin to the Burning Man festival in Nevada in the experience: for five days this village of snow is on fire as a body of people descend, group, engage, animate, then vanish, leaving nothing behind but the sleepy fondue shops (and a swathe of media commentary and speculation) to show we were here.

Amongst the delegates there is a feeling that if we hear another session on demographics or China versus India we may protest. That being said, Davos is at its best when it surfaces the surprising, quirky stories of imagination, reinvention, survival. The all-too-easy positioning of the West versus the Rest, the contrast between what has been dubbed the submerging and the emerging markets, is keenly felt: there is much grumbling from East Coast sophisticates that in the global race for productivity, influence, soft power and jobs they are being left behind in Asia's wake.

Far more positive to embrace the optimism of 'all ships rising' as we hope the economic tide turns than retreat at this early point to protectionism. Hearing how that debate plays out in terms of  the tone of Sino-American dialogue - especially after the carnival of diplomacy  at the White House last week - will be fascinating. I will listen keenly and report back.

For some the week started very badly. The Russians are missing; Medvedev naturally stayed at home. The investment bankers are conspicuous by their absence. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to seeing how Cameron fares in his time here as PM.

Let the Burning Man begin.


Paul Fletcher is Senior Partner at Actis, the private equity firm that invests solely in emerging markets. He'll be blogging exclusively from Davos for MT this week.

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