Our man in Davos: Peanuts in perspective

In the second of his blogs from Davos, Actis boss Paul Fletcher gives us the low-down on the big issues at the World Economic Forum, and bemoans the lack of sustenance available to delegates...

by Paul Fletcher
Last Updated: 28 Jan 2011
I have taken to counting references to the ‘new world order’. That’s the same ‘new world order’ we were talking about in 2006.

I have counted 12 mentions.

I am not convinced we’re going to construct it here. There’s a striking lack of ‘Big Ideas’ - on the whole this meeting does not feel like a purposeful coming together against a unified agenda. Surely if there are challenges in thirty years' time, (as everyone keeps saying there will be) this is the moment to see them coming?

There is general anxiety about an emerging markets bubble; but no one has anything either data driven or more definitive to say on the matter. Similarly, McKinsey with a new report announced "the end of cheap capital". I thought that bombshell dropped in 2008 but perhaps they missed the memo?

Barely contained chaos is still the dominant mood here. At my interview with one of the Indian TV stations, they lost the anchor for a while in the snow. We’re hearing a great deal about food security; here we are dealing with food shortages too: a man cannot live on peanuts alone. Low blood sugar and a conference centre which is too small are pressing on our nerves. The collected bodies have produced no magical meeting of minds as yet. I tried to get up early to beat the rush – Arianna Huffington is right – no one sleeps here. At 6.50am this morning The Belvedere hotel reception desk was already 20 men deep, everyone sniffing around for something to eat.

On the subject of what to eat, the World Food Programme's annual dinner was, as ever, a shot in the arm last night. Peter Bakker, the visionary CEO of TNT who had the wit to see what a global network could do for food distribution long before such ideas were fashionable, is retiring. His next move: UN Ambassador. The impressive thing about TNT is not just that the CEO is inspired (Bakker is a typically low key Dutch guy not prone to grandstanding) but that he takes his colleagues with him; 65% of the TNT workforce volunteer their time to the programme. A fantastic example of what's possible in the collaboration between private and public sectors with the right resources and shared determination.

As I walked back to the hotel in the dark slipping occasionally on ice, I was left with a cold chill in my warm belly. One child dies every six minutes from malnourishment somewhere in the world. It put the peanuts firmly in perspective.
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Economy Misc

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