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The Guardian 4 February, 2009

Davos: fundamental change needed

Economic meetings in Davos (Switzerland) were notorious for their lavish entertainment or the strict measures taken against so-called anti-globalists.

This year the meeting is taking place amid the doom and gloom of the financial crisis, talks of recession, depression, millions starving and millions out of work. Entertainment allowances are cut a bit — it may seem provocative to have a feast while the world’s population is preparing to tighten its collective belt.

The World Economic Forum is an international non-government organisation. The forum started in 1971 when about 450 leaders of Europe’s leading companies gathered for a meeting in Geneva. The organisation was called the European Management Forum from 1971 to 1986. The first meetings of the forum were devoted to the issues connected with the improvement of Western Europe.

Later the Forum’s agenda was extended to include political and economic questions and became quite influential in shaping the economies of different countries.

It was in Davos in the 1990s that world leaders developed a strategy for the economic development of the world which has so spectacularly collapsed.

This year about 2,500 members from 96 countries are meeting at the World Economic Forum.

The meeting does not have an extensive agenda. The issues include the state of affairs in the US and EU, Russia, World Trade Organisation membership, China, global energy security and the economic crisis.

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was the first speaker at the Forum. He did not mince his words when he said:

"I just want to remind you that just a year ago American delegates speaking from this rostrum emphasised the US economy’s fundamental stability and its cloudless prospects. Today, investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exist. In just twelve months, they have posted losses exceeding the profits they made in the last 25 years. This example alone reflects the real situation better than any criticism," Putin said.

Now the world expects a recipe for survival from the new developing economies of China, Russia and India, rather than from the Western world. Putin did say prior to the Forum that it would not be possible to get out of the crisis without making fundamental changes in the world economic system.

So far it is the poorest of the poor who are bearing the brunt of the crisis.

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