As the World Economic Forum was just completed last week here in Switzerland, we thought we’d share with you some of the highlights that caught our eye from the speeches and the panel discussions that took place in Davos.
This year’s theme was “Globalization 4.0”, a topic chosen in the backdrop of what the WEF organizers described as “unprecedented uncertainty, fragility and controversy”. Most of the high-profile speakers, like Angela Merkel and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, used this as an opportunity to mount a strong defense of multilateralism, global order and the interests of the international community. This included thinly-veiled attacks against Donald Trump, even though he did not attend the Forum, and an offensive against the “practices of the strong bullying the weak and self-claimed supremacy”, as PM Abe phrased it.
The US President wasn’t the only notable absence for this year’s WEF in the Swiss Alps. British PM Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Indian PM Narendra Modi also turned down the invitation to the elite gathering. In fact, the numerous absences were one the key highlights of the Davos meeting this year. The leaders that failed to attend collectively represent 50% of the global economy and 42% of the world’s population, which is particularly striking for an event that was supposed to be about globalization.
The widespread concerns over the outlook of the global economy also featured heavily in many speeches and panel discussions. Brexit, the ongoing trade disputes and China’s growth slowdown were among the most commonly cited risk factors. However, most political leaders and key figures from the business world largely doubled down on their efforts to project confidence and to assuage fears of a possible recession in the next couple of years. While a global economic growth slowdown was widely acknowledged as inevitable, very few participants addressed the possibility of a much harder landing.
One of them was Ray Dalio, founder of the world's largest hedge fund, who broke with the consensus and spoke about some of the very real risks that await us in 2019. Interviewed at Davos, he highlighted many of the systemic risks that significantly increase the probability of a recession in the next two years.
Watch the full interview here: