Dienstag, 29. Januar 2013

Another year, another Davos summit

Bulletin from Davos

The last of the journalists are leaving Switzerland following the close of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013. I can imagine that the city of Davos will slowly settle back into its sleepy ways, as will we participants into our schedules and meetings and deadlines. While the impressions are still vivid, I would like to share what I believe to be the signals from Davos this year:

1. The worst may be behind us
While there is broad agreement that the worst of the financial crisis may be over, there is also a sense of cautious optimism. As IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said, "Do not relax." Promoting growth was the most important issue in Davos

2. Europe benefits from an increase in competitiveness
Southern European countries must stay the course in pursuing reforms. Skepticism remained regarding Italy (sustaining the reforms of the Monti government), Spain (unemployment, especially among its youth) and France (recent government decisions, trade unions, employer associations)

My company, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, launched the study "Rebuilding Europe's Competitiveness", co-produced with the World Economic Forum

3. EU reforms are good, UK secession less so
British Prime Minister David Cameron's call for reforms in the European Union was enthusiastically received, his referendum plan less so, mainly due to the potential harm such an exit from the EU could cause (specifically to FDI and exports; 47% of the UK's exports go to the EU)

4. Scrutiny of the financial sector urged
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need for further regulation of the financial sector. Others warned that Basel III might create an uneven playing field due to overregulation

5. Manufacturing to return to the US
US companies foresee lower energy costs due to shale gas exploration, which might allow them to bring manufacturing back into the country. However, reservations remain about the American political climate, which has been beset with partisan gridlock
6. A G2 of US and China?
China is expected to continue on the path of stability. With the United States' so-called strategic "pivot" to Asia, there are suggestions that this could be a "G2 century" dominated by the two countries

7. Economy comes first in Russia
Russian business and political leaders in Davos stressed that economic growth and stability are more valued at this time than transparency and legal clarity

8. Bilateral deals are increasingly popular
Bilateral free trade agreements are gaining favor among political leaders. This could result in a tendency toward greater nationalization in industries

9. Energy transition revitalizes the US, confounds Germany
 In the US, this is related to the availability of lower-cost energy sources (e.g., shale gas). In Germany, "Energiewende" is influenced by environmental concerns and refers to energy alternatives. German CEOs predict that energy prices will remain high for some time, posing a dilemma for the chemical and steel industries and prompting the prospect of relocating manufacturing

Roland Berger Strategy Consultants CEO Dr. Martin Wittig and CNN anchor Richard Quest engage in the Davos Debrief, an event co-hosted by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and CNN in Zurich

Torsten Oltmanns, Global Marketing Partner of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, with CNN's Richard Quest
Together with renowned news channel CNN, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants co-hosted an exclusive Davos Debrief on Monday, January 28, in Zurich. The brilliant international anchor Richard Quest, a personality known to 238 million viewers worldwide, led the candid post-Davos analysis. Quest and our CEO Dr. Martin Wittig engaged in an off-the-cuff and lively debate on the most relevant aspects of the Annual Meeting. The exchange was both entertaining and illuminating.

The world's business, political, and intellectual elite put their heads together in this quiet alpine city and earnestly discussed the state of the world. But now I wonder: Did they live up to the promise of improving it? It is probably too soon to answer that. For my part, I left Davos with some clarity about what keeps these leaders up at night, what animates their conversations, and what drives them – and all of us – hopefully, forward.

In closing, I would like to express my thanks to the visitors of this blog for your kind readership. It was a real pleasure to share with you my impressions and commentary on the Annual Meeting 2013. If you are interested in business and the economy, follow me on Twitter: @TorstenOltmanns.

Till next year in Davos!


Photos: The World Economic Forum and Lukas Mäder

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