Reuters Magazine: El-Erian: Hell no, I won't go!

Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:40pm EST
 
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By Mohamed El-Erian

(Reuters) - I've never been to Davos, despite attempts by many over the years to persuade me to go. Don't get me wrong. I understand that it is a special event for many people, and for many reasons. It is anchored by wide-ranging and engaging agendas, and participants get to mingle with a global cornucopia of important people. It is also the place to see and be seen for heads of state, politicians, academics, thought-leaders, media pundits, CEOs, and movie stars.

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in that intimate setting remains one of the year's hottest tickets, but its organizers want their event to be much more than what it currently is - a big, prestigious talk-shop. They want it to influence policy at the national, regional, and global levels.

Yet, over the years, and in the context of an increasingly unsettled and uncertain world, Davos has not had much impact.

I get a range of responses when I ask attendees why so few, if any, of the interesting discussions that have taken place in those beautiful Swiss Alps have led to change that improves the lives of most people.

Some say the strength of the typical Davos agenda is also a weakness. The topics are overly ambitious. In trying to cover too much for too many, breadth trumps depth.

Others cite the inherent difficulty of distilling the opinions of such a varied group of people into specific action points. This is never an easy endeavor, and it becomes a virtually impossible one when it involves so much wealth and so many egos.

Then there are those who believe that too much time is spent arguing about what has happened - especially when things have gone horribly wrong - and too little time is devoted to what lies around the next corner, and the one after that.

But most of the Davos devotees I talk to say the problem is more fundamental. They say that many of the attendees who truly matter are not interested in the organizers' higher ambitions, and some are even suspicious of them. In either case, these key players do not want to give up control of their narratives, and they certainly do not wish to delegate any meaningful part of their personal agenda to Davos.   Continued...