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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 06:46 GMT
Market turmoil in focus for Davos
By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, Davos

Bono at the World Economic Forum
Bono will continue to push his anti-poverty campaign
The global economic turmoil is top of the agenda for the 2,500 world leaders coming to the Swiss Alps for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The five-day forum in Davos - unlike previous gatherings - will be low on showbiz glamour.

Instead the hot issues range from the Middle East and terrorism to the legacies of presidents Bush and Putin.

Business leaders will focus on private equity investors and the growing power of India, China and oil-rich nations.

The organisers of the event - now in its 38th year - have chosen the motto "the power of collaborative innovation" for this year's annual meeting in the Swiss mountain village of Davos.

The forum's real topic, however, will be the global economic tensions - both political and economic.

Business barometer

A year ago most economists in Davos expected the global economy to continue its five-year run of strong growth.

Davos valley
In Davos we'll have some fun watching the world's most powerful networkers in action

The sub-prime crisis in the United States, the resulting global credit crunch, and the flight from risky investments put an end to that.

And while in previous years the agenda was dominated by political issues, this time round it will truly be a World Economic Forum.

The forum will also serve as a barometer of business confidence. As the bosses of more than 1,000 of the world's largest companies meet, the mood in Davos may help to gauge whether the financial market turmoil will have a long-term impact on profits and investment decisions.

Back to basics

For many corporate leaders the agenda is a welcome return to business basics - after a series of forums that were either dominated by green issues (2007) or outshone by showbiz participants like Angelina Jolie and Sharon Stone (2006).

Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Thabo Mbeki, Tony Blair, Bono, Olesgun Obasanjo in Davos
Where politics meets business meets fame

Instead the forum will explore weighty subjects like the "myths and realities" surrounding hedge funds, private equity investors and so-called sovereign investment funds which invest on behalf of countries like Russia, China and Singapore.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has promised a keynote speech on "remaking capitalism for the 21st century".

His speech comes at a time of a rapid shift in global economic power.

Already 70 of the world's top 500 companies hail from emerging markets like China, India and South Korea, turning both into competitors and potential markets of Western industrialised countries. Many bosses and political leaders from these power houses will be attending the forum.

Political power

Bill Clinton in Davos
Davos regulars like Bill Clinton will be absent this year
Davos is still a magnet for the world's politicians, though. Some 27 heads of state or government and more than 100 cabinet ministers are scheduled to come.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will give the opening address. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf, UK prime minister Gordon Brown and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon will also make the trek through the Alps' snow and ice.

Elder statesmen like former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the UK's former prime minister Tony Blair are helping to chair the event.

Markets will recover again as they always do. In the meantime we have to tighten our belts!
Richard, London

US politicians will be somewhat thin on the ground, though.

Forum regulars like former US president Bill Clinton and senator John McCain will be on the presidential campaign trail back home.

There will be just a few stars in Davos, musicians Bono and Peter Gabriel, and Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, all three promoting the good causes they support.

Networking pure

The forum's eclectic agenda mixes offbeat subjects like mood manipulation and the power of scent, with current issues like social networking and global water shortages.

One session is guaranteed to be fully booked within minutes: science of love - can neuroscience and anthropology explain why, how, with whom and when we experience passion and fall in love?

For many participants, however, the biggest attraction of Davos won't be the packed agenda but the benefit of being there.

Where else in the world can one meet as many powerful and interesting people in one place?

More snow is scheduled to fall in Davos this week. Inside the congress centre a blizzard of business cards is bound to envelop participants.

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