The only G-7 leader scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos next week is German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who will speak on the main stage for the second time since taking office in 2021.
It is not the first time that leaders from the powerful political union have been scarcely represented at the summit. Over the last decade, only two or three world leaders have visited the picturesque Swiss mountain resort, and only the United Kingdom’s Theresa May made an appearance in 2017 — though it did attract Chinese President Xi Jinping. Their absences are frequently caused by more pressing issues at home.
However, it is a decrease in recent years. The previous high was set in 2018, when six of the seven attendees attended. Former US President Donald Trump attended twice during his one term in office, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who did not.
The 2023 summit will be packed with high-profile names from business and finance, politics, media, academia, and civil society, a return to tradition after two years of pandemic disruption saw it held online in 2021 and in May rather than January in 2022.
From January 16 to 20, panelists and keynote speakers include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and actor Idris Elba.
Scholz is scheduled to deliver a special address at 3:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday. Angela Merkel, his predecessor, was a regular Davos presence during her 16-year term, most recently challenging some nations’ increasing “own interests first” mentality in 2019.
While Scholz’s G-7 counterparts will all have their own reasons for not attending, politicians are always wary of being seen “hobnobbing with a global financial elite,” according to Ed Owen, a former political advisor and founder of consultancy The Story Network.
“I expect it is partly reputational risks, given the current situation, of enjoying the high life in Davos,” he said.
Inflation is at an all-time high in many countries around the world. According to the World Economic Forum’s own pre-summit annual risk report, the cost-of-living crisis is the world’s biggest threat today, highlighting the impact of the energy crisis, food scarcity, and higher prices on the most vulnerable.
Politicians like UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak face a unique problem, according to Owen, because one of the opposition Labour Party’s main attack lines is that he is disconnected from everyday life.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, he and his wife are worth £730 million ($844 million).
The United Kingdom will still be present at the 2023 summit. Sunak remains “focused on work to deliver on the British people’s priorities,” according to a spokesperson. Business Minister Grant Shapps and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch will also be present.
They also stated that the government believes it is critical to “continue to build relationships with other countries” and make the United Kingdom’s voice heard on a global scale.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer and shadow business minister Rachel Reeves will both be present.
“Sunak wants to convey he understands the trials of life and avoid being characterized in a certain way, whereas Starmer needs to demonstrate he’s an important figure with an international profile, it’s a plus for him,” Owen said.
Davos has increasingly come under fire, with some accusing attendees of elitism and hypocrisy, such as arriving in private jets to discuss climate change.
While speaking of “participation, justice, equality, and transparency,” Dutch historian Rutger Bregman accused many of his fellow attendees of failing to pay their fair share of taxes in 2019.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)
Categories: Economy & Finance, Geopolitics, Strategy, Sustainability, Uncategorized
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