Less showbiz, more business at the World Economic Forum

Maybe it’s the dress code: ski jackets and snow boots, in favor of normal business attire. Or maybe it doesn’t sound particularly pleasant right now chatting on the side of a Swiss mountain as the world grapples with a cost of living crisis.

But while the official crowd attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week – the first since January 2020 – is expected to be 2,500, down just 500 from a normal gathering, there is a clear lack of A-listers present this time approx.

Instead of Donald Trump and teenage Swedish eco-warrior Greta Thunberg, whose opposing worldviews provided the main storyline for the last WEF, and the usual handful of top executives and celebrities like Bono, rapper Will.I .Am, actresses Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie, and British royalty, this year’s WEF is headlining with the likes of US climate envoy John Kerry, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.


To enter the venue, all attendees, delegates and media had to provide proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test before arrival, and take a second Covid-19 test on site.

The organizers were very happy to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s virtual address, after being broadcast at the Cannes Film Festival last week and in various foreign parliaments in recent months, to set the scene for the first morning of the conference on Monday.

While Irish government figures missed WEF 2020 as the country heads towards an election, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar are in Europe’s highest city this week.

Varadkar sat on a panel on Monday afternoon titled Revaluing Essential Work in Light of the Pandemic, where he highlighted plans to introduce statutory sick pay and ban companies from using tips and gratuities for building up the base salary of the staff, as well as setting up an additional permanent public holiday per year as ‘little things’ the government has done to show appreciation to those who have kept the show on the road for the pandemic.


Meanwhile, Martin is due to sit on a panel on Tuesday morning to discuss whether the European Union, too often a cesspool of infighting, has finally come of age as a “global economic and geopolitical player”. , after showing the world its ability to move with “speed, scale and unity” in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as the Covid-19 shock.

WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab called this week’s forum “the most timely and important” in its 52-year history, with the return of war in Europe and growing fears over global economic and climate outlook.

It’s also a time when globalization, the mantra embraced by Davos like few other places, is more under threat than it has been in decades.