Home Economy Chidambaram leads strong Indian team to a sombre Davos

Chidambaram leads strong Indian team to a sombre Davos

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS

Geneva : The great and the good from the world of business – including a substantial delegation from India – begin meeting in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos Wednesday, but the mood at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) is set to be sombre.

With the US credit market crunch casting a shadow over the annual business summit, the 27 heads of state or government and 1,370 business leaders will take time off from striking deals to come up with some urgent solutions to ensure that the global economy is able to cope and grow.

Notwithstanding predictions of an economic downturn, there is a strong delegation from India whose members will feature prominently in the WEF agenda this year.

From the government there are Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Trade and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Business leaders include Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani, Bajaj Auto Chairman Rahul Bajaj, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, ITC Chairman Yogesh Deveshwar, Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej, Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal, UB Group Chairman Vijay Mallya, Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, DLF Chairman Kushal Singh, Biocon India Chairwoman Kiran Shaw-Mazumder, ArcelorMittal President Laxmi Mittal and ICICI Bank Managing Director M V Kamath.

Over the course of the five-day meeting, more than 2,500 participants from 88 countries will convene in Davos, including 27 heads of state or government, 113 cabinet ministers, along with religious leaders, media leaders and heads of non-governmental organisations.

Around 60 percent of the participants are business leaders drawn principally from the Forum’s members – 1,000 of the foremost companies from around the world and across all economic sectors.

WEF founder Klaus Schwab, in an optimistic assessment, said the five days of meeting, whose theme is ‘The Power of Collaborative Innovation’, will help the world better approach the problems that face it.

“The unique combination of the world’s top business and political leaders, together with the heads of the world’s most important NGOs, and religious, cultural and media leaders allows us to approach the problems that face the world in a systematic way and with an eye to tackling the major issues that face us all,” Schwab said.

With much of world’s expectations pinned on a strong Asian performance this year, both Chidambaram and Ahluwalia have issued muted warnings that India’s growth rate could be affected by a US slowdown.

“On a basis of 9 percent, if there is a global slowdown, maximum impact on Indian economy could be half a percent,” Ahluwalia said Friday.

A day earlier Chidambaram said “If the US economy goes into a recession it will have drastic implications on the global economy and India, too, will have to bear some consequences.”

But he added, “A slight slowdown will not impact India as our exports to US are not very large. India is not so dependent on the US. We export equally to Europe and eastern countries like China and Japan.”

Nath said in Beijing recently that the world expected India and China to help it ride out the impact of any serious slowdown in the US economy.

ICICI’s Kamath is co-chair of the WEF, alongside former British premier Tony Blair, JP Morgan Chase Chairman James Dimon, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Pepsico Chairwoman Indra K. Nooyi, Chevron Chairman David J. O’Reilly and China Mobile Communications Corporation Chief Executive Wang Jianzhou.