Home Economy Chidambaram leads powerful team to Davos amid hopes of ‘eastern boom’

Chidambaram leads powerful team to Davos amid hopes of ‘eastern boom’

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS

Geneva : A high powered Indian delegation is heading to the mountain resort of Davos in Switzerland to join global business leaders for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) beginning Wednesday, but the mood of the discussions this year is likely to remain 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, a strong delegation from India will seek to assure a nervous world that continuing economic growth in India and China can help the world ride the storm.

“Gloom in the West can be offset by the boom in the East,” Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told visiting British Premier Gordon Brown Monday at a breakfast meeting organised by business chambers in New Delhi.

Leading the government delegation to Davos will be Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who will be accompanied by Nath, Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Business leaders in the delegation include Anil Ambani, Rahul Bajaj, ITC’s Yogesh Deveshwar, Adi Godrej, Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal, Vijay Mallya, Sunil Bharti Mittal, Azim Premji, DLF’s Kushal Singh, Kiran Shaw-Mazumder, Lakshmi Mittal and ICICI’s K.V. Kamath.

Over the course of the five-day meeting, more than 2,500 participants from 88 countries will convene in Davos.

They include 27 heads of state or government and 113 cabinet ministers, besides religious leaders, media leaders and heads of NGOs.

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 the world’s expectations pinned on a strong Asian performance this year, 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 last Friday.

A day earlier, Chidambaram had 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’s Indra K. Nooyi, Chevron’s David J. O’Reilly and China Mobile Communications Corp chief executive Wang Jianzhou.