The World Economic Forum: An Award Ceremony for the Rich, the Distressed and the Just Plain Silly


Normal people take holidays to escape their problems. By normal I mean those of us not counted among the 0.1 percent of the world’s richest people.

Instead some of those really, really rich folks board their chartered, 13-passenger Bombardier Global 6000 jets (estimated cost US$65 million) and fly to Davos, Switzerland to grapple with all the problems in the world at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Once they’re done with celebrity advocacy for fashionable causes, they climb back aboard their jets (there are 1,700 of them at Davos and Zurich airports according to the Twitter feed of Flightradar24) and fly home to count their money.

As you read this, some 2,500 people are attending the annual WEF knees-up where the major talking points this year include: wealth distribution, inequality between the sexes, poverty, the price of oil and climate change.

It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta’ do it. Who better than the global elites to tussle over the absolute unfairness of living in a world where so much is owned by so few.

For the past few days attendees have wiggled their toes comfortably in their hand-tooled leather loafers and listened to a stellar list of speakers who know all about making the planet a kinder place for all.

GM CEO Mary Barra is on the speaking list alongside rapper So too hedge fund king Ray Dalio, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan his majesty Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein and Saudi Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud.

There’s also an assortment of Hollywood actors on hand but no Matt Damon. He was there last year talking up the mission of his charity Goldie Hawn is also resting after leading a gruelling but suitably thoughtful meditation session 12 months ago.

Then there’s Al Gore. Of course, Al Gore. The man last heard of at the big Rio climate summit has flown in (do these people travel any other way?) to bend a few ears on the pollution problems presented by so many people, um, flying around the world in jet aircraft.

Such a giddy time to be alive. Trouble is, these perpetually aggrieved worriers will achieve exactly nothing.

Don’t believe me? Call me a snarky cynic? Well, can you name a single initiative that has emerged from this annual pilgrimage that has done anything to improve the lot of anyone beyond a handful of Swiss hotel keepers?

Nope, didn’t think so. The World Economic Forum is an Academy Award ceremony for the rich, the tendentious, the distressed and the just plain silly. All determined to tell other people how to live their lives.

If they can set all that to music, so much the better.

On Wednesday Al Gore (him again) mounted the WEF podium and announced, to nobody in particular, that a Live Earth music event “to demand action on climate change” will take place on June 18, 2015 across seven continents including Antarctica.

The former U.S. vice-president joined pop star Pharrell Williams to reveal concerts will be staged in six cities – Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Sydney and Cape Town – in what will be the largest event of its type ever staged.

The final Antarctic gig will be played by a band of scientists at a research station, Gore added enthusiastically. There will be dancing. Bring your own penguin.

Two billion people are expected to tune in to the 24-hour gig across nearly 200 television networks, according to a report by the Reuters news agency. Each individual Live Earth concert will run for four to six hours and is designed to “galvanize public support for climate action ahead of make-or-break United Nations’ talks in Paris in December on combating global warming.”

Al Gore is excited by the prospect of getting the Live Earth band back together. Singer-producer Williams previously teamed up with Gore for a similar 24-hour Live Earth event in 2007, when performers included Snoop Dogg, Rihanna, Metallica, Genesis and Bon Jovi.

How could anyone forget. I know we still talk of little else around our humble family breakfast table.

“It is absolutely crucial that we build public will for an agreement,” the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 trilled in support of the concert. “The purpose is to have a billion voices with one message, to demand climate action now.”

Such a grandiose statement can only demand one reply.

Hey Al. Get out of your private jet and take a hike. It will be better for you, better for the environment and better for us all.

While you’re at it, please could you take a few Russians with you.

This year’s Russian WEF delegation includes 73 business leaders, down a few from the record 82 who wafted by in 2014.

Included are executives from companies that have been targeted by the U.S. and EU for sanctions, including VTB chairman and chief executive officer Andrey Kostin and OAO Sberbank (SBER) CEO Herman Gref.

These hard-partying giants of Russian finance have announced a working breakfast, at a time yet to be determined, titled “2015: How to attract investment in a geo-politically unstable region. All welcome.”

I’m pretty sure they’re not being ironic.

Just don’t mention eastern Ukraine and it will be fine.