The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression cast gloom over the opening of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday with experts warning against creeping protectionism and expectations that government stimulus packages alone will return the world's biggest economies to growth.
The usually glitzy gathering in this Swiss Alpine hamlet was decidedly muted. Some of the biggest players contributing to the economic slide stayed away, as did US President Barack Obama's top economic policy makers.
Among the 2,500 participants in Davos are over 40 heads of state. They include Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, British PM Gordon Brown, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese PM Taro Aso.
Russian PM Vladimir Putin was to give the keynote address Wednesday evening even as Russia's bankers and energy tycoons struggle with debt and plunging oil prices. Later, he will take part in a high-level debate that includes Nestle AG Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, US computer maker Michael Dell and Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Underscoring the sober mood this year, there is no entertainment celebrity on a level with previous attendees Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone and Bono.