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World Economic Forum opens in Davos

The key theme will be emergence of China and India as global economic, political and military powerhouses.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2006 21:26 IST

Global business and government leaders kicked off the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, with an emphasis on using creativity to advance commerce, find peace and ensure prosperity for all.

A gloomy forecast about the world economy greeted the leaders when Stephen S Roach, chief economist of Morgan Stanley financial services company, said markets and officials had developed "a dangerous degree of complacency," assuming that an unbalanced world economy could continue without correction.

Asian central banks have helped to keep things going so far by supporting the US economy much longer than could be expected, Roach said.

The American consumer -- both "the weakest link" and the most important -- has continued to drive the world economy by spending, according to Roach. But the US real estate "bubble" is showing signs of slowing down, with the key indicator of home mortgage refinancing down 45 per cent from peak levels a year ago.

Later in the day, attendees were to discuss the emergence of China and India as major players on the global stage, including the former's role in becoming a regional and international leader.

Klaus Schwab, who started the Forum more than three decades ago, announced on Wednesday that he planned to start an annual meeting in China starting in the summer of 2007.

"China will be the home of many of the companies" that are expected to emerge on the global scene, Schwab told reporters. "In some way we are creating a parallel World Economic Forum for the next generation of companies."

Also on tap was a candid discussion on the changing shift in jobs in the future. With an estimated 1 billion workers from emerging economies joining the global labour market, it has created both disruptions and opportunities.

Fifteen heads of state, top business leaders and celebrities like Bono gathered in this exclusive Alpine resort this week to brainstorm on key issues facing the globe: Iran's nuclear programme, high oil prices, new business models and the shifting balance of power in Asia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf are among the world leaders attending this year, along with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

One of the top themes will be the emergence of China and India as true global powerhouses economically, politically and- to the concern of many- militarily.

Though the forum falls on the Chinese lunar new year, several officials from the country are making the visit to Davos, including Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan.

More than 2,340 participants from 89 countries are attending, including 735 who are either chairmen, chief executives or chief financial officers of their companies, the highest figure of corporate leaders ever, Forum officials said.

A new theme this year will be the role of sports in promoting economic growth and fostering ties between countries. Among those scheduled to attend to discuss sports are FIFA President Joseph Blatter; Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee; and David Stern, commissioner of the US National Basketball Association.

This year Davos welcomes U2 front man and debt relief advocate Bono; Brazilian literary superstar Paulo Coelho; musician Peter Gabriel; and actress Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

Police, augmented by the Swiss military, have erected barricades and barbed wire around the Alpine city and have imposed a no-fly zone in the area.

First Published: Jan 25, 2006 20:20 IST