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Day 4 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

posted 29 Jan 2011, 13:41 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 29 Jan 2011, 13:45 ]

Political and business leaders assembled in Davos, Switzerland, were hopeful of a positive result from the events in Egypt and Tunisia. While calling for a calm resolution in Egypt, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting hosted the newly-minted head of Tunisia's central bank, who stated that "democracy has taken root" in his country.

DAVOS-KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND - Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to start a dialogue with his people with the country gripped by unprecedented protests. "There's some social instability there, but President Mubarak has announced reforms. We expect that the Egyptian government will start a dialogue with many people immediately and initiate reforms and create an administration in a way to gain broad support and participation of the people," Kan said. Kan said he was making the appeal because Japan had a history of good relations with Egypt, adding he hoped dialogue would help restore political stability and civil rights. He added that politically unstable countries - such as Egypt - should re-connect with those who are left out.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bilt said the world would be watching Egyptian President Mubarak's reform agenda very closely, particularly his promise to hold presidential election in the autumn of 2011.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he thought the current demands for political change there were unstoppable. But Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said the prospect of change in the country gave him hope. The international community should be ready to extend a helping hand should true democracy emerge, he said.

Saudi journalist and media executive Jamal Khashoggi said it was a big event in Arab history, and the effects would be felt across the region. He said it was perhaps the shock that the Arab world needed in order to bring in much-needed reform.

Tunisia, which ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, is stabilizing. The governor of Tunisia's central bank told a press conference that "democracy is taking hold" in his country. Mustapha Kamel Nabli, who was appointed to his new post earlier this week, said that corruption and cronyism in the North African nation would be replaced by transparency. Nabli said the recent protests there should not deter investment or commerce. "It does not worry me that people protest; that is part of democracy."

World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy said the talks to conclude the Doha Round were accelerating. Speaking after an informal working meeting of trade ministers on the fringes of the Annual Meeting, Lamy said that the nations were 80-percent of the way to an agreement. He said the ministers were committed to meeting getting the final agreement finished in a timely manner.

European policymakers and international bankers at the Davos Forum said the euro zone's debt crisis had turned a corner and any doubt about the survival of the single currency area had passed.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a Forum panel he did not expect the 17-nation euro zone to suffer any further major crises. Member states were drawing lessons and moving toward convergence in their economic and social policies. "I don't expect that there will be further major shocks," Schaeuble said. "I think the euro will be stable."

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde urged financial markets not to short-sell the euro zone, saying all countries were on the right path to fiscal consolidation. "I think the euro zone has turned the corner," she told the same panel. "Let's not short Europe and let's not short the euro zone."

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said UK companies should start spending their cash reserves to help revive the economy while the government works to remove supply side obstacles to growth. Osborne said he was disappointed with gross domestic product figures this week that showed a 0.5 percent contraction in the last quarter of 2010, partly due to bad weather.

"So the challenge for the government in the next year or so is to remove the supply side obstacles to growth," he said. "The (other) challenge to me is that UK corporates are sitting on cash on their balance sheets equivalent to about 5 percent of GDP. What I've got to do in next few months is to persuade them to start spending that money," Osborne added.

For India's economy, there is a different risk - too much growth too quickly. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the India Planning Commission, said the top priority for the country was stability and balance, on the domestic scene as well as the internationally.

A frequent attendee at the Davos Annual Meeting is rock star and activist Bono. He said he was there this year to back a campaign to combat and prevent corruption in mining and other extractive industries. Under the banner of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was established in 2002 to press for revenue transparency in countries where extractive industries operate.

The Annual Meeting deals with serious events and weighty issues. But it's not all hard work. On Saturday a lighter note was sounded by a Norwegian folk music troupe, as part of the Nordic Experience, one of the themes running through the week.

Comprehensive information about the Annual Meeting 2010 can be found on the Forum website: