The 2024 World Economic Forum's annual summit held last week in the Swiss town of Davos brought forward a week-long discussion on key world issues. Despite organisers claiming record participation, only a handful of Australian business elites attend as the cold shoulder from Australia highlights the WEF struggles to attract pre-eminent Western leaders to its flagship event. Instead, keynote speakers come from the rising powers, coined the “the new voices globally” - Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Argentina’s newly elected President Javier Milei, and the leaders of Qatar and Kenya.
Gaza dominated the conversation of the forum but leaders failed to produce a clear pathway to the Palestinian statehood or a ceasefire with Israel and the militant group Hamas. Qatar’s finance minister mentioned the debilitating impacts of the war in slowing down the economy of the entire region, with an estimated $15bn to rebuild homes in Gaza alone. CEOs at the WEF turned their attention to the attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group on ships in the Red Sea that would drive up the cost of goods from Asia to Europe, looking for alternative supply routes.
Overall, heads of global banks warned of continued inflationary pressure from increased shipping costs and the possibility of oil price increases. Bank executives fear markets are mispricing interest rates cuts, with the ongoing geopolitical risks to cause further volatility.