Not surprisingly, the atmosphere at this year’s World Economic Forum was grim. Those who think that globalization, technology, and the market economy will solve the world’s problems seemed subdued. Most chastened of all were the bankers. Against the backdrop of the sub-prime crisis, the disasters at many financial institutions, and the weakening of the stock market, these “masters of the universe” seemed less omniscient than they did a short while ago. And it was not just the bankers who were in the Davos doghouse this year, but also their regulators – the central bankers.
Anyone who goes to international conferences is used to hearing Americans lecture everyone else about transparency. There was still some of that at Davos. I heard the usual suspects – including a former treasury secretary who had been particularly vociferous in such admonishments during the East Asia crisis – bang on about the need for transparency at sovereign wealth funds (though not at American or European hedge funds).