Economy to occupy centre stage

NEW YORK JAN. 31. Political and business leaders from around the world have gathered here to discuss the international system's most critical and compelling challenges. And while no formal decisions will be made here, the general feeling is that the sentiment expressed and shared by delegates will be listened to carefully in many capitals.

The 32nd World Economic Forum, normally meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is being held in New York this time, to show solidarity and sympathy to the people of this city who are still reeling from the traumatic events of September 11.

And the "Davos in New York'' Forum is expected to attract some 3,000 delegates in the five day conference, many of whom will be looking beyond the campaign against terrorism to include such global problems as poverty, economic recession and developmental priorities.

"I think people from all walks of life are looking for an opportunity to get together, compare notes and find some new solutions to these difficult problems we are facing,'' a conference spokesman, Charles McLean, has said. The expectation is that the world economy and outlook will dominate much of the agenda, the hope being that economic pundits, financial leaders and decision makers will attempt to find ways for a brighter global picture.

The delegates could be expected to be outnumbered only by protestors who have now made it almost routine at any global economic meeting. That the police wish to take no chances given what has happened in other cities and countries before is evident from many sections of mid-town Manhattan off limits to traffic. Security is extremely tight.

Hundreds of police officers are out patrolling not just the busy streets but also keeping a careful watch on subway stations. "I hope it is going to be peaceful. That's all I can say,'' remarked the City Police Commissioner.

The workshop based format and agenda will deal not merely with the root cause of conflict and aspects of terrorism including bio-terrorism. Some of the discussions will centre on the kind of Leadership that is needed in ``fragile times,'' the challenges of global governance, a new strategic approach that factors in business, labour and globalisation, bridging the digital divide and the regional and global implications of the rise of emerging economies such as China.

India's participation at this forum is wide ranging in that it has the mix of political leaders at the Centre and State levels and captains of industry. The Union Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha, is heading the delegation. He will be addressing the plenary session and also participating in the informal gathering of the world economic leaders. Among other things the Indian Minister is expected to share his vision of the inter-twining of international needs and domestic interests.

The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, will be participating in a workshop on Bridging the Digital Divide where he will discuss the role and priorities of businesses, governments, international organisations and NGOs in the use of technology to alleviate poverty. Mr. Naidu and Mr. Sinha will be involved in briefing participants about India.

And the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is here with a 40-member strong industry and business delegation led by its President, Sanjiv Goenka.

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