By Ray Fleming

IT'S Davos time again. This year is the 40th anniversary of the World Economic Forum which has grown from the 440 participants who attended in 1971 to the 2'500 who will be present this week. Every year the convener, Klaus Schwab, a professor at the University of Geneva, coins an overall theme for the multiplicity of lectures, presentations and discussions that bring together some of the biggest names in world governance and business.

Professor Schwab may have had difficulty this year because his chosen theme, “Shared Norms for the New Reality” could hardly be more obscure but he has explained that the main task of the five days of togetherness will be to determine how to prevent the global financial crisis from infecting broader society around the world. A little late, perhaps?

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are attending, as are Angela Merkel and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev. Having just talked directly to each other the United States and China are sending deputies while the prize for bravery should perhaps go to Greece's prime minister George Papandreou for putting in an appearance. Banks of all kinds will be represented and there will be a sprinkling of “personalities” like Robert de Niro, Bono, and Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed a jet on New York's Hudson River in January 2009 -- he is billed to give advice on how those in command can determine the difference “between triumph and tragedy”.

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