The ultra-rich alpine assembly in Davos, Switzerland, enters its final day on Saturday, giving the jet-setting elite only 24 hours more to express concerns for the world’s poor and marginalized in between their helicopter rides, ski jumps, and spa treatments.
The whole concept of the World Economic Forum, where the globe’s wealthiest and most important citizens meet in a kind of billionaire Disneyland, may seem like a joke on its face. But this year, five aspects of Davos stand out as particularly egregious for a summit that’s recently attempted to highlight global equality and climate change.
$43 hot dogs.
Yes, a sausage encased in bread and garnished with some questionable-looking fried onions runs a cool $43 if you’re dining at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, where many Davos attendees apparently nosh. CNBC reports that a chicken Caesar salad hits $55 (it does come with parmesan cheese, though).
Some of the cost likely stems from the sudden, massive appreciation of the Swiss franc last week. But the sudden flood of well-heeled clientele into the small mountain town probably helped nudge up the price as well.
A pet store becomes a financier’s paradise.
A small pet shop five minutes from the center of the gathering undergoes a magical transformation in early January. The dogs and cats are crated out, droppings and wood shavings are swept up, and international megabank Barclays comes swooping in. BizNews editor Alec Hogg reports that the bank pulls out all the stops, turning the place into a lounge for clients eager to take a load off after a hard day of caring so much about other people’s problems.
Other businesses on prime real estate are bought out entirely – like an old audio-equipment store, replaced by aircraft and limousine operator Top Alliance. The company only operates the office for one month, while Davos attendees are in town. It sits empty for the rest of the year.
1,700 private jets.
“On the heels of data showing that last year was the hottest on earth since record keeping began, business leaders, politicians and scientists at the World Economic Forum redoubled their calls to combat climate change,” read Friday’s New York Times. Those business leaders, politicians and scientists so concerned with the warming affect of carbon emissions will be traveling home from Switzerland on a record 1,700 private jets.
It’s the highest number of personal planes ever to descend on the town, forcing the Swiss air force to set up a military base expressly to deal with all the extra aircraft. And those planes don’t run on rainwater — good ol’ petroleum powers all those Gulfstreams, producing tons of the very carbon dioxide the Davos attendees want everyone else to stop consuming.
Where are all the women?
The Twitterverse gushed on Friday over Harry Potter star Emma Watson’s speech decrying the underrepresentation of women in important fields worldwide. “Women share this planet 50/50 and they are under-represented, their potential astonishingly untapped,” she said. But at Davos 2015, women attendees make up just 17 percent of the conference. That meant 83 percent of people at Wednesday’s “From Problem to Progress” forum — where attendees discussed “what gaps must be closed to make this the century of gender equality” — were men.
The irony wasn’t lost on some, with one guy telling BuzzFeed he was “embarrassed” and another claiming there are “too many of us.” Of course, all the social-justice aristocrats didn’t have to show up at such an egregiously sexist gathering, either.
Openness for thee, but not for me.
This year’s Davos conference sough to open up the forum to leaders traditionally excluded from the Western-centric gathering.
Invitations were accordingly made to Chinese premier Li Keqiang and Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who were asked to opine on the problems facing people in other countries — but apparently not their own. Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf reports that the two leaders “offered canned remarks and were fed softball questions from moderators that neatly sidestepped the toughest problems they face at home — and where, in the spirit of their governments’ attitudes toward a free press, questions from the audience were forbidden.” Such “fauxpenness,” he added, was “not the exception but the rule” in Davos.
— Brendan Bordelon is an editorial associate at National Review.