The Priciest Weekend in World Pays

Every January, the World Economic Forum meets in the well-known Swiss health resort town of Davos. Formally, this is a meeting of leaders from the international business community. But, in reality, it is an international congress of especially influential people, who come to discuss the world's economic and political development.


The economic weight of the world business elite that gathers in Davos is so great -- by some estimates, the general volume of output of the member companies is some $4.5 trillion -- that many presidents and prime ministers consider it their duty to attend the forum.


Davos is becoming more popular every year. Representatives of the international business world such as the chairman and CEO of General Electric, John Welch, and the head of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, came to Davos this year. The political bloc was represented by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other political figures.


Politicians are increasingly fond of Davos because it gives them an ideal opportunity to talk with 1,500 of the world's most influential businessmen. Furthermore, about 150 journalists from the press and television describe in detail all that happens at the meetings and in the corridors of the forum.


It is precisely the corridors and meetings between politicians and businessmen that are most valued at Davos. Business deals, which in normal circumstances would take months to work out, are concluded here. There are encounters in which politicians go beyond the limits of protocol. Moreover, politicians of the highest rank can talk and do so, if they want, without the knowledge of the press. They can only dream about such conditions in their own countries.


The World Economic Forum has the status of a nonprofit organization. This does not mean, however, that money has nothing to do with what occurs at Davos. In order to participate in the forum, you must pay between $13,000 and $15,000, leading some people to dub the gathering the most expensive weekend in the world. But many companies consider admission to the event well worth the fee.


As the International Herald Tribune recently pointed out, the forum collects from its members more than $26 million. Critics of Davos, who were cited in the paper, believe that the forum takes in so much money from those who want to attend the meetings that it looks like a grandiose financial pyramid. The terms for entering the "Davos Club," said the paper, were set by the founder and president of the World Economic Forum, the Swiss professor Klaus Schwab, who autocratically rules his creation like the Wizard of Oz.


It should be added that the Davos staff, on whom $8 million of the dues are spent, work with the exactness of Swiss watches. Imagine what's involved in maintaining business contacts with the 2,000 people who come to Davos each year and planning for the more than 230 general discussions and meetings included in the official program.


Of course, there is much to criticize about the price of the forum. But, as with almost everything that is Swiss, the World Economic Forum is very expensive and something of very high quality.





Mikhail Berger is economics editor for Izvestia.