Tharman, Heng, Iswaran to speak at Davos World Economic Forum

An array of crises will keep several world leaders away from the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, which takes place against a backdrop of deepening gloom over the global economic and political outlook.
A police officer with a drone gun on guard ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday. The theme for this year’s meeting is Globalisation 4.0: Shaping A Global Architecture In The Age Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Del
A police officer with a drone gun on guard ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday. The theme for this year’s meeting is Globalisation 4.0: Shaping A Global Architecture In The Age Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Delegates will have more than 300 sessions to choose from. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Global trade, digital economy and artificial intelligence among topics they will touch on at the four-day event

Global trade, financial governance and infrastructure development are among the topics that Singapore's Cabinet ministers will speak on at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, and Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, are attending the annual meeting, which starts today.

At the four-day event, the ministers will speak on various topics including the digital economy and artificial intelligence, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement yesterday.

They will also meet government and business leaders from around the world. They will be accompanied by officials from the PMO, Finance Ministry and Ministry of Communications and Information.

The theme for this year's meeting is Globalisation 4.0: Shaping A Global Architecture In The Age Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Delegates will have more than 300 sessions to choose from, with issues on the agenda including climate change, mental health and the rise of populism.

The event will also give business leaders the opportunity to network and strike deals with their counterparts from other countries on the sidelines of the main conference.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, sociologist Martin Albrow told Chinese news agency Xinhua that the new era of Globalisation 4.0 is a "clash between an older global age and a coming, already come, digital age".

 
 
 
 

"Globalisation itself is not something that any one person has invented or designed. It is the aggregate effect of human actions and policies," he said, stressing the importance of collaboration among world leaders.

The British expert also called on the international community to strengthen the rules-based world order, which he said is fundamental for cooperation to tackle challenges. There is a huge responsibility on world leaders to address global problems together, such as the rising threat of protectionism and climate change, he added.

Professional service firm PwC released a survey of more than 1,300 chief executives worldwide at the Davos meeting. It found that nearly 30 per cent of the business leaders believe global economic growth will decline in the coming year.

Chief executives in Asean were even more pessimistic, with 46 per cent holding this belief.

According to the PwC survey, Asean business leaders see trade conflicts and geopolitical and policy uncertainties as the biggest threats, and are taking a "strong reactive approach".

"With the rise of trade tension and protectionism, it stands to reason that business confidence is waning," said Mr Yeoh Oon Jin, executive chairman of PwC Singapore.

He added that this decline in confidence is especially marked in Asean, "in stark contrast to sentiments over the past few years, where we have been seeing greater optimism in Asia".

Major leaders will be missing from the Davos meeting, including United States President Donald Trump, who cancelled his delegation's trip to tackle the ongoing US government shutdown, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is sending Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron will also be absent.

Only three leaders from the Group of Seven's (G-7) most developed economies will be present: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The forum was founded by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab in 1971. It aims to improve the state of the world by bringing together business, political, academic and other leaders to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2019, with the headline 'Tharman, Heng, Iswaran to speak at Davos forum'. Print Edition | Subscribe