Preeti Mehra

Davos, Jan. 29

AS the World Economic Forum comes to a close, with most of the activity coming to an end on Saturday and an official closing ceremony on Sunday, what is most significant is the centre-stage Asia has taken at the meet.

The region seems to have dominated a large number of sessions, whether they were on issues pertaining to jobs, labour, investments, science or natural resources. The emerging Asian economy and its impact on the rest of the world was constantly discussed, while India and China of course came in for special focus. On the jobs and labour front, some of the participants expressed concern on the difficulties they had to move talent around due to governmental intervention and visa regulations.

Mr William G. Parrett, Global Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte, USA, said in a session, `Making the Global Labour Market Work' that his company employs 120,000 people across the world from different cultures and mobility of this talent is a real problem. However, Mr David Arkless, Executive Board Member of Manpower USA, felt that the largest global movement in labour is done by individuals, while only a low proportion of global mobility is caused by governments and companies. "We have to move work to people or people to work,'' he said citing the example of China which was looking at how to move a part of its economy to the countryside. On the science front, there was an entire session on `India's Life Science Revolution' that had the country's prominent science community at the forefront.

Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon India, spoke on how the biotechnology sector was reinventing itself from being "imitative to very innovative''. Mr Harish Narula of Lupin Ltd attributed this innovation to the success of the IT sector in the country, saying, "the Government is fully conscious that after the success of IT, the next step is the health industry''.

In fact, Mr S. Ramadorai, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tata Consultancy Services, spoke about a marriage of the two sectors to build new business lines such as bio informatics and clinical data management. A whole session was devoted to China and India's rising demand for natural resources, where it was pointed out that as the two economies grow, so does their appetite for natural resources.

Mr Nikhil Meswani, Executive Director, Reliance Industries, spoke about how the Indian economy would continue to grow at 7-8 per cent and hence its energy consumption is bound to double in the next seven years. The Vice- Chairman, World Energy Council, and Chairman and Chief Executive of Korea's Daesung Group, Mr David Kim, pointed out that the cooperation pact between India and China on the energy front would be the "cornerstone for structural stability for the energy market'' and he reckoned that it was a matter of time before the energy market returned to normalcy.

Saudi Aramco's President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Abdallah S. Jum'ah, reiterated that there were enough energy reserves to meet world demand, but the problem was a mismatch between the type of oil available and the hardware to manage the output.

On the lighter side too India made a significant impact with its `India Everywhere' campaign. From receptions, breakfasts to sponsoring `happy hours' at several bars in Davos and even hosting the annual soiree (get together) for all participants, India turned on its charm. The art exhibition against terrorism and in the name of peace deserves a special mention. Consisting of 17 peace panels worked on collectively by 158 of the country's artists, it sent home the message of what India stood for.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 30, 2006)
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