By Noah Barkin
DAVOS, Switzerland – The global economy is in better shape than it’s been in years. Stock markets are booming, oil prices are on the rise again and the risks of a rapid economic slowdown in China, a major source of concern a year ago, have eased.
And yet, as political leaders, CEOs and top bankers make their annual trek up the Swiss Alps to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the mood is anything but celebratory.
Beneath the veneer of optimism over the economic outlook lurks acute anxiety about an increasingly toxic political climate and a deep sense of uncertainty surrounding the U. S. presidency of Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated on the final day of the forum.
Last year, the consensus here was that Trump had no chance of being elected. His victory, less than half a year after Britain voted to leave the European Union, was a slap at the principles that elites in Davos have long held dear, from globalization and free trade to multilateralism.
Trump is the poster child for a new strain of populism that is spreading across the developed world and threatening the post-war liberal democratic order. With elections looming in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and possibly Italy, this year, the nervousness among Davos attendees is palpable.
“Regardless of how you view Trump and his positions, his election has led to a deep, deep sense of uncertainty and that will cast a long shadow over Davos,” said Jean-Marie Guehenno, CEO of International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution think-tank.
Moises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was even more blunt: “There is a consensus that something huge is going on, global and in many respects unprecedented.
By Noah Barkin