Did the business world lose interest in Davos?

Did the business world lose interest in Davos?

It has been over 10 years since I have been attending the World Economic Forum Davos meetings. I am therefore quite accustomed to the extremely active tempo of the World Economic Forum, which starts today and ends Jan. 29. Before the trip to Davos, as I do every year including this one, I carefully reviewed the program, participants, special events and receptions. 

Those Cabinet members participating from Turkey, namely Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, European Union Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış and Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin, all have very busy schedules. 

It is a significant development that the first female minister to attend the event from Turkey, Fatma Şahin, will get together with the team who has been preparing the “Global Gender Gap Report” for the World Economic Forum for years. Because this report, issued annually since 2008, always places Turkey in the bottom slots in terms of the gap between male-female equal opportunities. 

Our officials, for years, explained this situation as, “The statistical data the World Economic Forum is not healthy,” but until this day no minister in charge of women’s affairs got together with those who were preparing the “Global Gender Gap Report.” After this step by Fatma Şahin, I hope Turkey’s score in this report will improve. 

Taking a look at the participants when I reviewed the list this year, I noticed participation from the business world was much lower when compared to previous years. As an example, Fiba Holding’s boss, Hüsnü Özyeğin, is not among the participants this year. Koç Holding’s CEO Turgay Durak also, even though he was one of the Davos regulars in previous years, has preferred not to participate this year. This list becomes longer when compared to previous years. 

One of the bosses always loyal to the Davos tradition is the head of the executive committee of both Doğan Holding and Garanti Bank, Ferit Şahenk. Each year he holds a reception at the forum and this year Ferit Şahenk will also be hosting us at a reception. 

Could it be the reason the business world was less interested in Davos this year was because the WEF meeting is to be held between June 4 and 6 in Istanbul?

I asked this question to an outstanding name in the business world. “I believe this is exactly so. With Davos coming to Istanbul, the business world postponed its [events] until the month of June. As a matter of fact, participation in Davos has gradually become very expensive,” was the answer. 

In the Istanbul meeting, change in North Africa and the Middle East – in other words, the MENA region in short – will be discussed, and plans are under way to make the meeting a permanent addition to the calendar. 
In fact, if Davos comes to Istanbul every year, then we can assume the decline in participation from the Turkish business world in the real Davos will continue next year. 

Also, I have learned that during the forum in Davos, an evening event will be organized to promote the WEF meeting in Istanbul, with the participation of Ali Babacan, Egemen Bağış and Fatma Şahin. Global company CEOs were also highly interested in the evening event and almost no seats were available at the tables, it was said. 

From this, we can conclude the World Economic Forum in Istanbul in June will attract huge attention.