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Thursday, 3 February 2011

28 January 2011

Here, hold my hand. I want to take you to meet some of the world’s richest and most powerful men. (And yes, sorry, they are nearly all men.)

We’re off to Davos in Switzerland, for the annual jamboree of global movers and shakers known as the World Economic Forum. So you’ll need your passport, of course, some nice smart clothes for all those evening parties – oh yes, and some cash.

You won’t want to go as a mere journalist, I know, because that won’t get you anywhere near the inner sanctums (sancta?) where the real money is. So let’s enrol you as a fully paid-up participant.

Did I say fully paid-up? Hang on to your credit card, because here come the numbers. Basic membership fee, entitling you to one invitation: 50,000 Swiss francs (£33,000, or $53,000). Cost of one ticket, 18,000 Swiss francs, plus tax: so total cost of membership plus ticket: £44,000, or $71,000.

Mind you, I should warn you: if you want to get in to the really interesting sessions, the ones where the really important people are, you’ll need to enrol as an “Industry Associate”. That’ll cost £86,000, or $137,000. And yes, you’ll still need to buy a ticket as well.

Ah, you want to bring a friend. Sorry, mere Industry Associates aren’t allowed any friends. You’ll need to be an Industry Partner, which costs a bit more: £164,000, or $263,000. Yes, you guessed: you’ll both need to buy tickets as well.

I could go on, but you’ll have got the idea by now. How do I know all this? Not, needless to say, because I’ve become a member of the Global Club of Movers and Shakers, but because the New York Times very kindly spelt it all out this week in a fascinating article.

So here’s the question: what on earth do they do with all that cash? Well, I did what any self-respecting hack would do: I had a look at their latest annual report. In 2009/10, total revenue: 143 million Swiss francs (£95 million, or $150 million). Total expenditure: about the same, of which about one-fifth went on office costs, 40 per cent on staff, and the rest on “activity-related” costs.

Perhaps none of this matters very much. The people who go to Davos are very rich people who represent very rich corporations. (I assume the politicians get a special rate …) What they do with their cash is their business.

Incidentally, Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times had some useful Davos tips the other day if you do decide to go: they include wear sensible shoes, because of all the trudging through the slush; and end the evening at a party with loud music, because by the end of the day, you’ll have had enough of earnest discussions.

Me? No, I’m not there – not my thing, I’m afraid. But you get a flavour of it from Rachman’s note about a session he went to on global security, just as anti-government protesters were out in their thousands on the streets of Cairo.

“One of the participants was Amre Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister of Egypt. The bad news is that I am not allowed to report what Moussa said. The good news is that he actually said nothing worth reporting, so it’s no great loss.”

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