Davos: A new reality
Davos: Twelve months ago, the world leaders who gathered here were still in shock - counting the cost of the financial crisis, and breathing a sigh of relief that their economies were starting to recover. A year later, the focus has shifted, to the new global economic landscape that the crisis has left in its wake - and the threats which it could face in the future.
For the Russian president, who gave the opening address, the threat has been tangible - and not in the future at all. He spoke here yesterday, barely 48 hours after the terrorist attack at Moscow's main international airport. For the big advanced economies, the threat seems more existential.
True, all seems well on the surface. Even the notoriously downbeat Nouriel Roubini found some upbeat things to say about the global recovery in the first major economic discussion. The Americans are feeling less nervous, after a string of decent economic statistics (though I'd still be plenty nervous about the state of the US housing market). Globally, the IMF's updated growth forecasts - released at the same time as Britain's dire GDP figures - painted a fairly strong recovery for 2011.
Except, there's no getting around the fact that some here are recovering a lot faster than others - indeed, they didn't really have to recover at all. The Russians have long had a major presence here. Far more visible than usual, this year, are the delegations from China and, especially, India. At a dinner I attended last night, one US-based economist predicted that India would be the next bubble - basing his forecast partly on the amount of hype and exuberance about the country this year in Davos.
The theme of this year's meeting is "shared norms for a new reality". A big part of the new reality - written about enough times in this blog - is that these countries are leaping ahead - while the major advanced economies are still struggling to get back to where they were. On one estimate, the UK would need to grow by more than 6% a year for the next two years to get to the path we would have been on, if the crisis had not happened, and growth had continued as before.
Most Davos men and women from the "old" world want to take pleasure in the success of the new. They really do. But if they're honest, most will admit that there is still a zero-sum part of their brain, warning that the newcomers' gain will be our loss.
Even those who have got rid of that nagging voice may wonder how on earth, in this new global economic order, we are going to get anything done. The buzzword doing the rounds is that the G20 has turned into the "G-zero". The idea is that everyone is now responsible - and no one is in charge.
The odd sense of limbo may explain why the subject of commodity prices has raced up the agenda. The rising price of oil and other commodities has all the requirements for a perfect Davos issue: the problem is immediate and easy to identify; no-one in Davos can be directly blamed for it; and, crucially, developed and developing countries are nearly all suffering the effects.
The same cannot be said of the eurozone crisis, or even the battle to build a more stable global banking system. This time last year, I couldn't understand why the impending crisis in Greece - and the eurozone - was not being discussed. I was told that it was not a good subject for Davos: the disagreements between countries were too intense, and the problems too close to home. A lot has changed since then, but I suspect the European reluctance to wash their dirty linen here has not.