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Five-day Davos forum ends on note of humility

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The world's foremost gathering of business and government leaders wrapped up a five-day meeting with widespread agreement that a fragile recovery is under way; but no consensus on what's going to spur job growth and prevent another global economic meltdown.

In a group of big egos and many power players attending the annual World Economic Forum, there was even some humility and a realisation that overcoming the first global financial crisis is uncharted territory.

The gathering of some 2,500 VIPs in this Swiss alpine resort saw much spirited debate on whether more regulation is needed for the financial industry and how to lower global unemployment and find ways to ensure the nascent recovery is kept on course through 2010.

The atmosphere of doom and gloom that pervaded last year's forum, which took place at the height of the economic crisis, was replaced this year by a feeling of some satisfaction that a modest recovery is under way, but uncertainty about the way forward and how banks should respond.

Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Josef Ackerman told an AP-sponsored closing panel on Sunday that the worst of the financial and economic crisis had been managed "quite successfully" but decision-makers now had a tough choice: "Should we take more risk, be a creative force for growth, or should we focus on security?"

Peter Sands, the chief executive officer of Britain's Standard Chartered Bank, said at the panel that the right balance must be struck "between making a safer banking system and a financial system that can support the sort of dynamism and growth in job creation."

"Get it wrong one way and we risk a new crisis; get it wrong the other way and we'll take the steam out of the recovery and reduce the chances of creating new jobs," he said.