Davos turns into fortress for WEF meet; locals look for economic boost

Davos, May 22: Nearly 5,000 Swiss military personnel have joined local police to secure this small Swiss town for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum after a pandemic-induced two-year hiatus, but residents and businessmen are not complaining as they are eagerly awaiting the much-awaited revenue windfall brought in by thousands of participants and their delegations.
The rare springtime WEF Annual Meeting — which has been otherwise taking place for 50 years in January, when this highest town of Europe is covered in snow — however, is different in many other senses, be it a sunny weather, absence of snow boots and heavy jackets and also the missing Russian parties.
To be precise, the traditional Russia House has given way to “Russia Warcrimes House”, as no Russian leaders or citizens have been invited this time due to the war in Ukraine.
However, across the road at a close distance, a huge Ukraine House has been set up and a number of Ukrainian leaders including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be addressing this high-profile congregation of the rich and powerful from across the world.
The traditional India Lounge remains at its usual place, while there are also separate pavilions set up by Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments, in addition to several pavilions by top Indian companies such as HCL and Wipro.
According to local estimates, the summit brings in about USD 60 million of windfall revenue to this small town, which otherwise mainly depends on ski tourism.
The Swiss government has deployed its armed forces, which will remain in place till May 30.
“The federal parliament has set an upper limit of 5,000 army members for the WEF deployment of the army in the assistance service, which lasts from May 20 to 30 this year, due to the postponement of the annual meeting,” the Swiss government said.
The Air Force has been given the mandate for ensuring security in the airspace. In addition to the air policing service, it also carries out surveillance flights for the benefit of the canton of Graubunden and air transports of persons protected under international law on behalf of the federal government.
Measures in place include permanent patrolling by armed fighter jets, ground-based air defense, additional radars, increased airspace surveillance and air police service around the clock.
The restrictions for the airspace above Davos have also been put in place to allow only pre-authorised flights by jets and helicopters.
The organisers expect more than 2,500 people from the fields of business, politics, science and culture to travel to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The event in Davos will be covered by some 400 journalists reporting for domestic and foreign news outlets.
According to the Swiss government, the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum is one of the most important economic and socio-political events in the world and hosting it for exchanging views and seeking solutions to world problems is very positive and continues Switzerland’s longstanding tradition of serving as a host country for international conferences and gatherings.
“The fact that leading representatives from the worlds of business, politics, science and culture gather in Davos offers Switzerland the possibility to cultivate relations with a great many influential figures in a special setting.
“A great many jobs in Davos depend on the economic benefits of conferences and other events, and the people of Davos have repeatedly expressed their support for hosting the WEF Annual Meeting in a number of popular votes,” the Swiss government said.
The additional costs for security at the WEF Annual Meeting 2022 are estimated to amount to around CHF 9 million.
The Swiss Confederation will continue its financial support for security measures at the WEF Annual Meetings from 2022 to 2024, in partnership with the WEF foundation and other stakeholders.
The WEF foundation has committed to increasing its contributions, while the Confederation will reduce its share from 3/8 to 2/8.
As such, the WEF foundation will replace the Confederation as the largest contributor in the three-level finance model for security costs. This is split between the funding partners as follows: WEF 3/8; Confederation: 2/8, Canton of Graubunden: 2/8; Davos: 1/8;. Klosters will contribute CHF 100,000 to Davos’ share of costs.
The World Economic Forum is a foundation. In the financial year from July 2020 to June 2021, it reported a turnover of CHF 315 million and a surplus of CHF 531,000, which is paid into the foundation’s capital.
According to a study by the University of St Gallen, the WEF Annual Meeting generated an estimated turnover of around CHF 94 million throughout Switzerland in 2017. About CHF 60 million of this benefited the commune of Davos. (PTI)