Morning Musings from the Lobby
There's a feeling that Davos is starting wind down from the frenetic pace of the first couple of days. Attendees might be catching up on lost sleep, or after a big night of parties Wednesday evening, sleeping off a few hangovers.
Whatever the cause, panels were no longer standing room only, the lobby was emptier and even top executives had trouble finding friends. Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz wandered slowly through the halls by himself looking a little sullen, but perhaps that was because the laptops provided for us by the World Economic Forum all had Intel Centrino stickers on them.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle, sporting monogrammed cufflinks, was able to catch up quickly with U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donahue.
But slowly business leaders and policy makers started to mingle. Here are a few of the more interesting comments of the morning:
Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Barham Salih said Iraq should pump about 40 percent more oil this year than the year before, at least.
"At the moment Iraq is producing about 2 million barrels a day and the ministry of oil is saying that in the year 2008 we will reach 2.8 million barrels per day," Salih told CNBC.com.
"My hope is that we should do a lot better," he said. "We need the revenues and we need management restructuring and opening up of the system so we can do a lot more."
That kind of growth should easily help the country hit the IMF prediction of 7 percent economic growth in 2008, with 70 percent of Iraq's GDP coming from oil
UBS Vice Chairman Lord Brittan of Spennithorne describing the current financial situation to ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet as "interesting times" -- classic British understatement. Trichet said he never thought something like the fraud at Societe Generale could happen "after Barings."
UK Conservative Party Leader David Cameron told CNBC.com the main focus his panels and meetings in Davos has been terrorism and integration, but global finance has been a non-stop conversation. Market turmoil is keeping people from talking about things they really want to talk about, Cameron said.
One attendee, describing himself as a friend of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, said he had never seen the Fed chief so stressed as when he saw him last month. There's a lot of anger at Bernanke here in Davos, but he said the chairman has been upfront about missteps and has a long tenure to turn things around.
KPMG Chairman and CEO Tim Flynn told a panel the key to a U.S. economic slowdown was the point when the consumer steps back and also said that sovereign wealth funds are now a "very important part of the economy." At the same panel, Barclays Capital Jerry de Missier said the U.S. would avoid negative economic growth.
But the organizers of the WEF weren't so optimistic. While the panel was officially titled "Should We Fear Slowdowns?" the sign outside the conference room simply said "recession."