(Editor's note: CNBC's Maria Bartiromo will be offering an inside look at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland through a series of videos, notes and photographs in the coming days. Her long-time producer and fellow Davos veteran Lulu Chiang sat down with Bartiromo to set the scene for this year's events.)
Davos kicks off the year for Maria Bartiromo and I, attending our seventh meeting together as an anchor-producer team.
It’s not easy producing for the hardest working person in the business; we work almost around the clock to “make things happen".
Whether it’s moderating a panel or doing the 15th television interview scheduled that day, Maria is a sport about it and always on her “A” game.
The theme forDavos 2011: “Shared Norms for the New Reality.” True enough. Our world is more interconnected than ever, whether it’s the financial markets, the environment or politics.
The economy will one of many important subjects addressed. There will be sessions on global health and wellness, the changing media landscape and the power of women. These issues are complex and cannot be solved in a day, but what the meeting hopes to achieve is a forum to have this dialog.
Maria and I discussed our coverage plansfor this news event. Check out our conversation.
Lulu: Maria, what are you thoughts on this year’s theme?
Maria: The theme of the meeting reflects what is happening in the world today. We are facing a new reality, or "new normal" today and we are all affected. The continued growth of China, Southeast Asia, India and money flowing into Brazil and other resource rich nations has created opportunity as well as questions. This as other nations struggle with the implications of overspending and borrowing are now forced to insert austerity measures. The rise of the east and slow move of the west creates much debate.
Jobs, opening markets, economic growth and the one billion people joining the ranks of the middle class outside of the U.S. are among the hot topics. There will be many deep-pocketed investors and sovereign-wealth fund managers looking for opportunity. The annual meeting creates an opportunity to get the best minds around the globe to weigh in on all of these issues. We will be updating you on what we learn behind the scenes.
Lulu:Davos 2011. What does it mean to you, and how many meetings have you been so far?
Maria: I've been to the last ten years of the Davos meetings. I'm very excited about this year’s meeting, particularly because it's two years after the financial crisis. And we're beginning to see some real stabilization in the economy. And that is going to be critical, to really look around the world to see where the growth comes from next. As we prepare for a lot of interviews and the various sessions, I will be thinking about what pockets of the world will be critical to global economic growth.
In many cases, it's going to be Brazil. Asia will be another key focus.
The good thing about Davos is that it really does bring together thought leaders from all around the world. It's not one country-centric. So you really do have many thought leaders and CEOs, heads of state and government(see slidedhow), who are really engaging in various conversations about the economy today.
Lulu:Over the past few years, there's been such a shift between from the west to the east… the debate you will moderate on Wednesday will be about that, right?
Maria: We're looking at the debate on many different levels. The overall theme is the west is not working, because what you see happening today in the world is you really see the east rising, and the west either declining or bumping along the bottom. When I say the west, I mean the United States and Europe versus the east being Asia. That's really where the vibrancy in the world is coming from.
We will zero in on that in the debate on Wednesday. We’ll look at why the west is not working. One of the main issues, for the west not working is the unemployment situation. It's not just general unemployment, which as we know is about 10 percent of the country (10 to 15 percent of the country without a job), but it's more even youth's unemployment, when you look at young people who are under 25 years old. They're even having a tougher time than others, because they're coming out of school and they don't have many options. That will be one issue.
We're also going to take a look at immigration. We'll take a look at patents too. How do we keep what's great about America in place, like the innovation and the entrepreneurialism that is so inbred in this country? You know, the rest of the world wants to innovate. I mean, as we speak, we've got China producing solar panels. As we speak, we've got Russia creating a new Silicon Valley, right outside of Moscow.
So the rest of the world definitely wants to innovate. America has to figure out how it will keep the innovation and entrepreneurialism within America. It’s a hard nut to crack!
I think that's will be one of the real themes of Davos this year. And there are a lot of different themes that the world economic forum is driving forward. But that's certainly one of them.
LuluYou’ve had a front seat, covering stories around the world in the past two years about the financial crisis. One of the themes in Davos this year is global risk. What’s your sense of the risk appetite among corporations and the investor?
Maria: I think risk is slowly returning to the stock market, certainly from an investor standpoint. But it's been very difficult to actually see risk again, because people got burnt. You know, they took a lot of risk back in early 2000, in early in the decade. And they got burnt for it. They leveraged up. They took on a lot of leverage. As a result, the financial system collapsed to its knees. So it's been tough actually getting risk back in the market.
A lot of people have been sitting on their money. Look at what's going on in Corporate America, there's two and a half trillion dollars on balance sheets right now. The reasons that companies are not spending that are multifold.
Number one, they've got an adversity to risk. And they're worried about allocating that money and losing it. Number two, there's a lack of clarity in terms of how the regulatory environment will play out and what their businesses look like. So they're sitting on two and a half trillion dollars in cash. What they are doing is they're spending their money overseas. They're spending it in places where they're seeing growth and demand. They're spending it in places like Brazil. They're spending it in China.
On an individual level, it's the same thing as it relates to risk. We've got now a five percent savings rate. You know, we had a zero percent savings rate for a long time. Now this is actually a positive development. But you know, you've got to realize. People are afraid of taking risk. So the whole risk equation will be something that many people will be talking about on the ground in Davos as well.
Lulu: Now attending your 10th meeting, what's your favorite Davos moment? What do you love about Davos? What makes Davos special?
Maria: It’s special because it's a meeting of global thinkers. It's a meeting of many, many countries, coming together in a small place in Switzerland called Davos. There's not really anywhere else to go.
I remember in 2001, after September 11th, the World Economic Forum took the meeting to New York. And they did the meeting at the New York Stock Exchange. It was a very nice gesture to basically commiserate with America and support America. But at the same time, the meeting was very different than it was-then it usually is in Davos. The reason is because when people come to New York, they've got a million things to do, whereas Davos is very different. And I think that's why Klaus Schwab chooses Davos, because there's nowhere else to go.
So you end up sitting in the sessions. You're there in the Congress Center. You're mingling with everyone, all in one concentrated place. I think that’s the brilliance of this meeting, because you get all of these world leadersto come and actually engage in conversation and make change. It's been a terrific meeting over the years. I always come home smarter so I'm sure I will come home smarter this time.