x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Euro zone number one worry for WEF delegates in Dubai

The prospect of the euro zone breaking up is the main fear among the experts assembled in Dubai for the World Economic Forum's global agenda councils.

Attending the opening plenary of a World Economic Forum gathering in Dubai yesterday are, from left to right, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai; Abdullatif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general; Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; and Gordon Brown, UN special envoy for global education and former prime minister of Britain. Sarah Dea / The National
Attending the opening plenary of a World Economic Forum gathering in Dubai yesterday are, from left to right, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai; Abdullatif Al Zayani, the GCC secretary general; Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; and Gordon Brown, UN special envoy for global education and former prime minister of Britain. Sarah Dea / The National

The prospect of the euro zone breaking up is the main fear among the experts assembled in Dubai for the World Economic Forum's global agenda councils.

The spectre of the zone's disintegration has replaced concerns about the high levels of global public debt as the number one concern of WEF delegates.

It figured as the main worry among 850 surveyed council members among the 1,000-plus at the summit. Last year, fears about the euro zone ranked only 28th on a list of members' concerns.

"Such a shift in priorities among members surveyed suggests that experts now contemplate a considerable political as well as financial fallout from the crisis, as euro-zone countries struggle to keep public debt levels in check," said the WEF.

The other rising fear of members concerned the perceived lack of global leadership to deal with problems such as Syria, climate change and world trade. This became the sixth most urgent concern among members in Dubai, up from 24th position last year.

Despite the failure of many institutions at the global level to make progress on key goals, council members still regarded "increasing global interdependency" as one of the key dynamics this year.

"Businesses, governments and civil society continued to be brought together by increasing globalisation," said the WEF.

In one of the opening day's discussions, Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister and now a United Nations special envoy for global education, said: "I'd like to change the old saying of US presidents to 'it's the global economy, stupid'."

Martina Gmür, the head of the WEF's network of global agenda councils, said: "This year's survey highlights interesting developments between 2011 and 2012 and suggests that last year's top trend, the public debt crisis, has evolved into a wider concern about the future of the euro zone itself.

"But the survey also uncovers pockets of optimism, such as yet untapped opportunities for digital communications to have a transformative effect on economic, societal and governance issues."

On the rising fears over the euro zone, Daniel Gros, the director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, said: "In early summer the heads of EU governments finally acknowledged that fiscal adjustment and structural reforms alone are not enough to establish market confidence."

fkane@thenational.ae