As the gulf between the rich and everyone else continues to grow, at least 119 billionaires are converging on Switzerland next week to join bankers, politicians and other grandees for their annual pilgrimage to the Alps.
The elite group, worth about 500 billion dollars, including regulars like Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio, Blackstone Group Chairman Steve Schwarzman and JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon. They appear on the guest list of more than 2,000 names, representing roughly 100 countries, for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting.
The event retains its enduring status as the premier networking hub for the wealthiest — with its attendant flock of private jets and 43 dollar hot dogs — even as it faces increasing criticism for its exclusivity.
'I’ve been going since 1979,' said Mr. Rahul Bajaj, who will be making his 40th appearance at the event. 'It’s grown a great deal since then but I continue to get a lot out of the meetings, the sessions, the surroundings.'
It’s no surprise he feels at home. He should be joined in Davos by at least 18 other Indian billionaires with a combined net worth of about 100 billion dollars and business interests that include technology companies, steel mills and motorbike makers. Six are members of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.
For some, the gilded guest list seems at odds with the event’s focus on creating fairer economies and remaking the world of work. This year’s theme is 'Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,' and panels include 'Balancing Domestic and Global Inequality' and 'Breaking Legal Barriers to Equality.' Last year, a panelist caused a sensation when he slammed attendees for ignoring tax avoidance by the rich.
'I hear people talking the language of participation, justice, equality and transparency but almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance,' Dr. Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian, said at a talk on inequality.
Dr. Bregman said in a LinkedIn post this week that he hadn’t been invited to this year’s event. Still, with 17-year-old environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg on the guest list there’s sure to be plenty of attention on the establishment’s failure to tackle the climate crisis.
Such public shaming hasn’t dampened the meeting’s widespread allure among the super-rich. Billionaires slated to attend hail from at least 36 countries with shipping tycoons from Greece set to mingle with Thai industrialists and Peruvian retailers.
India’s contingent is second only to the US, which has 33 going to Davos, according to a Bloomberg analysis.The U.S. President,Mr. Donald Trump, is heading to the Alps with a group that also includes the Treasury Secretary, Mr. Steven Mnuchin, the Commerce Secretary, Mr. Wilbur Ross, the US Trade Representative, Mr. Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Jared Kushner and Ms. Ivanka Trump.