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FEB 26, 2013

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013: Part 1, Day 1

By Yoshito Hori

The WEF Annual Meeting 2013 is starting today. I’m scheduled to take the stage four times in total, including at private sessions and the Horasis Annual Meeting, which is held immediately before the Davos meeting. This year, for the first time, I’m hosting a “GLOBIS Night,” a kind of auxiliary event to the already-established Japan Night. More than 400 WEF participants have already signed up for the event. I’m also co-chairing the Community of Global Growth Companies session and serving as a member of the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership. I’m hoping to actively speak and interact with others and enhance Japan’s presence.

On January 22, I had a business lunch with an investor in Zurich, someone I have known since 1999. Since I was coming all the way to Davos, I thought I’d take this opportunity to meet with investors in Europe before and after the WEF.

After my meeting with the investor, I went to the pre-WEF Horasis Annual Meeting held in a hotel near Zurich Airport. I was on the panel in the opening plenary session. As the subject turned to Japan’s monetary and financial policies, I explained the “three arrows” of the economic policy of Prime Minister Abe’s government, to help the audience to better understand Japan’s position.

My explanation went as follows:
“The current situation derives from the fact that after the Lehman Brothers crisis most countries around the world resorted to currency devaluation while Japan did not and that at present the lowered rate of the yen is being corrected. At the time of the Lehman Brothers crisis, one US dollar was about 110 yen. At the moment, it barely reaches 90 yen, although ‘weak.’ Once the grand experiment of the ‘three arrows’ of aggressive monetary easing, flexible fiscal spending, and growth strategy starts bearing fruit, this will be a good example for Europe, which is now struggling with a recession but has only one arrow, i.e., austerity.

“Naturally, there are pros and cons regarding Japan’s aggressive monetary easing. However, Japan is determined to take a bold step after struggling with deflation for more than 20 years and seeing its nominal GDP unchanged from 1992 – in other words, no sense of growth at the consumer level – and after trying a range of fiscal spending measures which have yielded almost no positive results.”

In the Q&A, many questions were addressed to me, signaling a keen interest in Japan. I expect global attention to focus back on Japan soon.

I think that my “performance” was good in the plenary session. That was the fourth time that I had been asked to be on the panel in this meeting. Repeat requests come when you did well in the last event. You don’t get asked back if you didn’t do well. This year is the second consecutive time that I’m speaking in the breakfast session scheduled for tomorrow morning. This way I’m slowly building my global reputation.

Here are links to scenes from the Horasis Annual Meeting 2013, which Mr. Mizuno, a staff member of GLOBIS, recorded:
1) Panel discussion
2) Q&A

After attending the Horasis Annual Meeting, I drove to Davos by car. En route I talked with my driver and learned to my surprise that he was an entrepreneur himself, the founding president of a limousine service company now operating in several countries with over 500 employees. I asked him why he was behind the steering wheel. He explained that he drove customers only twice a year, and only Japanese customers to honor his grandfather’s link with Japan.

Arriving in Davos, I checked into my hotel, dropped my luggage off, and asked the same driver to take me to the venue of a party hosted by an Indian company. The WEF meeting period was slightly changed this year. Until last year, it was from Wednesday morning to Sunday noon. From this year, it begins on Tuesday afternoon and ends with a soirée on Saturday evening. So the Davos meeting had already begun when I arrived.

At the party venue, I ran into several close friends. I took the opportunity to go and check the venue of GLOBIS Night, ideally located in the middle of a main street and conveniently near the venue of Japan Night. Evening social functions during the WEF period are typically hosted by Asian governments (Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mongolia, etc.) or American and European private businesses and universities (Harvard Night, McKinsey Night, etc.).

So I’m following Western examples by hosting GLOBIS Night. GLOBIS is probably the first non-governmental Japanese host of an evening function at Davos.

I returned to my hotel early and took a shower to have an early night. I must recharge for tomorrow, which will start early.

January 30, 2013
At home in Ichibancho, Tokyo
Yoshito Hori