Government leaders kick off World Economic Forum in Davos

Global business and government leaders on Wednesday kicked off the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, with an emphasis on using creativity to advance commerce, find peace and ensure prosperity for all. A gloomy forecast about the world economy greeted the leaders when Stephen S. Roach, chief economist of Morgan Stanley financial services company, said markets and officials had developed "a dangerous degree of complacency," assuming that an unbalanced world economy could continue without correction.

Asian central banks have helped to keep things going so far by supporting the U.S. economy much longer than could be expected, Roach said. The American consumerб both "the weakest link" and the most importantб has continued to drive the world economy by spending, according to Roach. But the U.S. real estate "bubble" is showing signs of slowing down, with the key indicator of home mortgage refinancing down 45 percent from peak levels a year ago.

Later in the day, attendees were to discuss the emergence of China and India as major players on the global stage, including the former's role in becoming a regional and international leader. Also on tap was a candid discussion on the changing shift in jobs in the future. With an estimated 1 billion workers from emerging economies joining the global labor market, it has created both disruptions and opportunities.

Fifteen heads of state, top business leaders and celebrities like Bono gathered in this exclusive Alpine resort this week to brainstorm on key issues facing the globe: Iran's nuclear program, high oil prices, new business models, and the shifting balance of power in Asia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf are among the world leaders attending this year, along with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. One of the top themes will be the emergence of China and India as true global powerhouses economically, politically andб to the concern of many militarily.

Though the forum falls on the Chinese lunar new year, several officials from the country are making the visit to Davos, including Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan. More than 2,340 participants from 89 countries are attending, including 735 who are either chairmen, chief executives or chief financial officers of their companies, the highest figure of corporate leaders ever, Forum officials said.

A new theme this year will be the role of sports in promoting economic growth and fostering ties between countries. Among those scheduled to attend to discuss sports are FIFA President Joseph Blatter; Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee; and David Stern, commissioner of the U.S. National Basketball Association.

This year Davos welcomes U2 front man and debt relief advocate Bono; Brazilian literary superstar Paulo Coelho; musician Peter Gabriel; and actress Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. Police, augmented by the Swiss military, have erected barricades and barbed wire around the Alpine city and have imposed a no-fly zone in the area, reports the AP. N.U.

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