Chief Executive Officer, EMEA
Jones Lang LaSalle
After a shockingly early start to an IHS Forum presentation on the global economic outlook, which included some very interesting information on future energy supplies, I moved on to join the latter part of a breakfast panel discussion entitled Can Germany save the Euro – and find new growth beyond Europe. In many ways, this was a continuation of a prevailing theme of this year’s World Economic Forum, which has had Europe’s economy firmly under the spotlight. Even so, this was the first occasion – in the sessions that I have attended – in which that spotlight had been thrown so shamelessly on Germany and its economic future. No surprise on the outcome. There seems to be a UK view on Germany and a Continental view on Germany and, as you would expect, a German view on Germany. That illustrates one of the biggest challenges for Europe moving forward. As long as Europe does not agree what causes the issues, it will be difficult to agree on the medicine. Though Europe is the hot topic of this year’s conference, attention shifted for a while to one of the most interesting geographical areas of the future. Its wellbeing is of the highest importance to Europe. As you may have guessed, I’m talking about North Africa.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco are the most important southern adjacencies to Europe and were represented by high ranked politicians. Unfortunately the Congress Hall was far from crowded and the debate they had made our European problems look like a piece of cake. Still, I think it worthwhile highlighting one particular comment: The elephant in the room was the question of whether these countries will move towards more fundamentalist Islamic politics and to what extent this will impact business. The answer to this question, posed by a European journalist, came as quick as a pistol shot. The Western world wasn’t ashamed to do business with autocratic leaders. Now, after North Africa has gained new governments based on democratic elections, with an outcome reflecting the existing societies, businesses should feel more comfortable than ever in doing business within the region.
People, jobs and cities
Over lunch I was able to participate in one of the most fascinating workshops of the last couple of days, taking the theme Business as the driving force of growth and employment. Especially striking was that it gathered some of the most prominent global CEOs together with more ordinary managers like me, trying to come up with ideas for the private sector as well as the policy makers in order to really make progress in creating more jobs around the world. No blackberry checking in between, just serious work. I was strongly reminded of university times; great team discussions and clear pressure to come up with a result. The session was confidential but I’m sure that some of the ideas discussed will find their way into real life.
For now, the afternoon and early evening is filled with a whole series of client and journalist meetings, which provide a wonderful collective illustration of the ideas, energy and sheer enthusiasm centred in this little Swiss town at the moment… and some great new business contacts too! Before I finish this latest blog, for those who have been asking, here is the link to the research report we published this week on A new world of cities – Redefining the real estate investment map which I mentioned in an earlier blog. Very timely reading, given much of the debate here.