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Leaders meet in Davos in bid to beat the odds

Updated: 2013-01-22 10:41

ZURICH - Italian premier Mario Monti will set the tone for beleaguered business and political leaders gathering in Davos this week for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), with a speech entitled "Leading against the odds".

The pow-wow will bring together more than 1,500 business leaders and up to 50 heads of state or government, many of them, like Monti, weathered by almost perpetual crisis as they fight to bring their economies and companies through global financial turmoil and a few homegrown scandals of their own.

Leaders meet in Davos in bid to beat the odds

Men walk past the official logo of the World Economic Forum (WEF) inside the Congress Hall at the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos Jan 21, 2013. The annual World Economic Forum will be held from Jan 23 to 27. [Photo/Agencies]

"It's very clear that the future of the world economy is based on restoring trust. Restoring trust in leaders, restoring trust in our future. And this means we have to move out of this crisis mode," WEF founder Klaus Schwab told a news conference.

There's still some way to go, according to a survey by global public relations firm Edelman published on Monday.

"There is an incredible lack of trust in leadership," said Richard Edelman, the firm's president and chief executive. "Levels of trust in governments are worse than for business, but they are both terrible."

Edelman's annual survey across 26 countries did show a rise in trust in business and government over the previous year, but only 26 percent trust business leaders to solve social issues and 15 percent for government leaders, and 19 percent expected business to make ethical decisions, while only 14 percent said the same for politicians.

Edelman said trust in public figures had been eroded by a string of scandals in the banking industry as well as controversies ranging from cyclist Lance Armstrong's admission of doping, to the purging of Chinese politician Bo Xilai in a murder case and a sex-abuse affair at British broadcaster BBC.

Though Europe managed - just - to keep the euro zone intact in 2012 and Washington stepped back - at the last minute - from its "fiscal cliff", a WEF survey this month showed business leaders and academics fear politicians are failing to address fundamental problems.

And they will have it all to do again in 2013, subject to the ballot box. Monti will be defending his austerity measures in parliamentary elections in four weeks, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be hoping a weekend defeat for her party in a regional election won't derail her re-election later this year.

A contingent from the United States including four secretaries and 14 congressmen will have another looming budget crunch at the back of their minds.

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