Accountants & the World Economic Forum

The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) was held last week in Davos, Switzerland. Over 2,300 people attended from 89 countries, representing 1,000 businesses, to help the interaction between different stakeholders and identify opportunities for addressing global challenges such as the creation of jobs, according to the Daily Times. The Forum has been held since 1971.

KPMG International chairman Mike Rake, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) global CEO Sam DiPiazza, Deloitte & Touche global CEO William Parrett, and Ernst & Young chairman and CEO James Turley all attended, according to the Financial Director. Eric Anstee, the chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), spoke about the competitiveness of qualifications during his session.


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DiPiazza told Accountancy Age before attending the WEF, “The Eighth Law Directive and Sarbanes-Oxley have forced us to re-think long-standing assumptions about our business model – including the way we serve clients, identify and mitigate risk, and manage our global network.”

DiPiazza continued, “ The challenge is to translate our substantial risk and compliance efforts into opportunities that generate competitive advantage by continually improving quality and enhancing value, not merely reacting to mandated activity.”

Speaking of challenges to his firm, DiPiazza said, “Overregulation is clearly one evolving issue that continues to impact PwC and our clients. Following a series of high-profile business scandals, legislation was enacted in many parts of the world.”

“Although this resulted in dramatic changes for the accounting profession, such steps were needed and we are now beginning to see progress in investor confidence,” DiPiazza continued. “We do need, however, to resist any additional changes to the rules and give regulators the chance to regulate and markets the chance to embrace meaningful change.”

The Daily Times reports that the WEF has been criticized for upholding business interests but has become more of a platform for big business to interact with political leaders. WEF is also a platform for international organizations to lobby their corporate interests. More than 132 companies in the Fortune 500 attended WEF to promote their explicit interests to some 175 public figures attending the event.

ShanghaiDaily.com reports that a record 735 corporate CEOs and chairmen attended WEF this year. Citicorp CEO Charles Prince and Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, were among those attending. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown were among the politicians attending WEF.

A session to discuss the challenge of integrating the Muslim world into the global economy was held at WEF. Although elevating the business interests of the Middle East fell short, according to the Daily Times, a U.S.–Middle East Free Trade Zone has been created under the guidance of WEF.

China and India were given special attention at WEF. As India and China, in particular, emerge into the world economy, there is much interest. ShanghaiDaily.com reports that a survey by PwC shows that 55 percent of the business leaders participating plan to do business in China within three years. Those planning to invest more in India amounted to 36 percent and 33 percent named Brazil for their increased investment.

The report was released at the WEF. Some 1,410 executives in 45 countries responded to the accounting and consulting firm’s survey over the last three months of 2005.

DiPiazza said in an interview, “a much more optimistic view looking globally around the world,” speaking to ShanghaiDaily.com. He said, chief executive officers are, “focused on accessing new markets. India and China are at the top of the list.” DiPiazza finished, “Overwhelmingly, CEOs said their focus was not on outsourcing or off-shoring or just producing at lower costs. A large majority said it was about winning market access.”

China overtook the United Kingdom as the fourth-largest world economy as it grew 9.9 percent in 2005. Seventy-five percent of executives responding to the PwC survey said they plan to win new customers in China, versus 48 percent of those who said their investment was aimed at cutting labor costs.

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