“Davos was much different this year,” Kevin Steinberg, the chief operating officer of World Economic Forum USA, said at a March 30 talk hosted by the Perlmutter Institute for Global Business Leadership at the Brandeis International Business School. “This year people were looking to government for answers. In past years, people looked to business and other parts of society for answers.”
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting brings together political and business leaders, media, academics, and heads of non-governmental organizations for a free exchange of ideas. This year’s meeting was held January 28-February 1.
Steinberg told an overflow crowd of students and faculty at the Thomas H. Lee Lecture Hall that the push for greater governmental intervention to solve the global economic crisis is problematic on two fronts: it puts further strain on already-stressed national budgets and could lead to the implementation of protectionist trade policies.
“At this point, a lot of governments just can’t spend spend much more (on fiscal stimulus packages),” he said. “Protectionist policies will only have a slowdown impact on global gross domestic product. If global trade goes down, global GDP will go down.”
What started as a credit crisis has grown into a full-scale economic downturn the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1930s.
“It was called a credit crisis for a long time and Wall Street was the immediate concern,” Steinberg said. “Now that it appears Wall Street won’t fail, Main Street is in trouble.”
As COO of World Economic Forum USA since 2006, Steinberg oversees the organization’s Center for Global Industries in New York, which is the global headquarters for the Forum’s industry activities. He has been with the World Economic Forum since 1992, leading its membership and partnership department, Geneva-based industry teams, and its institutional strategy function.