Bloomberg forum in New York celebrates globalism and raps for truth

Bloomberg forum in New York celebrates globalism and raps for truth

Now in its second year, the Bloomberg Global Business Forum (GBF) has become an essential fixture on the international conference circuit. Growing out of the Clinton Global Initiative, the series of annual summits fronted by former US President Bill Clinton, the Bloomberg event has taken the concept to the next level.
Saudi Arabia has been a proactive participant in the GBF, with the involvement of the Misk Foundation, the philanthropic organization set up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2011 to advance the Kingdom’s social and cultural agenda, with an emphasis on youth.
I was lucky enough to be invited for a second time to the GBF in the Plaza hotel in central Manhattan last week, and here are my six key takeaways from the event.
1. Michael Bloomberg can pack them in. Some 50 heads of state or government, and 250 business and finance leaders were in attendance at some stage or other, and many stayed on to participate in the later One Planet Summit. True, most of these leaders would have been in New York anyway, for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), but they still bothered to make the congested trip across town to get to the Bloomberg event. That is pulling power.
2. Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions were enhanced by the forum. The week before, Bloomberg had come out publicly for the first time to declare he might be interested in the Democratic nomination to stand against (presumably) Donald Trump in 2020. To be able to demonstrate the support and credibility of global political and business leaders ticked an essential box for his nomination ticket. Whether that is enough to get him the support of Democrats, who are increasingly looking at younger and more diverse candidates, remains to be seen. The outcome of the November midterm elections, in which Bloomberg is finding key state battles against the Republicans, could be decisive.

The problem with the world today was not “fake news,” Prince Ea declared, but “fake olds.”

Frank Kane

3. The forum’s agenda reflected Bloomberg’s political platform. While Trump was down at the UN declaring that he rejected the “ideology of globalism” in favor of the “ideology of patriotism,” the attendees at the Plaza forum were celebrating the triumphs of a globalized world and the benefits of a multilateral approach to politics and business. A series of world leaders declared themselves against Trump’s protectionist insularity. The “citizens of nowhere,” as British Prime Minister Theresa May (also at the forum despite her Brexit obligations) one famously labelled them, are mounting a serious fightback.
4. American business leaders are less confident about the future than you might expect. The US stock markets are booming, the economy is growing fast, and tax cuts are fueling a fresh wave of investment. But US business leaders are not entirely convinced. Perhaps the most down-to-earth assessment came from Larry Fink — chief executive of investment group BlackRock, a big business partner of Saudi Arabia — who warned that Trump’s endless promotion of “America First” might drive the rest of the world away from the dollar financial system. Within a decade, the greenback’s hegemony could be in danger, he warned.
5. Manhattan needs to listen to the business leaders, or the next GBF could be moved elsewhere. The roads on the whole of eastern and central midtown New York were virtually impassable for the entire week. With UNGA ensuring closures all the way from Central Park to the East River, there was gridlock on the way to and from the GBF, compounded by violent rainstorms. The chief executive of Ford, Jim Hackett, joined with his counterparts at ride-hailing firms Uber Technologies, Dara Khosrowshahi, and Lyft, John Zimmer, to announce a plan to pool traffic information in a Bloomberg-led plan dubbed Shared Streets, to reduce road congestion in big American cities. Let’s hope they can do it before the next GBF.
6. The Bloomberg Global Business Forum is cool — in a very sophisticated way. The event was opened by rap artist Prince Ea, with the backing of an orchestral ensemble, in a musical narrative that set the agenda for the rest of the day. The problem with the world today was not “fake news,” he declared, but “fake olds.” He was not referring to the distinguished audience, of course, but the propagation of old lies as new truth. “At a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” Prince Ea proclaimed. There was much jowl shaking in agreement.

• Frank Kane is an award-winning business journalist based in Dubai.  Twitter: @frankkanedubai

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view