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Leaders hold talks on economy

DAVOS, Jan 27 – Thirty heads of state and government and 2,500 business and academic elite on Wednesday start the 40th anniversary Davos forum to hammer out ways to fend off new storm clouds hanging over the global economy.

While the International Monetary Fund has predicted world growth will be stronger than expected in 2010, other warnings have been made about strong measures needed to save millions of jobs.

The presidents, prime ministers and corporate chiefs will put particular emphasis on financial reforms — with bankers making a return to Davos to fight what they fear will be over-regulation — and how to rebuild Haiti after its devastating earthquake.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France will give the keynote opening speech on Wednesday evening.

Sarkozy, the first French president to attend the event, will reinforce demands for tough finance reforms, according to French officials.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said she hoped "the Davos rendezvous will be fruitful for speaking about financial regulation. That means everyone has to be around the table."

The heads of Bank of America and Citi group, Brian Moynihan and Vikram Pandit, are among global finance industry chiefs in the glitzy Swiss ski resort where radical banking measures proposed by US President Barack Obama will be one of the key talking points.

The banking industry is expected to argue against what it considers could become stifling controls, while bank leaders are also on the defensive about bonuses.

Sixty percent of chief executives are "extremely" or "somewhat" concerned by the threat of over-regulation, said a poll by PriceWaterHouseCoopers released in Davos on Tuesday.

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"More CEOs are \’extremely concerned\’ about over-regulation than any other threat to business growth," said the corporate consultancy giant.

But Davos also starts amid widespread fears of a slow recovery or even a double dip recession. There have been more mixed signs from international institutions.

The IMF on Tuesday projected global growth of 3.9 percent in 2010, increasing its original estimate of 3.1 percent, after a 0.8 percent contraction in 2009.

Global production and trade bounced back in the second half of 2009 and "confidence rebounded strongly on both the financial and real fronts, as extraordinary policy support forestalled another Great Depression," the institution said.

However the UN\’s International Labour Organisation revealed that global unemployment had surged to leave a record 212 million people jobless — up 34 million in two years — and would remain high in 2010.

"We need the same policy decisiveness that saved banks now applied to save and create jobs and livelihoods of people…. This can be done through strong convergence of public policies and private investment," said ILO director general Juan Somavia ahead of the Davos meeting.

The ILO\’s Global Employment Trends report said the average global unemployment rate reached 6.6 percent last year.

International shock at the extent of the Haiti quake disaster has also been reflected with several last minute changes to the Davos programme so that rebuilding efforts can be discussed and new international appeals for help made.

Davos founder Klaus Schwab has insisted that Haiti be a priority topic at the event, despite the world\’s economic ills.

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Among other leaders present at the anniversary event are presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and South Korea\’s President President Lee Myung-Bak, whose country will lead the Group of 20 nations this year and host a summit on efforts to combat the economic crisis.

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