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DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — The world has not yet escaped the risk of a collapse in the global economy despite some renewed confidence heading into 2013, the founder of the World Economic Forum told The Associated Press on Monday.
Swiss economist Klaus Schwab, speaking on the eve of the elite annual gathering in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, called for business and government leaders to focus on "cautious realism" and a recovery of public trust to avoid another major financial crisis.
"The problems and the risks have not gone away," he said in an interview. "The world economy may still confront a collapse if very negative constellations occur."
Markets started strongly this year, with many stock indexes near multi-year highs, and the euro currency union no longer seems in danger of breaking apart. The world's central banks have flooded financial systems with new money.
But unemployment remains high in many developed economies and the public's faith in business and government leaders is falling. The euro alliance and Japan are in recessions. And politicians in the United States, the world's biggest economy, are struggling to finalize a budget deal to avoid a potential default that would cause havoc in financial markets. Even if the U.S. does reach a deal, as expected, it could include big government spending cuts that would hurt the global economy.
Schwab's WEF forum this week is expected to draw more than 2,500 of the world's financial and political elite. Organizers, journalists, political aides and others began streaming in by train and car Monday as a steady snowfall coated the region.
Schwab said economic growth is based on optimism, among both consumers and investors, so the challenge is for leaders "to give people the confidence again to look with more optimism into the future."
A fundamental problem, however, is that the new economic growth is a "jobless growth," he said, which means that economies are not growing enough to bring unemployment down.
More socially-minded entrepreneurship will be needed and workers will need to focus on gaining skills that are most in demand, such as new technology and science, Schwab.
"We need new ways of thinking. It's not the traditional employment which will solve the issue," he said.