Davos Votes on WEF Police Bill With Some Saying They're Fed Up
(Bloomberg) -- Some residents of Davos have simply had enough.
The Swiss Alpine town of 13,000 residents that each January plays host to the world’s rich and famous at the World Economic Forum faces a higher bill for the security needed to keep guests like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and rock star Bono safe and coming back.
The tab for the municipality is set to rise by a 10th to 1.125 million francs ($1.17 million) as of next year’s event, for which traffic gets rerouted, the center of town is cordoned off by the army and snipers are placed on rooftops. Opponents say the disruption for the town is too much and that the gathering needs to be reined in. They urge citizens to vote down the financing in a referendum on Sunday.
To drum up support for the cause, someone even sent out phony bills to residents for 188.95 francs, a breakdown of the cost increase per household. Anyone thinking about ponying up who read the fine print would have found a red flag: “Should the cost of security wind up being higher than budgeted due to extraordinary external circumstances (visit D. Trump/K. Jong Un), they will be billed as well,” it read, referring to the U.S. president and North Korea’s leader.
The overall cost of security at the World Economic Forum has risen due to concerns about terrorism in Europe and greater logistical expenses. The bill is shared by the canton, the federal government, the WEF and the town, which pays about 13 percent. The overall budget for police is set to be raised to 9 million francs from 8 million -- though that figure significantly understates the actual cost of providing security for the forum because it doesn’t include the roughly 30 million francs for Swiss soldiers deployed to assist the police.
The neighboring town of Klosters is expected to contribute 100,000 francs toward Davos’s WEF expenses.
To be sure, the WEF is a money spinner for local hotels and restaurants, generating an estimated 94 million francs in revenue for Switzerland in 2017, according to a University of St. Gallen study. It generated roughly 2 million francs in tax revenue for the town.
Yet the daily lives of locals get upended by all the security and the droves of private limousines. Davos’s population effectively doubles, its five dozen hotels get booked a year in advance, traffic creeps along the main drag at a glacial pace, and shops are rented to multinational corporations, who redecorate them as branded lounges. Even the local indoor swimming pool, adjacent to the conference center where official WEF events take place, gets shut down for a fortnight.
Tarzisius Caviezel, who heads the municipality’s executive, did not respond to Bloomberg’s emailed request for comment.
Next Sunday’s vote is essentially a referendum on residents’ view of the forum, and the municipality would find itself in a quandary if the financing package were rejected. There are no polls to take voters’ temperature, but the WEF and its local advocates can take comfort from the results of similar votes in years past: In 2003 and 2009, the financing passed with a backing of more than 60 percent.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.