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I’m not privy to much inside information about Davos these days, but a little does flow my way. In the preliminary programme that has been sent to participants, there is a “Special Message” from Yoshiro Mori, prime minister of Japan.

Uniquely, this entry has an asterisk: *pending official confirmation. Unlike conference programmes (see yesterday’s posting), Davos maintains the tough discipline of only printing names when they are confirmed — both as coming to the meeting and agreeing to be in a particular session. So what’s the story behind Mori’s asterisk?

It seems that the prime minister in Japan needs approval from the Diet (Japan’s legislature) to leave the country. As far as anyone at the Forum knows, Mori is completely confirmed as coming. But until the Diet votes its approval, he can’t get on the plane (the plan is for him to spend five hours in Switzerland). Without exploring the issue in depth, it’s possible to see how such a regime might have seemed a democratic safeguard in the post-war years. Now it’s just another instance of bureaucracy run wild.

Incidentally, Mori may enjoy his five hours out of the country (as well as the nearly 30 hours of flying). His latest poll ratings are in single figures, a historic low for any Japanese politician.

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