- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

DAVOS, Switzerland | Adjusting to the “new reality” framed the backdrop of the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, with about 2,500 business leaders, politicians and social activists looking forward while trying to anticipate unexpected shocks.

“The post-crisis era should not be the pre-crisis era,” Forum founder and Chairman Klaus Schwab told the Associated Press. “We should have learned and we should avoid the exuberance. One of the key issues will be exactly the question: ‘Are we out of the crisis or is it much more an artificial consequence of all the measures which have been undertaken?’ “

The annual meeting, which starts Wednesday, is focused on the theme “Shared Norms for the New Reality,” a concept that organizers said reflects the concern of leaders about “living in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and interconnected and, at the same time, experiencing an erosion of common values that undermines public trust in leadership as well as future economic growth and political stability.”

Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman Inc., noted that embracing more openness in business, in politics and elsewhere can go a long way toward keeping people’s trust resilient.

“The recovery of trust in the chief executive is big and that’s across the world,” he said in speaking of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, which was released Tuesday.

In it, the report, now in its 11th year, found that trust in business was up 2 percentage points globally since last year led by surges in Brazil and Germany - whose economies have grown strongly.

But in the U.S., trust in government, corporations and media was down by 8 percentage points, to just 46 percent of people saying they trusted all of those institutions - and trust in banks all but collapsed.

In the U.S., trust in banks plummeted, falling from No. 3 in 2008 to second from last in 2011. The same was found in Ireland, where banks scored an all-time barometer low for least-trusted industry, with only 6 percent expressing trust. In the United Kingdom, trust in banks slid 30 points to 16 percent.

Banks in the United States helped fuel the boom in home loans to people with shaky credit, then needed government help after the real estate market collapsed. In Ireland, taxpayers are on the hook for a government bank rescue so expensive it forced the country to seek a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The survey was done by Edelman’s research firm StrategyOne from Oct. 11 to Nov. 28 and polled 5,075 people in 23 countries.

The report - one of a slew pegged to the annual Davos meeting - came shortly after the U.N. figures said 205 million people were unemployed last year and that little improvement is expected in 2011.

Governments and labor activists have expressed concern that the recovery might see “growth without jobs,” leading to social unrest.