“Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be,” chant many with trepidation, as the year 2017 begins. They wonder what disruptions and discontinuities the year will bring.
This will be Donald Trump’s year. The world will keenly hear every word he utters and watch every move he makes. He was elected to the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world defying convention and forecasters. An outsider to politics, Trump grabbed the nation’s attention by articulating causes that nestled deep in the hearts of many angry Americans who perceived themselves to be deprived. Terrorism and economic uncertainty have hurt them. They wanted these issues confronted.
Trump may amuse or infuriate. However, he will speak his mind bluntly. Expect him to shake up immigration and foreign relations. Await incentives for local manufacture in the USA.
Angela Merkel, the uncrowned Empress of Europe, will curb the inflows of refugees into Germany due to ballot box pressures. Static economies and terrorism in Europe may lead to the success of populist demagogic leaders in elections in France and Netherlands. They will advocate curbs on the inflow of foreigners to preserve local cultures and jobs. Theresa May will spend 2017 negotiating Britain’s thorny divorce from the European Union.
The troubles in Syria and Iraq may continue through 2017. Refugees pour out of these strife-ridden countries desperate for a roof, food and water. But the world has little time for them. Sunni and Shia leaders in the Middle East should sit down to talk peace. Saudi Arabia will work hard to achieve Vision 2030. Dubai will glitter in order to lure more tourists.
Latin American countries, like Argentina, are dealing with recessions and massive income inequalities. Leaders frustrate their people, as in Brazil. Hopefully the peace accord in Colombia between the government and the FARC rebels will spur growth. Mexico waits to see what Trump will do at the border.
Narendra Modi will spend 2017 trying to generate some GDP growth and to salvage some political credibility squandered after the horrific demonetization.
Entangled in domestic anxieties, global leaders may fail again to control terrorism. There is a general lament across the world about the quality of national leaders.
Nationalism may chip away at globalization throughout the world. In an ambiguous political scenario with nations seeking to shift production to their own backyards to create jobs, global growth rates will stagnate at around 2.5 percent.
Most European countries will struggle to fight flat growth rates and recession. Growth could slip from 1.8 percent in 2016 to 1.5 percent in 2017 in the European Union.
Asia may also flounder, but the world’s second largest economy China will continue with a decent growth rate north of six percent. Xi Jinping should focus on inequalities and environmental issues.
In Japan, Shinzo “Abenomics”, comprising of monetary easing, fiscal pragmatism and structural reform has yet to yield growth.
Growth rates in poor Sub-Saharan Africa have plummeted from 4.5 percent in 2014 to 2.5 percent now. There is optimism for 2017 at 3.9 percent, but reality urges about 3 percent.
Be ready to pay more to fill your car, with OPEC deciding to cut production. Expect oil prices to range between $55 to $65 per barrel. Overall commodity prices may pick up marginally. Gold will retain its shine. Prices could hover around $1,300 per ounce.
Away from all the political brouhaha, seriously brilliant work is being done by researchers of artificial intelligence to deploy technology to detect diseases, mental stresses, etc., which will add value to human life. We will edge closer to trips to Mars and driverless cars. Siri, Cortana and Alexa will want to be our best buddies, but we should guard our privacy. A friendly drone may deliver your morning milk or newspaper in a few years.
Hopefully, groups like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft will combine to curb terrorist imagery. Be ready to sacrifice more privacy through augmented use of digitized transactions.
With the celebrity couple Brad and Angelina having split, we will need another regal couple to admire. Perhaps Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner will be the new media darlings. Hopefully, we will watch a new Bond movie with Daniel Craig. Possibly Novak Djokovic and Tiger Woods will recapture form to enchant us.
With technological leaps, nations should propel the advancement of the underprivileged. Millions in the villages and slums of Asia, Africa and Latin America sleep hungry. An astounding 600 million people in the world still live below the poverty level of $2 per day.
The richest 1 percent of the world owns more wealth than the remaining 99 percent, according to Oxfam. These inequalities are a source of acrimony with the potential to trigger cataclysmic political upheavals.
About six million babies died globally in the first five months of 2015 due to malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, etc. In 2017, saving babies needs focus.
Thus the major factors that will shape 2017 will be Trump’s new policies, Europe’s attempts to stay relevant after Brexit, China’s struggle to grow, the persistent battle of the have-nots in the world to improve their lot through agitation or votes and the impact of artificial intelligence and digitization.
So expect 2017 to be a turbulent year. It would be best to stick to the desk, head down, get the job done and not be swayed with every new gust of wind. As Rudyard Kipling advised: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a man my son.”
Rajendra K. Aneja
The writer is the managing director of a consulting firm and the author of “Agenda for a New India.” He can be reached at email@example.com