Op-Ed

Global megatrends in 2022

“In a world that is constantly changing, there is no one subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn.” John Naisbitt, Megatrends 2000

Like the year 2020, many people the world over were happy to see 2021 come to an end, primarily because of the continued devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the availability of vaccinations in many countries, the Delta and Omicron variants of the virus continued their death-dealing destruction of lives and economies around the globe.

Ignorant anti-vaxxers, many of whom deserve exactly what fate was doled out to them, pandemic-deniers and conspiracy theorists continued to stew in their ignorance. They continue to perpetuate big lies about COVID-19 and lifesaving vaccinations, seeking to outpace the lies that former President Trump continues to propagate about his failure to obtain a second term in office.

As we begin a new year, we thought it would be instructive to anticipate some of the global events that we should closely watch in the year ahead. Therefore, this week, we will consider this: What are some global megatrends that will affect us in 2022?

COVID will remain our primary challenge

There is no question that COVID-19 will remain the single most significant global challenge. The virus will test the leadership of public and health officials even more than they have in the last two years since the novel coronavirus first appeared. A COVID-weary public will demand more efficacious results. It will challenge the effectiveness of science-based solutions, almost to the point where data-based and fact-driven policies will be ignored by a public that is exhausted with what they perceive to be solutions that are not working.

No one knows how long COVID-19’s Omicron variant surge will last but it will threaten the global economic recovery. Gaby Hinsliff, who writes for The Guardian, noted, “The novel threat this time is not death on the biblical scale forecast during the first wave … but knock-on chaos and disruption caused by the potential mass infection of key workers, leaving them unable to do their work.”

Hoping the problem will be “mercifully brief,” Hinsliff argues that the lesson of Omicron is nonetheless the same one COVID-19 has offered from the start: “… that societies and economies need safety nets to build in resilience for when health crises hit.”

In 2022, the Omicron variant could quickly be followed by a deadlier, more contagious strain of the virus, fighting to survive in an environment where its sustainability is increasingly threatened by the achievement of herd immunity and the growing numbers of vaccinated persons. We will have to wait to see if this virus follows the patterns of the Spanish flu pandemic 100 years ago, that simply disappeared from the scene after a little over two years, or remains with us for much longer.

Putin’s Ukraine gambit

Another megatrend to closely watch in 2022 is President Vladimir Putin’s exploits in Ukraine. There is a growing concern in the West that, in light of amassing 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders, Putin will again invade that country, despite warnings from the West that to do so will result in severe sanctions that will set Russia back even further.

Putin would love to see Russia return to the preeminence that it enjoyed before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Of particular importance for Putin is to dissuade former Soviet satellites, like Ukraine, from moving closer to the West, frustrating the latter’s designs to join NATO, as well as discouraging European countries from expanding their placement of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Although Presidents Putin and Biden have been in communication about Ukraine, many residents of Kyiv expect that Russia will invade their country again, sooner or later. This past week, United States (US) and Russian negotiators ended their summit in Geneva with little hope that the threat was past. If Putin persists, the invasion costs could be enormous, not only for the Russian people, but could adversely impact the peace and stability of the global economy in 2022.

So far, Putin seems undeterred by the threats of sanctions. He believes that Biden, who is facing multiple problems at home, will not proceed with what Putin views as threats that will not be carried out. The next few weeks and months will be carefully watched to see how this standoff is resolved.

The China-Taiwan
stand-off

While Russia is rattling the sabers regarding Ukraine, there is increasing concern and anxiety about whether China will invade Taiwan. President Xi seems determined to bring that “break-away” island back into the China-controlled orbit. There are two concerns here: first, what will the West do if Beijing’s assertiveness remains unrelenting? The US has repeatedly assured Taiwan that such a Chinese incursion will not be unanswered.

Will the allies of the US stand with the “defender of the global community,” a country that was unable to effectively stave off domestic terrorists who invaded the Capitol just over a year ago, then failed to prosecute the perpetrators of that attempted coup? Even more fundamentally, the US is apparently unable to enact basic legislation to protect the voting rights of its citizens, so their ability to protect the rights of other nations must be in question.

Secondly, if Beijing’s militaristic adventures into Taiwan were successful, which is quite likely if it moves ahead, what would happen to Taiwan after Beijing’s colonial exploits? We do not have to look too far to recall how Beijing subjugated a successfully thriving Hong Kong into submission by destroying its free press and diminishing civil liberties that once helped to make that place a thriving British-administered financial oasis.

The end of the American experiment with democracy?

This year will witness the most hotly contested mid-term elections in recent American political history. Much is at stake in the outcome of these mid-terms. One-third of the US Senate and all the seats in the US House of Representatives are up for grabs. This election could include transformational changes that could foreshadow what will happen in the presidential race of 2024.

The same is true for many of the states’ gubernatorial and legislative candidates, and essential positions such as lieutenant governors and secretaries of state, who supervise state elections.

The upcoming mid-terms are pivotal in their potential consequences, especially against a backdrop of intractable adherents to the “big lie” about the 2020 presidential election.

We are already witnessing unparalleled and unapologetic gerrymandering, and other legislative changes that will suppress and frustrate the vote of millions in America – once the bastion of democracy – that Ronald Reagan called “the shining city on the hill”.

These treacherous efforts, designed to reverse the 200-year American democratic experiment, appear to signal that the beacon on that shining city is about to be extinguished.

An important megatrend to watch in 2022 is whether we are witnessing the end of the American experiment with democracy and what that would mean for the rest of the world.

Supply chain
challenges continue

The global supply chain crisis represents a megatrend that will continue to affect the global economy for the rest of the year. Recent reports have indicated shortages in home-building materials and supplies, groceries, and semiconductors, used in everything from computers to appliances to automobiles.

The global supply chain crisis will continue as long as COVID-19 remains with us. While shipping companies have adjusted to this reality, worker shortages at factories, ports and distribution chains remain complex challenges in overcoming this crisis.

The supply chain crisis will result in fewer available goods that will cost more, thereby fueling the flame of inflation in the months ahead.

Other megatrends
to carefully monitor

There are other megatrends to monitor closely in 2022. Big tech will continue to dominate our lives, and regulators will attempt to thwart their impact and influence.

In the Middle East, the world will closely monitor Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts as it seeks to become a nuclear power. The same will apply to North Korea as the world contemplates dealing with a mad man who would love nothing more than to position his fingers on the nuclear button.

In 2022, we will begin to more fully appreciate that one of the impacts of the pandemic will be evidenced in declining birth rates, which will have long-term implications for future generations.

Finally, we will determine if the summit that was held in Scotland in October last year on climate change was nothing more than an opportunity for politicians and environmentalists to rack up frequent flyer miles, or whether any real progress will emerge from this global gathering on this most urgent crisis that gets worse with each passing day in 2022.

Conclusion

These are a few global megatrends to watch in 2022. Others will develop as the year unfolds. They will undoubtedly impact the world as we know it today. There will also be unintended consequences of these global megatrends on our domestic economy and way of life in the year ahead.

Next week, we will address how these worrisome global megatrends could impact domestic trends and how that would affect all of us in The Bahamas in 2022 and beyond.

• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com 

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