New year predictions for 2012
Tisdale - Wednesday, January 4, 2012
In the last week of each year I participate with others in speculating as to what might befall us and our little blue planet as it makes its way once more around the sun. Each year I experience a bit of anxiety as I know how foolish it is to try to foretell what might happen but this year I did not experience that tension. Except for natural disasters and 2011 was a very difficult year with more costly natural events then usual, 2012 is almost entirely a done deal! That’s right, the events that shape the political, economic and social climate for the next twelve months are almost just a matter of going through the motions.
I realise that must seem a bit presumptuous for me to suggest such a thing but the really big events have already happened and the world’s news media just hasn’t noticed that the things that they will be telling you about have in fact already happened.
Let us begin with the economical and financial woes of planet earth.
- Europe: The collapse of the economic base of Europe that was discussed in the 2011 predictions did in fact take place. The problem is, instead of falling flat on its face Europe is just slowly slumping to toward the floor. The crisis in Greece that was thought of as the trigger that would destroy the Euro did in fact occur in late October but it did not happen as dramatically as expected and the whole thing has simply flattened out with gradual move to recession. Month by month the financial situation in almost all of the countries of Europe has worsened. Some countries are showing the signs far more than others. Italy, France and the United Kingdom are all now facing rising prices in their market place, creeping rise in unemployment and almost all European countries are wringing their hands over government budget issues and that includes German. The Euro is being gradually devalued and we see this as a rise in the value of the American dollar. The positive side of this is that this makes European products more competitive but the unemployment in the youth of European countries is a ticking time bomb.
- China: Only a modest slowdown has and will occur in China as their internal market place is not losing and will not lose strength.
- India: Though India is concerned about a decline in economic growth in 2012 it will still be more than three times the grown of the American economy. Like China the internal market and business cycle remains positive and continues to grow as both India and China increase their external economic activity in all parts of the world.
- South and Central America: The recession that began in 2008 had almost no affect in this part of the world. In the last quarter of 2011 Brazil moved ahead of the United Kingdom in its gross national product and the outlook for 2012 is showing a growth rate in excess of 5% for the whole region.
- The United States of America: Having skidded through 2011 with almost no improvement in any sector the prospects for the next twelve months show such modest improvement that it is hardly worth mentioning. The government of the country is essentially dysfunctional. With a Republican Congress and Democratic President there is nothing that can happen. Their elections do not take place until November and by then the year is over and all the United States will have to show for it is twelve more months of high unemployment, crippled manufacturing and the devastation of debt that makes the country as insolvent as most of Europe.
- Canada: The federal government is warning Canadians to expect little from this year’s budget. That really means little because finance ministers like to do far more public relations than sound economic thinking. The reality is that Ontario and Quebec are so financially dependent on the United States that they will be lucky to hold their own and not slide backward as will be the case south of the border. All of Western Canada has an entirely different economic base and all four provinces will experience positive economic growth in 2012. Taxes will even be going down in Manitoba and Saskatchewan with the spring budgets.
- Oil: This commodity is fundamental to the world’s financial structure. The largest consumer of oil is not the United States of America it is the People’s Republic of China. Disruption in any part of the world in production, through storms or political events can and will adversely affect the price of the product even though the world’s reserves of oil are actually increasing faster than its consumption.
- Food: Food prices in Africa, India and some parts of Europe are a major concern this year. Britain has experienced dramatic increases in food prices and coupled with unemployment the result is tension but tension is one thing, famine is quite another. Africa, in particular the belt across the continent south of the Sahara is already in bad shape but in 2012 millions of people will be facing starvation to accompany the violence that already exists in this part of the world. India and China have been the miracle of self sufficiency with both countries actually being net exporters of food. However, the price of food is crawling upward and a spike in oil prices, the after affects of Europe’s economic trouble could make things difficult in both countries. Difficult is still a long way short of famine and in Asia only Bangladesh is in real danger of massive food shortages.
Geopolitical problems and concerns:
- The middle East: As mention most of the news for 2012 has already happened. The “so-called” arab spring has barely begun. No real change has taken other than in Tunisia and Libya and in both cases it remains to be seen if the removal of the government in both countries will make any difference. With the youth, those people from seventeen to 30 unemployed or in hopeless situations this whole part of the world, from Pakistan to Morocco there is little hope of tranquility in the foreseeable future.
- Egypt: The removal of Mubarak was a non-event. Nothing changed the military was and is in control and definitely is in no mood to change a thing. Riots, repression and economic stagnation is all 2012 has to offer this country.
- Israel / Palestine: Israel has no choice but to continue to expand its development in the West Bank. The country is a democracy and its voters want more land and that is simply that. The Palestinian Arab population has in the past welcomed the support of Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia sometimes one at a time sometimes all three have provided support to the militant elements. With unrest in two of the three and the Saudis girding themselves for possible conflict with Iran the Palestinians are on their own and like their Arab neighbours poverty and unemployment make life meaningless, enough to be willing to waste one’s life. Things don’t look good but this conflict is going to take a back seat to the main event this year.
- Syria: The extremely well armed and well trained military of this country hold an iron grip and will not relent a bit. No amount of world opinion or Arab public opinion will changes things. 5,000 dead so far will double and triple in the coming months. This horror is not going to subside and no one is going to come to the aid of the people of the northwestern portion of the country.
- Turkey: At some point you would expect Turkey to react to the events in Syria but Turkey has issues of its own. The Kurds are not a peaceful bunch and the country is struggling to maintain peace. Turkey will succeed in controlling itself and being a civilised country.
- Iraq: The departure of the Americans from Iraq is neither a good nor a bad thing for the country. In the true sense of the word Iraq is not a country and may by its very nature be ungovernable. That is why Saddam Hussein was historically important. A ruthless tyrant could turn disparate territories into a single governed unit as it was essentially an empire under his rule. Now it is two religious regions, several tribal areas and the area inhabited by the Kurds. El Qaeda seems to be involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in making sure the Sunni and Shia have reason to call each other non-believers. Throughout the year there will continue to be bombings and incidents but the civilian death toll will only be a fraction of the carnage during the presence of the Americans.
- Afghanistan: We all know the story of this country. A tribal country ruled by tribal leaders and disquised as religion but in fact primitive cultures in the state of continuous fatal conflict. Afghanistan takes a back seat in 2012 with the United Kingdom leaving in the summer and the Americans focused on Pakistan and Iran the peace talks with the Taliban will offer modest toned down violence in the later part of the year.
- The Gulf states: Only in Bahrain did we hear of a public struggle with the government and the people. In 2012 the growing importance of Qatar and the other Emirates will exert a moderating influence on the whole region. The Taliban have actually opened what amounts to an embassy in Qatar.
- Saudi Arabia: The kingdom is in trouble. The king and his princes are struggling to stay alive and with so many princes the power struggle within the kingdom could overshadow even their determination to meet the threat of Iran. Their problems are really complex; to much money in the wrong places, serious social unrest with women’s rights, under and unemployment yet a reliance upon workers from outside the kingdom, then perhaps the most difficult issue of all the striking difference between actual society and the strident demands of the Sunni clerics and their ridiculous police force. Though most experts think the kingdom will shuffle along it could also just as easily turn into a violent military grab for power and wealth.
- Pakistan: More dangerous than Iran or any other Arab state. The country consists of distinct regions of economic chaos and potential trouble. Karachi is one of the most populated cities in the world and it is a mess. Lawless, government by bribery and lacking electrical power and enough food. The military and the clerics form a grip on the government but economically the country is not only broke it is worse than that dependent upon foreign aid just to keep guns in their soldier’s hands. More than one third of the country is not under government control and this is a country with nuclear weapons which they have stuffed in moving vans travelling around the country to prevent the United States from launching a pre-emptive strive to neutralise the weapons and the threat. On top of all this the military leadership is unstable so much so that assassination is the normal thing not an exception. Depending on the threat from Iran the United States could make war on Pakistan and do so legitimately as the Afghan conflict is out of control and Pakistan is the prime offender. The United States attacked Afghanistan because of the 9/11 attack and could reasonably make the case that Pakistan is and was the main instigator for that attack and the ongoing war. If Obama gets down in the polls a nice little war with Pakistan to Iran would make a big difference.
- Iran: Iran is not a single entity. The front man for the government of the country is Mahmūd Ahmadinezhād but he isn’t even close to being in charge. The country is inordinately complex with the Assembly of Experts being in charge the military and most of the government so that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the ultimate authority on everything in the country. Mahmūd Ahmadinezhād has a cabinet and some control of the affairs of the country but there is also a parliament to deal with. Collectively the country’s leadership want to have the security that they feel nuclear weapons and a delivery system would give them and they really hate Israel. Most experts believe Iran is only months away from having operational nuclear weapons. Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t like the idea of a country which has in the past shown a willingness to take offensive action on its neighbours to have weapons of this kind. Israel feels its very survival is threatened and the Kingdom is concerned that Iran might decide to sort out religious differences. The United States is committed to supporting both Saudi Arabia and Israel so if either decide to take preemptive action they will find themselves in the conflict automatically. So, what will happen? Iran is threatening and making a show of their ability to defend themselves and only this week is demanding the US navy stay out of the Persian Gulf. That is not going to happen. The chance of an navy incident is almost a certainty. In the eyes of Israel they may feel they can not afford not to launch air strikes against Iran and late April or May looks like time to launch if the United States has not already been forced into a live fire confrontation in the Gulf. 2012 will not end without some violent action between these countries.
- North Korea: There is no obvious evidence of any real change in the behaviour or North Korea with the death of their leader.
- Vietnam: The tension over oil exploration in the South China Sea between China, Vietnam, Taiwan and perhaps even the United States is not going to amount to anything this year or ever for that matter. Things will be worked out.
- Falkland Islands: Argentina and other South American countries are supporting Argentina’s claim to the islands which have been a British possession for 200 years. It is an issue now because of oil. The United Kingdom’s military is in a sorry state but his is not something to worry about this year.
- Russia: The election is going to be bumpy. Putin, who has seemed to be a sort of Tsar is looked a bit vulnerable and that is simply because he has been in power for a very long time. Surprisingly, the land that invented the Communist Revolution is seeing the Communist party looking pretty good but do not worry. Twenty years from now, you could worry, economic progress is gradual and Russians can cope but they might like to cope without Vladimir Putin.
- The kusans: From Georgia to India there is a large land mass of unhappy people. Each of these countries have desperate people and nasty leaders. No peace expected throughout the region for decades.
- Canadian: The dye has been cast and Canadian politics is pretty much on autopilot. Harper’s mean streak is not going away, corruption and bullying are the new normal. Canada’s debts are rising and will continue rising even faster, its the nature of a majority government. Though Employment Insurance has risen do not expect federal taxes to increase but government handouts to industry and tax breaks will increase this year by 15%. That’s what Tories do. The Americanisation of Canada will accellerate this year as the Harper government takes aim at the CBC and more privatisation of Canada’s military. However, medicare is not in danger it is politically out of reach. The $400 million annual loss to Western Canadian agricultural sector is the cost of a majority government. Suck it up.
- United State of America: Two stories in 2012, poverty and politics. The country’s media only covers politics. From now until the swearing in ceremony in January the television networks will cover only politics and sensational mass murder. However, just as in 1968 the summer of 2012 will not be a good time to visit Northeastern manufacturing states or Southern California. Riots will replace “occupy” protests and burning police cars, looting and tear gas will be happening from mid July until mid September.
- United Kingdom: The conservative coalition can not survive until fall, I will surprised if it makes it through the winter.
- Germany: Stress within the government is already on the very edge but Merkel should hold on through the year.
Life as we know it:
- Electronically more of the same: iPads and smartphones have replaced paper for about one third of the people in North America and there is more to come. Not only do pilots now carry iPads instead of flight charts and manuals but doctors and lawyers are joining in the charge to the digital realm. The real change in 2012 is in education and in libraries where the iPad and a textbook creation and marketing system come into place while school, university and public libraries not only provide digital content but loan the reading device as well. The iPhone’s Siri voice system is expanding in 2012 to include desktop and laptop computers while the cloud will be so ubiquitous that we will all forget about it as it simply is the way things are done.
- Television: Network television is not going to disappear, nor will cable or telephone system television but devices like Apple TV and media player downloading and streaming will achieve one third of the television people watch by the end of the year.
- Professional sports in Canada: The Winnipeg Jets and the CFL have taught the North American market a lesson. Canada matters, the top five money making teams in the NHL four are in Canada. Despite the power of the NFL Canadians go to and support their CFL teams so that the sport is making money. In 2012 pro sports will gravitate to the money with the announcement of two NHL franchise teams moving to Canada (Hamilton and Quebec City) and the CFL will announce the return to Ottawa.
- Winter tires: The trend is clear, winter tires are better. Each year more and more Canadian vehicles are switching to winter tires in the fall and back to all season in the spring. Ford was giving extra sets with new vehicles this year and in the early winter of 2012 40% of the vehicles on the road will be on winter tires.
- Occupied drivers: Some years ago society got pretty upset about drunk drivers and steadily pressure, programmes and enforcement has made a big effort to suppress this behaviour. There are still drunk drivers but as a society we have crossed the line and agreed that it’s a bad thing. Now the same thing has to happen with cell phone and text messaging while driving. We know that a person doing that sort thing while behind the wheel is more or as dangerous as a drunk. Legislation is not affecting the behaviour so we are going to see effective public campaigns this year to persuade potential killers to pull over to talk or text.
- Riders: Riders take the Grey Cup in 2012.
Have an excellent year folks. Say, “please and thank you” don’t wear a hat in a restaurant, be nice to one another. Good manners makes a good society in which to live. Oh yes one other thing, come fall get a flu shot, if you don’t get sick you can’t pass it on to someone else.
Happy New year everyone.
Timothy W. Shire