Friday, 13 January
Tell me if you’ve felt anything similar recently*: every time I give or receive a Happy New Year this January – with many of those received accompanied by a Thank God 2022 is over – I experience a small internal wince. The frisson occurs because it seems to me that none of the world's troubles from last year are going away. If anything, the big picture for 2023 is only looking darker.
This morning, in a Financial Times' article by Gillian Tett , I learned that we wincers are not alone: according to a recent JPMorgan Survey, only 8 per cent of American business leaders are “feeling upbeat about the global economy”. Another study cited, the World Economic Forum risk report, shows Davos-goers' top concerns this year are not growth and debt but the threat of nuclear war, the growing perils of climate change and increased social conflict.
Quite right. The war in Ukraine grinds on inexorably. Covid continues to kill untold thousands in China and to mutate into new variants, the names of which become ever more science fictional (BQ.1.1; CH.1.1; BF.7; XBB.1.5 – what was wrong with the Greek alphabet?). 2022 temperatures were well above 'average', especially in Europe last summer, and I can't imagine why 2023 would be any cooler, since global carbon emissions continued to rise. Already this January severe weather has ravaged parts of California. Over here in Europe it feels like March. Misinformed birds are singing their spring love songs and the buds are bursting on confused plants.
While the planet burns, we travel – if possible by private jet – it’s so much more convenient.
Those less fortunate than Mr Alecci's dogs are still flocking to the commercial variety of air travel. Global tourism is expected to rise 30% this year, which is one reason that the Louvre museum plans to limit the number of its daily visitors, claiming that this will contribute to 'a more pleasurable viewing experience' (or, one might say, a less disagreeable one)...
Visitors to Paris may soon find their touring further hindered by trade unions and the gilets jaunes, who are threatening to hit the streets in protest against the Macron government's plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 (the UK, US and Germany are nudging up from around 65 to 67).
Both travellers and non-travellers continue to consume, despite rising inflation and our awareness of the nefarious effects of, say, the fashion industry on our environment. Today we buy 60% more clothes and wear them only half as long as in 2000.
The above examples - just a few fun facts that I have gleaned over the last 10 days - are of course only the tip of the melting iceberg.
However: the FT article does go on to say that while CEOs are pessimistic about the larger picture, they are less gloomy about their own companies: 51 per cent think profits will rise this year and 88 per cent plan to keep or add staff (I guess companies such as Meta, Goldman Sachs, Amazon and Twitter, who have recently carried out mass layoffs, did not participate in the survey).
Once again, I have to agree with the world's managers. While I fret about the macro in the coming year, the micro's off to a productive start. After calm, only moderately indulgent holidays, I’ve been working, exercising, reading and playing the piano, gently swinging from Paris to the Perche, where our renovation project is beginning to seem very 2022.
There have been early morning walks with Tasha in a hushed Paris...
...and an even quieter countryside. The only gilet jaune I've seen is on Tasha.
At least if it feels like March, it's raining like spring too, turning the fields and garden an electric green and helping to refill the water tables after the brown, desiccated months of summer.
Thus far, daily life in 2023 has been my idea of heaven. So even if the macro picture is not looking too good, here's wishing you a Happy Micro New Year.
*New feature for the new year: leave your comments below!