It is blisteringly hot here in Sydney today. Scorched bare feet are causing millions to hop their way to the harbour foreshore in the New Year scramble for a vantage point to catch Sydney’s annual spectacle, the midnight firework extravaganza.
But despite perfect conditions for an evening of outdoor entertainment, there’s a hint of ‘last hurrah’ in the air. This is the first time in a generation when more people are reluctant to step into the new year than they are to stick about in the current. By all accounts, ‘Try to keep my job’ is currently topping the New Years Resolution list. You can hear the nerves rattling from Townsville in the north, all the way down the Australia’s eastern seaboard.
So, on the assumption that the more we know about the future, the less we have to fear it, here’s my top ten list of things to look forward to (or steer clear of) in 2009.
1. Integrity: those who have it will win. Those who don’t will die. Integrity in business will matter more this year than ever before. Smart, new companies will make a brand of it. And because most of us will end 2009 poorer than we started it, we’ll all be giving a lot more thought to deciding who deserves our hard earned cash.
2. Ingenuity: as companies big and small go to the wall, they’ll be a big appetite for new ideas and plenty of people who have the time to push their imagination. Look out for a business orientated R&D version of Facebook. If there are a million people willing to share pictures of their worst girlfriend on the net, there must be a million more looking for someone to spark some commercial inspiration.
3. Old Age: the older you are, the more popular you’ll be. With just about every industry you can think of having a reason to fear the worst in 2009, there’s one thing there’s not going to be a shortage of and that’s those with a bus pass. And it’s not just home help equipment manufacturers and medical device companies that are going to benefit. Because the majority of those in their sixties have just seen 50% of their live savings disappear down the credit-crunch plughole, the average age of our workforce is going to take a big jump up. That will impact everything from office politics to political office.
4. Infrastructure: on the day that Obama was elected, the Californian government quietly announced the introduction of a $100 million infrastructure package that will reinvigorate the use of rail travel in the state. Expect a fundamental shift in infrastructure and travel trends in 2009. When industry bailouts cost the taxpayer billions of dollars, a few hundred million all seems a bit of a drop in the ocean in the current climate. And whilst it will take a few years to come on stream, I’m predicting a resurgence in bicycle sales – both privately and to governments. The Parisian bicycle scheme, Velib, has proved such a success we should expect to see similar introductions in cities around the world. As for the general public, they’re saddling up will have little to do with the price of oil and everything to do with a greater sense of nostalgia when times are tough. Old style bicycles will make a come back.
5. Norway: two things will come out of Norway in 2009. Fiscal common sense and fresh, pragmatic design. The Finance Ministry’s ability to dodge the worst of the economic bullets is the envy of world leaders (with the exception of Gordon Brown who thinks he’s bullet proof). The generous applause is all about their stoic confidence and reserved air of absolute belief in getting the problem fixed. Norwegian pragmatism will be revered the world over. Brand Norway will also get a boost through the crisp styling and simplicity of its design students, bringing everything from clean lined furniture to svelte (which is not Norwegian for felt) clothing to our homes and wardrobes.
6. Celebrity: when the going gets tough, the tough start dreaming. And the American dream that one day the veil will come off the mundaneity of your every day life and you’ll be given a prime slot on the Letterman Show will be as buoyant as ever. As the recession bites, so the hopes of middle America that they’ll be blessed with some miraculous escape from financial oblivion will hit an all time high. Celebrity will be the biggest benefactor with those who’ve already hit the big time getting bigger and bigger. Paparazzi will go overboard. And national lotteries will have a boom year.
7. Quality: we’ll spend more on less. A craving for better things that last will pull the rug from under the feet of sectors of our disposable society and quality will be less dispensable. 2009 will be the year to start that carpentry business you’d always dreamed of.
8. Books: it’s also the year to write that book you’d always planned to write. With greater discretionary spending, we’ll be looking for maximum value for minimum cost. A book gives hours of entertainment at a relatively low cost. Having spent the past 5 years fretting over the power of the Internet, publishers could find themselves in for a bit of a boom time too if their product is right
9. Asia: the fact that the might of major Asian economies was still not enough to protect the rest of the world from the ravages of the economic downturn said little about their fragility and an awful lot about the depth and longevity of this crisis. But despite the slowdown, the majority of markets in Asia will remain on a growth curve, albeit less dramatic than expected by the Wall Street bulls 6 months ago. China will stay on track, Western confidence in India will slacken in the face of incremental tensions between it and Pakistan, and Vietnam and North Korea will emerge as the high-potentials of the emerging markets.
10. The Presidential Library: populating the G. W. Bush Presidential Library with suitable literature will be the year’s biggest online viral game. Searching for the right books that reflect the aptitude of the administration will give families across the US and beyond hours of fun, whilst offering the French the opportunity for political one-upmanship. Bush himself will retire to his new Dallas home followed everywhere by a unit of fearless security men, each especially trained in shoe-hostility manoeuvres. Look out for big sales of the Bush Boot in Australia – wind tunnel tested for greater accuracy when hurling at imposters.
Happy New Year!