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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Five events in 2016 which will shape 2017
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Five events in 2016 which will shape 2017

As globalization encompasses more of the world, the norm is the known unknown and surprise the new routine

Photo: MintPremium
Photo: Mint

If the past few years are any indication, then making forecasts for the new year is a mug’s game. As globalization encompasses more of the world, the norm is the known unknown and surprise the new routine. It is safer to look back at 2016 and see whether and which events from the year are likely to wield influence in 2017, both internationally and domestically. Here are five:

If you were following frontline US newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post in the run-up to the US presidential election, a win for Hillary Clinton was a foregone conclusion; at best, Donald Trump and his merry band would snatch a victory in the social media space. But we all know that after the 8 November election, when the votes were counted, Clinton was left holding the wooden spoon. She may have won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college by a landslide. While US newspapers have to figure out how and why they called the election so wrongly (prima facie it appears they passed off their own views as news), the world has to be ready for Trump, whose proclaimed USP is disruption.

In the run-up to his January inauguration, Trump is busy rattling his sabre, giving short shrift to established precedence in government formation and using social media to tick off powerful rivals such as China.

We all know the fallout of US adventurism in Iraq first and later in Afghanistan—India is still dealing with it.

So, it will have to be seen whether the Trump presidency will be as rocky as his run for the White House. At the least, the world has to brace for it.

On 30 December, the process of demonetisation of high-value banknotes in India is due to conclude formally. But the social, political and economic effects of demonetisation are only beginning to manifest themselves.

The first round of economic shocks to the growth trajectory have already been factored in by the Reserve Bank of India, or RBI, and global rating agencies. How this will play out subsequently will be revealed in 2017.

Will it be, as critics ceaselessly argue, disastrous for the economy? Or will it be, as the proponents claim, something which will benefit the economy in the medium- and long-term? While we will have to wait longer than a year to generate evidence to prove or disprove either contention, we can already see the impact in terms of behavioural change—the shock of demonetisation forcing people to look at the digital economy even more closely. Politically, the momentum is with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the moment—we will know for sure when five states, including the politically key Uttar Pradesh, vote in early 2017.

The standout sports performance—Indian Test cricket captain Virat Kohli’s class act notwithstanding—of the year undoubtedly goes to Indian sportswomen. It is not just the depth in the talent of world beaters which India showcased in the year, but also the fact that they extend to a wide range of sports, including badminton, hockey, wrestling, boxing, archery and cricket. And this achievement is even more dramatic considering the social disadvantage and discrimination faced by them in a society which is only now beginning to revisit the idea of patriarchy.

It was not just the Olympics where the only medals India won were bagged by its female athletes. It seems India’s female world beaters have inspired sport in general and instilled a sense of self-confidence that had been so conspicuously missing previously. The junior men’s hockey team beat fancied opponents to win their first world title after a gap of nearly two decades.

Every year, the Oxford Dictionary picks the word of the year. This year it was post-truth; the dictionary defined it as something which denotes circumstances in which objective facts are overridden by emotional and personal beliefs in influencing opinion.

Most writers have attributed this to the victory of Trump, who, in his election campaign, relied on outlandish claims often lacking in facts. I think it is unfair to lay all the blame at the US President-elect’s door. We have been living in a post-truth world for a long time now—most would recall it was the US which claimed Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi strongman, possessed chemical weapons (which were never found) to justify the invasion of Iraq. It was a similar distortion of facts which the US employed to foist the Taliban on the world—first as liberators of Afghanistan against the rule of the Soviet Union and, later, as enemies and, more recently, in the confusing terminology of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.

The viral growth of social media and its acceptance as a legitimate medium for dispensing news/views means communication in a post-truth world between individuals, institutions and countries is going to be that much more difficult—and potentially hazardous (as in the instance of the Pakistani defence minister threatening Israel with a nuclear strike after mistaking a provocative reference in ‘Fake News’ for real).

The Indian government has decided to advance the presentation of the federal budget to 1 February from the customary last day of February—a colonial hand-me-down. But it is more than just breaking from colonial traditions—like the practice of presenting the budget at 5pm, till the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government decided to abandon it and present it at 11am instead.

It is a great opportunity to reorder the government’s spending pattern. An end-February budget meant that by the time Parliament’s approval was obtained in mid-May, a quarter of the fiscal had all but lapsed. An early budget means now government departments actually have a full year to roll out their spending.

Given that the government is now the single biggest investor/spender in the economy, any efficiency gains are likely to have a large impact on the growth trajectory.

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Updated: 30 Dec 2016, 03:15 AM IST
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