Traditions must be kept, also in the COVID-19 year! Please enjoy the predictions for 2021. Why a “courgette” year? The vegetable can be green or yellow, both colors fit with a world, which is more and more concerned about sustainability, and that is not only from a greening perspective. Secondly, courgettes can be planted outside by the end of June, when the Covid-19 virus is getting a bit under control, after the third and fourth wave, respectively. And the courgettes are rich in vitamin C, calcium, and iron, all what you need to protect yourself from COVID-19.
COVID-19 brought the world into a health crisis as it was never seen before. Currently, the distribution of the first approved vaccines is happening and bringing many new challenges to the mankind. We will see that our distribution system is not as effective as we thought, creating a lot of new opportunities for start-ups in the logistics field. It will not be a surprise that the best performing stocks in 2021 most likely will be transportation related stocks. But the vaccine is not the silver bullet. At least 70% of the population needs to have received the vaccine before we can start discussing about the level of protection. No one has yet answered the question in case you have got a vaccine shot, will you also be immune? Will you still be able to transmit the virus to others? These questions still need to be urgently answered.
If our goal is to move forward economically, we first need to ensure that our health system has recovered. Surely, it is not the health technology that we are lacking, rather it is the lack of health working personnel. A large percentage of them is already exhausted since they have not had a decent holiday break for a while now. Once, that is going to be sorted out, expect the social crisis to grow even more. The Covid-19 virus does not make a difference between gender, age, poor, or rich, however our public policies result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The middle class is shrinking, and that is not a positive outlook for 2021. Later, we will see that there will be plenty of political crisis moments, where political leaders have lost the pedals and cannot foresee things anymore. Due to the growing social inequalities, the rise of populism in core western countries following the Trumpism in the US, are trends that will maintain their presence at least until 2024. Democratic disillusionment is something that will become a serious treat in the years to come.
Out of business
With the governmental financial support, a lot of businesses have been temporarily saved with so-called au fond perdu credit money. The pace of bankruptcies will increase in 2021, especially in the retail and hospitality industry. COVID-19 has brought some of these businesses to halt and for others the pandemic has merely accelerated a process that was ignited years ago by online competition, bad decisions. Entrepreneurs should be aware that every generation faces a cash crisis when sufficient reserves are in shortage.
Economically, it will get uglier before it gets better. The good news is that ‘yes’, even the pandemic outbreak will be tackled and be brought to halt one day. That is the light at the end of the tunnel. But before the rise of brighter days, the virus will continue to slow down the global economy. It is not the governments which trouble the economy, rather it is the virus itself! It is estimated that during World War I, between 15-22 million people died. The Spanish flu of 1918 infected one third of the world population, at that time, and killed between 17-50 million people. This is an ultimate reminder of how to behave during a pandemic outbreak. The year of 2021, on the other hand, will need to create a herd immunity for 75% of the world population. If only few countries will vaccinate their populations, this will not help and create, contrary, a new, more severe outbreak. We need the vaccine as public good!
The years between 1920-1929 were years of cultural renaissance. Since the 1920s, we had the automobile, people moved from farmlands to cities, and the cultural life got fully enriched. I strongly believe that this scenario will repeat itself as of 2023. Bars, restaurants, football stadia, concert halls will be full of people again enjoying the new cultural renaissance. From social distancing we will go to social sticking together. Economies will revamp and innovations will keep on surprising us in a positive sense.
Globalization went through another phase in 2020. We see that emerging markets are sitting in the driver seat now. Even with a new US President, the tension between China and USA will not resolve. The coming years of globalization will be driven by social groups, and not by economic blocs or transnational corporations anymore. This means that the pace of social integration will slow down for now. Social groups will raise their voices on issues of inequality, diversity, gender imbalances, and the disappearing of middle class. The groups will be formed for specific causes and will maybe have a long-term commitment for a cause. As a result, citizens will become louder and more engaged, and yet major economic players will need to learn how to deal with new situation.
Ethics have been mostly visible in the health care sector this year. Should we let people above 80 years of age die of COVID-19? This year, we need to focus our attention on AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the ethics protocols. Robot ethics will become more visible, especially since the cyberattacks will gain new dimensions and become more frequent. New ethical scandals will occur, and we need to develop new norms for dealing with these.
Technology acceleration. Working from home, it should not be an option. In 2020, we all learned or were forced to learn to work from home. Also, the biotech and biomedicine, made tremendous technological progress. Digital transformation, which is in reality nothing else than a change process, will bring more unemployment. The low skilled jobs will be replaced by robotics, chatbots, etc. And the name to remember, Ms. Katalin Kariko, and you can call her Madame Covid-19 vaccine inventor. She immigrated from Hungary to the US. Her research has been on the development of in vitro-transcribed mRNA for protein therapies, which allowed to quickly create the Covid-19 vaccine. She will most likely win the Noble Prize for Chemistry in 2021. Prof. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, both will get the Noble Price for Medicine. All three of them, are the founders of BNT162b2 vaccine.
We want everything and everyone to be traceable. The big tech companies collect our data, the governments know when we all begin to travel again, the surveillance economy monitoring system is in place. Privacy is something that we lost many years ago. What we will see is that the consumer becomes more critical regarding the components or ingredients of products. They want an easier system to track the origin of milk and to identify the vegetable producer. Traceable food products will become a matter of concern since we are losing annually on average 8 million people of food poisoning and its consequences. The number of purpose-driven consumers will continue to rise. Purpose-driven consumers will also be willing to change their shopping habits, in order to reduce environmental impact and will care about issues such as sustainability and recycling. Ultimately, greater transparency will lead to increasing consumer trust.
The next pandemic is on its way to spoil our lifestyle and enjoyment. This time, it will be called MERS-CoV with a 34% mortality rate. With bars and clubs being closed and social lives on hold, going back to our parents’ nest has been a joyful experience so far. Being vaccinated or not, a study that was conducted by plant biologists (NCSU) and published in the journal Frontiers of Plant Science has shown that drinking green tea and eating dark chocolate, blocks the functions of the “main protease” (Mpro) in SARS-CoV-2.
So, take a step back and enjoy your holidays while masking up, keeping distance, washing your hands, drinking a lot of green tea, and consuming the darkest chocolate you can find. By doing so, you will continue to think positive and test negative.
Keep on having SBS learning FUN!
Bert Wolfs, Ph.D.