To re-use an old phrase: “May you live in interesting times.”
And we certainly do. Today, Fareed Zakaria addressed these interesting times in his keynote address at The Premier Business Leadership Series, titled "A Roadmap Out of the Economic Crisis."
Asked, “Which one of the following economic regions do you believe faces the toughest challenges today following the economic crisis?” the audience at The Premier Business Leadership Series in Antwerp responded:
- 39 percent said the United States.
- South America – 2 percent.
- Europe – 39 percent.
- Middle East – 5 percent.
- Africa – 11 percent.
- Asia – 3 percent.
- Other – 1 percent.
Named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of 2010's Top 100 Thinkers, host of the Global Public Square (GPS) on CNN and Editor at Large of Time, Fareed Zakaria is widely acknowledged as having superlative skills in making sense of international events and their impact. Fareed's themes for his talk included:
- Western anxiety about the economy, politics, and an uncertain world - which, he believes is largely unfounded. Fareed thinks this is partly because we tend to base projections on linear extrapolations based on recent events, not the long view.
- Echoing the sentiment of the economist panel this morning, Fareed is expecting a strong economic recovery following this “crisis” and he bases his view on the cyclical nature of these crises, which are invariably defeated by the basic resilience of the system.
- Fareed does not believe we live in an unsafe world that is getting more unsafe. On the contrary, the world is more open, more connected, more interdependent. The world is far safer today than, for example, during the Cold War. Political crises today are “hermetically sealed” because there is no great superpower rivalry.
- Middle class support is lost when high inflation destroys savings, which is why global leaders are going to such lengths to avoid it during restructuring, because governments often fall when they lose the backing of the middle classes.
- The information revolution is driving up the pace of globalization, in all spheres: political, economic, manufacturing and so on. Fareed also thinks we have not even seen the start of this technological revolution yet.
- Fareed suggests that the West needs to focus on some key areas.
- The West will remain an economic superpower for many years, so stop worrying about our place in the world.
- Innovation can and will come from multiple directions and truly disruptive innovation is a combination of factors or “technology plus.”
- The West should hold its nerve on free trade and not introduce protectionism, nationalism or abandoning the globalization that has created a safer and richer world.
My 5 big ‘takeaway’ points from Zakaria’s speech are:
- The world is in better shape than many of us believe and far more than some doom-and-gloom commentators would have us believe.
- In my view, anxiety comes from uncertainty, which is fuelled by a lack of concrete data and information.
- We are, contrary to popular belief, living in a period of great geopolitical stability.
- Globalization is a good thing; it fosters international interconnectedness and thence to mutual dependence and support.
- The crisis the West faces is not about technology or innovation; it is employment. Jobs are moving to growing economies and domestic labor is impacted, leading to frustration and anxiety as workers worry about their personally uncertain futures.