Happy New Year and all that

Some thoughts and trends for 2018

Venkat Raman

Auckland, January 1, 2018

At the outset, Indian Newslink wishes its readers, contributors, correspondents, advertisers, sponsors and well-wishers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

We hope that 2018 will see you and those around you healthier, safer and happier.

New Zealand has a unique advantage in that its time zone places it ahead of the rest of the world (save for Samoa which is one hour ahead and Fiji and Tonga which are in the same time zone – these were recent changes) and hence it was the first country to mark the dawn of 2018.

New Zealanders ushered in the New Year with usual gaiety and fun. Private parties accounted for a major part of the celebrations, while those in the mood to drink and dance to the tunes of DJs gathered in hotels and restaurants.

Festivities and Fireworks

The Sky Tower in Auckland City had a great spectacle of fireworks at midnight. Beamed on TV One, the five-minutes of pyrotechnics display was one of the best seen in recent years. As usual, thousands of people had gathered in the vicinity to behold the scene and greet each other ‘Happy New Year.’

Reports of fireworks, festivities in parks and other public places have come in from other parts of the country and with New Zealand Police saying that ‘there were no major incidents,’ it was a smooth transition from the old to New Year.

Welcoming Tourists

We call this ‘The Silly Season’ in New Zealand. New Year’s Day itself is a quiet day, with almost all commercial establishments observing public holiday. Stores dealing with household appliances, television sets, mobile phones and other electronic goods have announced ‘New Year Sale,’ an extension of Christmas and Box Day bonanza and they are likely to do well, since this is also the period for increased tourists from the Northern Hemisphere who arrive here to enjoy bright Sunshine that New Zealand usually offers from December to February.

Summer has not been disappointing though. Arriving on time (December 1), days have been blazing hot, threatening to bring in severe drought to most of North Island. Evenings have been somewhat cooler over the past week, but predictions are that Mid-Summer would be hotter than usual.

Sports Season

This is also the Season for quality sports- International Cricket, International Tennis and Regional Soccer. With West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and England touring New Zealand, Cricket would be at a high pitch over the next two months. There is a match today (January 1, 2018) between West Indies and the Black Caps at the Big Oval in Tauranga- the second T20 between the two sides. New Zealand won the first match held on December 29, 2017 in Nelson by 47 runs.

The ASB Classic 2018 will thrill Tennis players and enthusiasts. The Two-Week season will feature international stars in men’s and women’s tournament.

The Auckland Anniversary Weekend will gratify Soccer fans of Fijian origin as two major Soccer Festivals will be marked as Family Carnivals from January 25 to January 29, 2018 in Central and South Auckland.

The World Economy

The dawn of the New Year is also time to take a panoramic view of the World Economy and see what is in store.

A recent World Bank Report has warned politicians, economists and planners to be aware of downside risks in 2018, although the global economy, expected to have to have grown by 2.7% in 2018 is projected to strengthen to 2.9% in 2018 and 2019.

The Report cites increased protectionism, heightened policy uncertainty, possibility of financial market turbulence, and, over the longer run, weaker potential growth as possible risks in the New Year.

“These risks highlight the urgency for policymakers in emerging markets and developing economies to rebuild macroeconomic policy space and implement policies that support investment and trade,” the World Bank Report said.

The New Zealand Economy

Contrary to fears expressed in some quarters, the New Zealand Economy should expand, with growth projected to rise by more than 3% in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, reflecting stronger investment and exports.

An OECD Report released in November 2017 said that capacity constraints, high profitability, low financing costs, housing shortages and government demand should support investment, while agricultural exports should recover following adverse weather and temporary price weakness. Inflation is projected to rise to 2.4% by late 2019.

“Fiscal policy is to become expansionary in 2018-19, reflecting both measures retained from the May 2017 Budget and the new government’s plans to increase government consumption, investment and transfer payments. Although monetary tightening is projected to begin in late 2018, policy will remain highly accommodative,” it said.

The Report warned that house prices and household debt have soared in recent years to high levels in relation to incomes.

“Households are highly exposed to interest rate risk. Macro-prudential regulation should be tightened if there is a resurgence of debt-fueled house price inflation. A maximum debt-to-income ratio should be considered if expected benefits exceed costs,” it said.

Likely trends

The world is changing. This cliché is likely to be more pronounced in 2018 with several aspects of economic and social factors influencing the way we think, act and live. Not all of them would for the better, but until the cycle moves back to erstwhile living habits, change would be inevitable. Here are just a few examples.

Pocket Living

“Cities are bursting in their seams and villages are getting deserted.”

This is a common hearing in many countries, including India where ten cities, with a total of more than 100 million people, account for a tenth of the country’s population.

Urbanisation is on the increase in New Zealand, with Auckland leading the race, making housing one of the most formidable challenges. The old concept of single houses has almost vanished, although the unit system is still in vogue. But the ‘Unitary Plan’ and continued rise in demand for houses has begun to see more and more apartments in the Central Business District and suburbs of Auckland.

‘Pocket Living,’ and Gated Communities are fast becoming the norm in major cities.

Data Domination

According to the Economist, Data has become more dominant than Oil in the world.

“Smartphones and the internet have made data abundant, ubiquitous and far more valuable. Whether you are going for a run, watching tv or even just sitting in traffic, virtually every activity creates a digital trace, more raw material for the data distilleries. As devices from watches to cars connect to the internet, the volume is increasing: some estimate that a self-driving car will generate 100 gigabytes per second,” the publication said.

Bitcoins Regime

Some months ago, Indian Newslink ran articles on ‘Bitcoins’ and how they are emerging as dominating alternatives for currencies. Many read them but did not believe that Bitcoins would make such an impact as they did in the latter half of 2017.

As the Economist said, “Put the word ‘Bitcoin’ into Google and you get (in Britain, at least) four adverts at the top of the list: ‘Trade Bitcoin with no fees,’ ‘Fastest Way to Buy Bitcoin,’

‘Where to Buy Bitcoins’ and ‘Looking to Invest in Bitcoins.’

Fake News

The world is likely to face the increased risk of Fake News in 2018.

Fake news stories have been around for as long as reported news has – hysteria-inducing hoaxes spread in the early days of printed media and today’s tabloids and gossip magazines still frequently publish stories later found to be untrue – but its online form gained momentum during the most bizarre US election in recent memory, proliferating on Facebook and Twitter feeds.

There is more to come.

Meanwhile, enjoy New Year’s Day and the Holiday Season.

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Photo Caption:

Fireworks at SkyCity Tower last night

(Picture Courtesy: SkyCity)

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