JANUARY 2010 | VOL. 24 NO.1
One year ago, as we looked ahead to 2009, the financial world was a bleak place. In the depths of the credit crunch, one of the most crucial elements of global business—trust—had all but evaporated. Risk aversion had reached a spectacular extreme, and predictions of an impending global meltdown were no longer scorned. A year later, as we step gingerly into 2010—and celebrate the dawn of a new decade—the picture looks very different. The gloom of early 2009 has lifted, to be replaced by cautious optimism.
In this issue we look ahead to the coming decade and find it brimming with possibility. But at times such as this, when so much is in flux, it can also help to look back. The past decade has been a wild ride. While it may well be remembered as the decade of easy money, of the emergence of global terrorism and of the spectacular rise—and humiliating fall—of laissez-faire capitalism, it was also a decade in which huge financial, political, social and economic development took place.
Among the countless changes for the better over the past 10 years, a few stand out. The emerging markets, which in previous decades were more exploited than empowered, now have a much clearer voice—and the old Western powers are heeding it.
At the same time, environmental awareness has gone from being a fringe issue to a corporate and personal necessity. CSR—corporate social responsibility—has practically vanished as a term because the concepts it encapsulates are now deeply ingrained in the corporate psyche.
In a development that has made life difficult for some multinationals, many emerging market governments—particularly in Latin America—took a measured step to the left. In the process, they began to focus on using the income from their often vast natural resources to drive social change. And in a change that will have lasting consequences, Barack Obama became president of the US and embarked on a mission to bring to the global stage an openness and a willingness to listen that had not been seen for years.
There is still a long way to go before the financial challenges facing the world are resolved, but with the changes that have already taken place—and the lessons learned from the recent turmoil—the future looks bright indeed.
Until next month.