Will Germany save Europe? (photo: Getty Images)
It might seem perverse to argue that 2013 will bring fewer of the problems that have gripped so many countries, and people, for the past four years. The reasons why it might do the opposite seem more obvious.
The eurozone has failed to resolve a crisis that is plunging Greece “into the economic Stone Age,” in the words of one central banker, who added, “no country has been through this since America’s Great Depression.” More than half the young people in Greece and Spain are unemployed, a paralysis of lives and loss of skills that changes a country in a generation.
The protests in Tahrir Square against Mohamed Morsi, the president who is the product of Egypt’s “democratic” revolution less than two years ago, and who has now seized powers to block all constitutional challenge, is a reproof to those who readily cheered the Arab Spring. “Nobody knew. Nobody knows now. We are all at sea,” said Matthew Parris recently in The Times; he had warned at the time that the fall of despots did not mean the rise of democracy. Prophesies of Bashar al-Assad’s fall in Syria have been premature, while those of the threat to Jordan’s King Abdullah II may prove prescient.
And 2013 may yet be the year when Iran gets within easy reach of a nuclear weapon. Pakistan is increasingly hostile to the US, public anger stirred up by American drone strikes which its politicians have condemned in public while carefully tolerating in private, and may become after its imminent elections a problem that only China, the original supplier of its nuclear expertise, can contain.
Meanwhile, in Britain, George Osborne’s Autumn Statement showed that even if the economy picks up, many planned cuts have yet to have their impact (see George Magnus and Adam Posen). “Don’t forget 2015,” when much of the austerity drive will take place, has been the message from Paul Johnson, director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Yet many trends are transforming the way countries are governed, and improving the lives of millions of people. Some even derive from the financial onslaught of 2008. After four years, we are finally making use of a good crisis.
Here are ten problems that may look better in a year’s time.
1. Democracy will fare better