2012 begins a new year, leaving behind a year many will be happy to forget.
Economically, 2011 saw the European debt crisis deepen. The Euro's future survival, at least in its current form, became a topic of discussion.
The US economy showed signs of life; just barely and only in the context of the anaemic growth of the previous few years.
Despite the ups and downs, US stocks as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Index of blue chip companies closed 2011 with a gain of slightly over five percent. The US Dollar strengthened a few percent versus the Euro while the US Dollar Index (futures) remained virtually unchanged, 80.2 versus its December 30, 2010 close of 79.5 (source: Wall Street Journal, Online).
Politically, the economic weakness of the global economy weighed heavily, particularly on the developed world. The US debt ceiling debate demonstrated the inability of US politicians to address deep seated issues with any resolve. Everything appears on hold until after the next presidential elections.
That is, except perhaps in the area of national security.
The killing of Osama Bin Laden racked up a major public relations victory for the US security establishment. However, the quiet withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and the forthcoming retreat – if one may use that word – from Afghanistan muddies the picture.
The post 9/11 upheaval in the Islamic world returned with a vengeance in 2011.
The Arabian Spring resulted in the fall of several Arab 'pillars of stability,' including Egypt's Mubarak and Libya's Gaddaffi. There are certainly more regime changes yet to come. Yemen and Syria rank topmost amongst this list.
Moreover, between Saudi Arabian – Irani rivalry and Iran's nuclear policies, Iran stayed in the news throughout 2011. However, other than some tightening of sanctions, the Iran situation did not escalate radically. Nonetheless, large arms purchase contracts by Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates signal that regional tensions remain at simmering point.
Within Asia, the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster raised red flags about energy sustainability, especially the safety of nuclear power. The debate continues even as some countries decided to go-slow on new plants or even shut down existing nuclear power plants.
Staying in Asia, North Korea's new 'Great Successor' hit the news just in time for the New Year. Yet, news from North Korea seems like 'more of the same' with 'predictable unpredictability' being the only constant emanating from the country.
Surely, 2011 contained many personal and public events in everyone's life. And, while the Grand Moofti will continue to pontificate about all and sundry during 2012, permit Imran Ahmed to wish each and every one of my readers a happy, healthy and successful 2012. I hope my posts have been as interesting for you to read as they have been for me to write.
Happy New Year!