Soothsaying 2021

Posted in current affairs by jrahman on January 14, 2021

Decades ago, when I was younger, chubbier, more reticent to talk to members of the opposite sex, and head full of hair, I used to escape from my mundane reality in random stories in the Economist magazine — election in some south European country, tanks in some tropical city following a coup, novel telecommunication links…. I would read about these exciting stuff in far flung places, and sigh out the window as the Force theme played in the background.

Okay, okay, there was never any background music, of course. Anyway, I am not sure whether their quality has dropped or I have become cynical and jaded, but I find the weekly magazine, even the Christmas double edition, boring and predictable these days. In comparison, the Financial Times, which I discovered much later at work, still continues to be daily staple, even if a lot of news stories are from exotic northern hemisphere locales that I know little about.

Nonetheless, I did take their soothsaying challenge last year. Of course, I had no idea what really would happen in 2020, even though I got 14 of 20 questions right. Guesses for 2021 are below. To summarise: the economy will rebound even as the pandemic lingers, authoritarian regimes will remain strong, as will be the Biden Administration. 

  • Will the WHO call an end to the public health emergency over Covid-19? No. Not in 2021. Maybe early 2022.

  • Will the majority of the world’s 5bn adult population be vaccinated? No. Not in 2021. Maybe 2022.

  • Will the Conservatives under Boris Johnson re-establish a clear lead over Labour? No

  • Will there be an independence referendum in Scotland? No. Not in 2021. But perhaps in 2022 or beyond.

  • Will the Greens be in Germany’s next governing coalition? Yes. I don’t know much about Germany — one of those far flung exotic places — so this is truly a wild guess.

  • Will Brussels charge a country with rule of law breaches in the use of EU funds? No. Ditto.

  • Will Joe Biden be a lame duck president? No. And I called an imperial presidency even before the Georgia run off. 

  • Will the US and China reach a trade deal? No. Ditto.

  • Will large-scale demonstrations erupt again in Hong Kong against China’s authority? No. Sadly, the regime has won for now.

  • Will India’s economy return to its pre-Covid size? No. Not in 2021. But of course it will eventually.

  • Will Nicolás Maduro hold on to power in Venezuela? Yes. Sadly, dictators are tenacious.

  • Will the US rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal? Yes.

  • Will Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed be re-elected? Yes

  • Will US boardrooms become much less white? No

  • Will 2021 be a turning point for electric cars? No. Not in 2021. But soon.

  • Will the combined stock market value of the five biggest US tech companies top $8tn? No. Regulations will hurt them.

  • Will more than half of European office workers be back in the office? Yes.

  • Will the S&P 500 finish above 4,000? Yes.

  • Will global carbon emissions return to pre-pandemic levels? Yes.

  • Will oil prices stay above $50 a barrel? Yes.


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Degenerating the Faith

Posted in books, classics, culture, current affairs, faith, society by jrahman on December 2, 2015

Being a Bangladeshi student in the urban west of the 1990s wasn’t easy.

Leaving home for a strange place — whether from a village in Maheshkhali for Dhaka University, or from Dhaka to foreign cities — is difficult for anyone in their late teens.  And at any age, student or otherwise, it is hard to move to a city.  Cities, metropoles that are cosmopolitan, dense with information to overload all the senses, and yet a depressing place where you are likely to be all alone amid the teeming multitude.  You seek to belong, because you find solace as part of something that is bigger than your mundane existence.


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Seven trashes collected by the senses.