We are left with very few hours of 2008--a rather volatile and difficult year for most of us. I have been meeting quite a few people of late--business tycoons, fund managers, senior executives at multinational firms, consultants and lots of ordinary salaried workers belonging to varied industries. Expectedly, they were all full of pessimism and gloom.
This is what the CEO of a leading Indian business group had to say about the global recession: "I think we are at the end of the beginning (of this recession). The next 12 to 18 months, this will play on." And this is what a fund manager had to say: "Things are only going to get worse. There is going to be a bloodbath in [early] 2009."
Every time I meet a friend, a senior executive at a global consumer electronics firm, he repeats this statement: "In these times, it's important to stay put and retain your job." In fact, every salaried middle-class person rants off the same sentiment.
I spoke to a cousin yesterday who got back home early from work. She works for an export house. "There is no work in office. We fear that our [main] American client will soon file for Chapter 11. So we are all just waiting and watching. The retail market in the U.S. and Europe has been bad," she said.
Like elsewhere in the world, you hear the same things back here in India (despite the fact that the Indian economy is growing at 7 percent)--people losing jobs, employees anticipating a sell-off, companies tightening their belts, etc.
Before I fill you up with more gloomy quotations, let me now get back to the heading of this blog. I really think that 2009 should be a lot better--not just for India, but for the world economy. Here are my reasons:
-- Most of us are already prepared for a bad economic scenario. The worst thing about 2008 was that we never expected things to be this bad. Who ever thought institutions like Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and AIG, as well as the big three carmakers from Detroit, would be on the verge of bankruptcy? Therefore, in 2009, we shouldn't be caught unawares.
-- We would be making comparisons with 2008, which was a bad year. Therefore, the numbers won't look all that bad. And that makes a lot of difference to the business sentiment.
-- There will be a new government in India and in the U.S. so in the first six months, everyone will (hopefully) focus on better policies and good economic performance.
-- I truly believe that we have seen the worst. Hopefully, there shouldn't be more big corporate names filing for bankruptcy in 2009.
-- Prices of crude have come down to sub-US$40 a barrel levels. Therefore, inflation should be under check. And that means money (for those who still have it) can buy more! In India, we have begun to see consumer electronics, air tickets, cars, etc, become cheaper. In 2009, we should see housing become a lot more cheaper in India.
-- Last (but not the least), don't forget that whatever goes down must come up. 2009 should see the beginning of a (slow) recovery from this economic slump.
I hope this list does make you feel better about ushering in the New Year. For, ultimately, it's our collective optimism that will help us emerge stronger from this economic crisis. Here's wishing you a very happy and prosperous 2009.