Both globally and in France, the new year is harder than ever to predict. We could easily settle for predicting the worst: at the end of 2021, not many of us thought that the Russian attack on the Ukraine would take place, that China would drown in an epidemic of Covid; not many of us predicted major inflation either (I had predicted 10%). But not many thought that the re-election of the French president would be very difficult and that he would not have a majority in parliament. Not many feared a disorderly German evolution, having lost cheap Russian energy and Chinese consumers, suddenly turning towards an illusory American alliance, which, more than ever, is only interested in itself, except when it comes to ending Russia, which still remains the obsession of American strategists. Nor are there many who expect nothing from international conferences that are horribly expensive and have no impact, except in the media, whether they are COPs, G7s, G20s, and a few others. The most clear-sighted person in this general blindness was the UN Secretary General, who is listened to less and less because he embarrasses the powerful with his frankness.
For 2023, at the risk of surprising my readers, who are used to seeing me warn them about possible catastrophes, my intuition is that everything can go much better.
We cannot rule out a Ukrainian victory over the Russian army, a resignation of the tyrant in Moscow, a massive reduction in inflation (mostly due to bottlenecks, which are beginning to fade). We can also hope that the magnificent struggle of women in Iran, Afghanistan and many other countries will bear fruit and rid us of these abominable regimes. One cannot but exclude a German realisation that they have no more to expect from the American overlords than from the Russian suppliers and Chinese clients; and that they will come to propose a great plan for the reconstruction of Eastern Europe and the Ukraine, by the Europeans, which could be extended to Russia once it has become a democracy. A plan that the French and other Europeans could endorse as a path to growth for their own businesses. We cannot exclude an awareness of the effectiveness of sustainable energy sobriety in Europe and the necessary place of renewable and nuclear energy in it. We cannot exclude a massive acceleration of the transformation of the big oil companies into renewable energy suppliers. It is to be hoped that the forthcoming presidential elections in Nigeria will go well, setting Africa’s largest country on a sustainable democratic trajectory. Nor can we rule out the possibility that the next G20 summit in India and the next COP in Dubai will be the occasion for a real awareness of the challenges of ecological transformation, and that they will be the occasion for the countries of the South to announce that they will not make the same mistakes as the Western countries and that they will go directly from coal to solar energy, without going through oil
Similarly, we can expect tremendous medical progress, already foreseeable from the first results at the end of 2022: vaccines against cancers, drugs against Alzheimer’s, and many other seemingly staggering things, which are now within reach; especially in digital technology, of which the launch of a new version of ChatGPT is only a small beginning.
Of course, the worst cannot be ruled out: the collapse of the Ukrainian army, a major inflationary slide, a paralysis of France at the time of the announcement of a very unpopular reform of the pension schemes (or of a collapse of our health system, or of our school system, both so badly damaged), a Chinese offensive on Taiwan, to divert attention from the ravages of the Covid pandemic, an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran if it gets too close to nuclear weapons, a North Korean nuclear missile on Japan, chaos in Nigeria and the DRC if the elections there are not transparent and accepted by all.
Rarely have things been more in the hands of women and men. Everything can go much better, if we want it to, at all levels; as citizens, as consumers, as producers, as savers. No one should think that he or she is just a spectator of history.
Painting: Almond Tree in Bloom, Vincent Van Gogh (1890)