I’ve been lucky. I got my first job just after a massive economic crisis and haven’t really been exposed to one since. I live in a bubble that has never had a war. I have never been in a country with double-digit inflation, during my working life. What that means is that I’ve never really lived through a world in crisis and yet, today, it feels very different.
We are in the middle of a major economic crisis in Europe. After two years of lockdown, due to a pandemic, our umbilical chord to Russia for energy is being cut. We just came out of furlough, and we now find everything is costing more. We have more cost but less money, which is a viscous circle. There’s no virtuosity there.
This is clear if you watch any news program, but was brought home to me as I travelled around Europe recently. I usually ask people how are things going, and they all said the same thing. Bad. Some worse than others. For example, my guide in Greece was telling me how they had just recovered from the debt crisis – do you remember Greece almost went bankrupt – and she explained that finally, after years of recession, the Greek economy was recovering; more tourists were coming; jobs were more accessible; and money was not so tight as it had been. This was after almost a decade, and people were becoming more positive. Then the pandemic hit, and everything has shut down again.
I don’t know the details of how Greece got through this crisis, but she was explaining that it really hit badly on the back of their sovereign debt crisis. Now, in 2022, things are opening up again and, just as it does, a war begins in Ukraine and cuts off the gas lines to Greece and the rest of Europe. Fuel costs are going up, and things just seem to go from crisis to crisis.
I heard the same in the UK, Sweden, Poland and the other people I talk to, along with things highlighted here on my blog such as the Hong Kong financial hub being severely challenged right now.
What my conversations and small travels brought home to me is that people were lucky. From 1980-2020, most of us had jobs, income, friends, travel, music, concerts and a general joie de vivre. Sure, there were issues – financial crisis, disease, wars and famines – but for many in my world, life was good. It was so good that many believed that’s the way it would always be. They became complacent and happy. Now, it’s not so good because we have financial crisis, disease, wars and famines on our own doorstep. And there’s the rub. On our own doorstep.
I’ve visited many countries in the past where financial crisis, disease, wars and famines have been the backdrop of their recent history or even current affairs. We didn’t see much written or talked about those countries and their issues because they weren’t on our doorstep. They’re over there. Of course, I understand that view – if it’s not in front of me, it’s not so important – but for all of those worried about the world we live in today, it may be worth bearing in mind that it’s the world we have always lived in.
The world has always had financial crisis, disease, wars and famines. Just go through a decade where someone wasn’t fighting with someone, and you can illuminate me. For example, I always say that neighbours are at war. Do you love your neighbour? How many wars have there been between neighbouring countries? Check your history.
Nevertheless, as I like to be positive, could this change? I guess the difference right now is that wars between neighbouring countries are not the same because we are networked. We may have financial crisis, disease, wars and famines, but thanks to the network we care more. We are no longer islands in the sea, but a connected community globally. That’s what I like to think anyways and, summarising all this, let’s hope that our globally connected community will solve all of these issues for all in the next few months and years, and give us all a better future.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...