2011: Year of the lonely rabbit

When Dutch companies want to know what to expect from that great unknown entity called the future, many consult ever cheerful trend watcher Adjiedj Bakas. He talks to PHILIP HOFMAN about the year ahead.

Born in Suriname forty seven years ago to Indian parents and educated in Holland, Adjiedj Bakas has ties on three continents - Asia, South America and Europe. He sees himself as a living example of globalization. In 2005 he published his first book, an instant bestseller called “Megatrends Nederland”. Since, he has co-authored a string of internationally oriented trend books, with titles such as “Beyond the crisis”, “The future of faith” and “Living without oil”. He was voted Black Businessman of the Year in 2008, and Trend Watcher of the Year in 2009. In his outlook for 2011, Adjiedj Bakas notes that this is the year of the rabbit on the Chinese calendar, signifying beauty, sensitivity, peace and calm. He says 2011 will be a year of “fierce emotions, toughness, meekness and new beauty.”

Is 2011 a year we can look forward to?
“Well, the rabbit is quick on its feet, this year will go fast! I think it will be a good year though. In many ways we are in the midst of a re-run of the 1980s. Back then we feared the Soviet bomb, now the Iranian bomb. In the 80s prime minister Lubbers (CDA) had to make cuts to bring government finances back to health, now Rutte (VVD) has to do the same.”

Bakas´ 2011 predictions

Economy
  • Rocky transition to new economic world order
  • Brittle economy, the crisis continues
  • Banks regain confidence, new banks emerge
  • China’s image worsens
  • Pension debate intensifies
  • More critical view of health-care economy
Society
  • Society fragments, populism rises further
  • Tired of ‘green’ issues
  • Rise of compassionate capitalism
  • Prosperity no longer taken for granted
  • More loneliness, search for love and warmth
Technology
  • 3D becomes super hot
  • We only watch in HD
  • Google becomes an operating system
  • Nokia makes a comeback
  • Solid state drives become commonplace
  • Gadgets go green
How does that spell peace and calm?
"People seem to understand the necessity of most of the austerity measures, and are more accepting of it than elsewhere in Europe. In France you see students taking to the streets because of pension reform. It looks like Dutch students will have to pay more for their own education, but they seem fairly down to earth and realistic about it. Pensions will be stripped 
down further too. Actually, it is quite remarkable that pension reform has met with so little protest here.”

Why is that good news?
“It is good news, because we are able to adjust to a new reality. Once these issues are sorted, the 21st century can truly commence. I see a return of optimism in the business world. We are heading towards a new economy, driven by an acceleration of technology. Biotech is up and coming, just as nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. And we are only at the very beginning of making energy in a sustainable way. In any crisis you see old jobs being shed faster, like the postal workers at the moment. These jobs will be replaced by new ones in new industries soon. We have a great shortage of IT-workers, which is set to grow. I advise anybody who is unemployed to re-train for an IT-career. Another opportunity lies in 
water management. This industry already has a 500 billion USD turnover and is set to get much bigger.”

Is there any bad news for 2011?
“Political instability will continue, which is unfortunate. Particularly right now, we need a strong government, able to take important decisions. In everyday life, rudeness will get worse. Yes, we will have even less manners by the end of the year!” He lets out a burst of laughter.

Your 2011 outlook talks of fierce emotions. Have we not tired of an emotive integration debate and being angry with irresponsible bankers?
“Well, the vehemence in the integration debate will continue for some time yet. When Mr. Bolkestein [Former VVD party leader and EU commissioner] sounded the alarm about the growing hostility towards Jews here, mainly from young Moroccans, the response was quite emotional. He is absolutely right by the way. Regarding the banks, people do not get mad about that anymore. Meekness has set in. Everybody happily takes their savings to the bank again. Leaseplan Bank [a new internet bank] had to turn savers away this summer, because it had raised the capital they were looking for in no-time! People have not learned anything.” Emotions manifest themselves in other ways too, he explains. “There is more loneliness than ever. People seek warmth and love. Social networks like Facebook will remain important, but we crave physical contact with others.”