JAN 8 — 2023. Not a particularly remarkable date; lacks the drama of 2020 and the look of 2022. No new millenniums here, no grand end to a pandemic yet somehow this may likely end up being a year to remember.

A bold prediction — considering the previous years have not lacked drama.

Years dominated by a global pandemic and the unprecedented response to this pandemic.

We saw freedoms curtailed and movements restricted in ways never before seen in the modern world — or any world.


Now that we have returned to a somewhat freer and maskless state — we look around and see that we have to contend with large scale war in Europe for the first time since World War II.

At this moment there are large battle fields in the Ukraine with thousands of fatalities and the threat of even broader conflict.

Far more worrying even than these battles is tension in the US-China relationship. The world’s two most powerful states look set on the path to further competition, outright hostility, and possibly open conflict.


With conflict and tension increasing and the aftermath of the pandemic still playing out, economies around the world are reeling. Years of growth have given way to frequent recessions, slower growth, and inflation.

A generation around the world is struggling to match the living standards of their parents. Part-time work, gig-based jobs are increasingly the norm and stable careers are difficult to find.

Finance systems look precarious and advances in AI are making humans redundant across a range of sectors. Things just aren’t what they used to be.

Fundamentally we are going through a time of accelerated change. Of course, the world is always changing.

It changes from year to year and day to day, but we had the fortune in the late 90s and 2000s to experience a period of extended growth and stability.

For both Singapore and Malaysia, 2023 will be a crucial year to tell us where we will find ourselves at the end of this decade. — AFP pic
For both Singapore and Malaysia, 2023 will be a crucial year to tell us where we will find ourselves at the end of this decade. — AFP pic

For over a decade, the USA ruled over a unipolar world and globalisation increased prosperity for many around the world.

Now this dynamic seems to be coming to an end. There are other powers who want a slice of the pie and the global economic pie itself seems to be shrinking so competition is fierce.

As these dynamics play out, smaller nations and of course individuals need to navigate these changes and make the best choices they can.

As nations go, Singapore is sitting very near the top of the pile at the moment.

Cash rich, extremely well-armed and with a tiny land area to defend... with a little luck we could really end up on top of the world in the next few years. But of course, things are never that easy to predict.

Malaysia, meanwhile, is on a knife edge. Its resources, diversified economy and educated workforce provide potential opportunities but issues like corruption and divisions between East And West Malaysia leave the nation vulnerable.

And for these two neighbours, 2023 will be a crucial year to tell us where we will find ourselves at the end of this decade.

Yet as individuals — as much as geopolitics and economics unfold day to day — nothing really changes. We need to find ways to make money, enjoy ourselves, laugh, play and learn even as the world around us looks a little less certain.

I mean the reality is historically uncertainty is the norm. Think of the generations before who lived through colonialism, world wars and cold wars.

Most of our parents and grandparents did that.

And before that, things were probably even more uncertain. So for most of us, it’s time to get on with it — find as much joy as we can and look after as many people as we can.

Here’s to a joyful new year, despite... everything.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.