by Jesmond Saliba
Twelve months ago, the world was waiting in trepidation the turn of the year with a probably illogical expectation that 2021 would signal a fresh start to our lives and livelihoods. Fast forward one year, and here we are once again reading reports of increasing infections and deaths, as Western European nations consider new social restrictions and increasing lockdowns to limit the stem of coronavirus cases.
As vaccination drives progressed and restrictions were lifted, growth around the European continent was strong, a 2.2% increase in the third quarter, with employment also rising 0.9% in the euro area. Yet mounting headwinds cast a shadow on such progress, with supply side challenges slowing down a number of key industries, including global logistics and the production of raw materials and microprocessors.
Concurrently, supply-side shortages, including labour, as well as surging energy prices, are adding to the disruptions, which will inevitably lead to knock-on effects on consumer consumption and business investment. In this edition of CD PRO, we sat down with key business leaders and sought to get into the deep end of the perfect storm which has seen delivery and transport cost increasing by a staggering 800%.
Yet, there are other clouds looming on the horizon. As expected during a pandemic which brought economies to their knees, governments spent and spent, shooting debt levels through the roof. The pandemic-induced recession of 2020 has created the largest one-year surge in global debt since at least 1970. Evidently, not only Covid support measures will come to an end over the coming months, but expenditure and investment by governments around the world will have to scale back their activity in order to reign order in their finances.
Decision-making at this critical juncture will determine the livehoods of millions around the globe. As the logistics and energy crisis both proof, the future of nations is increasingly interconnected. This is why, looking within Malta’s neighbourhood, the European Union needs to rise to the occasion, identifying concerted and coherent strategies to deliver a longer-term, sustainable regeneration.
It is evident that no nation can take these multitude of challenges on its own. In this context, the European Union is strategically equipped to drive the recovery based on new technology, environmental leadership, sustainable business models, energy justice and social inclusion. Yet, such bold ambition is bound to fail unless political and social divergences are addressed with urgency.
At the centre of these efforts, an unprecedented drive to invest in skills is fundamental, to ensure that European citizens drive, but also benefit from, the creation of a new, sustainable future.
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