“Change is the end result of all true learning”. Leo Buscaglia
As the end of the year fast approaches I, like many others I imagine, look back and ask how did this year go by so quickly? I know, I’m sounding like your grandmother. But maybe this hectic year, full of ups and downs, has added a few extra gray hairs. For me, as I say goodbye to 2016 it will be remembered as a year of great change.
The three countries that I call home all had momentous events that will have a far-reaching impact for many years to come. I doubt anyone could have predicted the choices that would be made when we began 2016.
Brexit ballot photo courtesy of creative commons license via (Mick Baker) rooster, Brexit https://www.flickr.com/
In June the Brits conducted a referendum (a pretty rare event) to decide if the country should exit the European Union. Leading up to the vote even the bookies gave the Leave camp little chance of success. Interestingly bookies are often more accurate than all polls or television pundits. A turnout of almost 72% (roughly 30 million people) demonstrated the strength of feeling citizens had on this issue. But the shock waves on the morning of the 24th June when it was announced that Leave had won the day with 52% of the vote are still being felt today as the country grapples with how it will go forward.
For me, the shock was the huge divisions that the referendum highlighted. A poll reported that 75% of under 25s voted to remain compared to only 39% of the over 65s. There was also a vast geographical divide. The Remain vote was robust in Scotland 62%, Northern Ireland 55% and London at almost 60%. But in comparison, the Home Counties voted very strongly to Leave. Sadly misinformation and scaremongering tactics played a major role in the campaign. Only time will tell if the referendum returned the right decision for the people who voted loudly for change.
Donald Trump photo courtesy of creative commons license via Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/
Although US presidential elections only take place every four years it seems that the run-up to the vote takes an eternity, with many twists and turns along the journey to the coronation. The Republican Party began with a huge pool of 17 candidates. Compare that number to the Democrats who began with six but went down to two almost immediately. The somewhat contentious primary campaign, when the two major parties decide on a candidate, was a meager preview of what was to come when Trump v Clinton went head to head. Polls produced on a seemingly daily basis swung widely from one candidate to the other. Each candidate was far ahead of the other- depending on what television program you watched!
One gaffe (to put it politely) after another lulled me into thinking it was a foregone conclusion as to what candidate would be triumphant. Being overseas for much of the campaign I watched the international press have a field day talking about ‘those crazy Americans’. But nothing could prepare me for the sense of grief (yes I know that’s a strong word but it best describes my feelings) when the final result was confirmed. As with Brexit, the people have spoken. So it’s time to make the best of the situation and hope that there will be some positives drawn out of this seemingly unbelievable situation. (Putting on my happy face now).
As I sat in Mumbai watching the results from the US elections begin to trickle in on the television, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly halted coverage for a surprise address. With only a few hours notice, Modi announced the demonetization of all 500 and 1000 Rupee notes in circulation. This statement has to be put into perspective to fully grasp the magnitude of such a move. India is predominantly a cash society with many preferring to stash their cash ‘under the mattress’ rather than entrust a bank. It is estimated that Modi’s surprise action pulled about 86% of the currency out of circulation. Just read that last sentence again – quite unbelievable. Add to that fact that banks would be closed for two days following the announcement of the demonetization, and new currency would only begin to trickle into the market in the following weeks.
Provisions were put into place for the old currency to be exchanged (once the new notes were printed) or paid into a bank account (presuming you had one, which many did not). Once the banks reopened long lines began to form from early morning until late each night. Modi’s move was bold. Many Indians admired his attempt to tackle ‘black money’ believed to be used to avoid paying taxes and finance terrorism. Coming at the start of the Indian wedding season, just after the main holiday of Diwali, and at the start of the tourist season seems a little strange timing. It appears that the demonetization was a surprise to even some of Modi’s cabinet.
Thankfully my credit card still worked for the remainder of my visit for the essentials I needed to purchase. But I could no longer buy fruit and vegetables from the local market, give my cleaner and driver their usual weekly cash tips, or buy the crafts that local vendors sold at the expat meetings. I have a few of the old notes still in my purse. I’m hoping that David will brave the bank to change them up on his next visit (before the deadline of 30 December) and that when I return in February next year the new currency will be fully in circulation and vendors will have sufficient change for the new 2000 Rupee notes.
The three events I describe above are still creating many headlines as the impact is felt around the globe. For many this will go down as an ‘annus horribilis‘ so I am truly thankful that my family had some major ups to balance out the world events. We welcomed a new daughter in law into our family, successful moves of residence and jobs took place, and we got to enjoy spending time together as an extended family group. I must admit to hoping for a slightly less eventful 2017, but I’m not holding my breath.
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Happy New Year!