If last year taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected. Just weeks into 2016, the world of economics was wondering if we were on the verge of another full-blown banking crisis. Expert opinions varied, with the most intelligent City analysts honest enough to admit they simply couldn’t tell if another crunch was around the corner.
As it turned out, financial carnage was avoided, but this degree of unpredictability went on to haunt the rest of the year – especially in the political realm – and will now spill into 2017. With Donald Trump’s inauguration setting the tempo for the current year, and Article 50 expected to be triggered by the end of the first quarter, it is little surprise that business surveys reveal consistently high levels of concern over the uncertainty to come.
Read more: Article 50: What happens next?
The risks facing the world should not be downplayed; unfortunately, there are numerous reasons to fear for geo-political stability, as Trump’s impulsive and invariably ill-considered outbursts remind us on a daily basis. But such threats have lingered over the West for most of the past 70 years, during which time humankind has made extraordinary progress. While political strife has hovered above our heads for the majority of recent history, businesses, and the markets in which they operate, have kept buzzing away as usual. Free from the constraints of central control, the health of markets does not depend on reassuring words from government leaders, or on the mythical “certainty” that simply does not exist in the real world.
Whatever events unfold in the year to come, and whatever chaos is unleashed by our political masters, millions of individuals and businesses will calmly and diligently adapt to the changing climate, in the knowledge that those who adapt quickest will gain a crucial advantage over their rivals. The economy has defied forecasts of a post-referendum downturn in the last six months, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to do so throughout 2017. Pundits, politicos and talking heads will mull over each fresh wave of uncertainty, but hand-wringing isn’t a business strategy and most firms will do what they always do: knuckle down and push on.