An Eventful 2013; An Uncertain 2014

As we bid adieu to an eventful 2013 tomorrow, we look towards an uncertain 2014. What will it bring ?

From political conflicts to natural disasters, from business failures to sporting triumphs, and from princely births to significant demises, the year 2013 was a busy year for those like me, in the business of news.

In Syria, civil war killings continued to make headlines throughout the year. Syrians faced danger after danger. And by the end of 2013, thousands of refugees faced yet another danger – the unexpected snow and the deathly cold which descended on their flimsy make-shift camps. They are still looking for warm clothes and shelters.

In Iran, a new President took over. Hassan Rouhani, a Muslim cleric, lawyer, academic and former diplomat, became the seventh President of Iran. His diplomatic skills were quickly put to test, and what resulted was a deal that surprised the world.

In Switzerland, this very special US-Iran deal was signed.  Under this accord, reached in Geneva, Iran agrees to limit its uranium enrichment for six months in return for an easing of some sanctions, pending a negotiation of a permanent deal.

In Mali, Hollande’s French troops led the West-African alliance to liberate a large portion of the country from Ansar Dine – an Al Qaeda linked Islamic militant outfit – which threatened to take full control. Operation Serval is still going on.

In Japan, Sony lost $2.2 billion in market value on just November 1, after its CEO cut its earnings forecast. The once global electronic giant is trying hard to combat the extremely-fast-paced-and-mind-boggling innovations by companies like Apple and Samsung.

In South Africa, the world’s greatest living peacemaker Nelson Madela stopped living. And a host of world leaders converged into the country to pay homage to a great man who made the long walk to freedom, and peace.

In Vatican, another man of peace made news. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years. As Pope Francis, he now heads the global Roman Catholic Church.

In Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Typhoon Yolanda – devastated cities and towns packing the highest typhoon winds yet recorded, and killing at least 6,109. 

In India, the year began with protests against the brutal gang-rape and killing of a young woman in a bus in Delhi. The deafening crescendo of the protests got the world aghast. The year ended with the same Delhi state assembly electing a new Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. This anti corruption activist, and his barely one-year old Aam Admi Party, crushed the very-long-term-now-somewhat-over-confident national political parties, Congress and BJP.

In Egypt, an elected Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi was ousted out of power throwing the country, as some said, back on to square one. Only time will tell if it is for the better, or worse, of a country that, apparently, knows not where it is going.

In UK, Prince George was born. The arrival of this brand new heir to British throne, born to Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, brought special joy to a country besotted by royalty.  So now, the men-in-waiting, after Queen Elizabeth II, are from three generations – Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George, in that order.

In Bahrain, among the international events held were the United Nations Public Service Awards and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Water Report release. The global attention that this small country is attracting by hosting many such world class events is making it a major hub for the growing Middle East MICE (Meetings Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) industry.  

But, what has 2014 in store for us?

In India, elections will be held to decide the new Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy. Will it be Narendra Modi? Rahul Gandhi?  Or someone else? The political tectonic shifts in India would make it an interesting political spectacle to watch.

In Russia, Winter Olympics will be held in February in Sochi, a beautiful holiday spot often called the Riviera of the Caucasus.  But Doku Umarov, the Chechen Islamist leader and self-styled Emir of the Caucasus, has promised to use “maximum force” to stop these Games. Will Vladmir Putin handle this opposition well?

In Brazil, the FIFA World cup 2014 would give us new champions of World Soccer. Which country would that be? Will Spain retain the title?

In Bahrain, yet another Parliamentary election will be held . Will I write by then that the opposition has returned to the dialogue table? And that it has also participated in the elections? I hope I will.

Also in Bahrain would be the elections to the board of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which I hope would bring in new leadership that works towards making this economy more vibrant and robust.

Bahrain, we know, will begin the New Year with the Bahrain International Air Show in a few days time.

And Saudi Falcons, Russian Knights, Breitling Wingwalkers, Red Devils and Saudi Hawks will be flying in and out of formations, high in the clouds, mesmerizing the crowds.

But I hope that more than the planes, this beautiful country’s people will soar up into the skies, in a splendid team-formation – broadcasting Bahrain’s unity, energizing its economy, and propelling its prosperity.