Thanks for 2011 – my how the world's changing

Wrapping up this year and looking ahead a bit to the next

The year's winding right down now, and thanks the stars 2011 is over. Happy to see it go by. Eleanor and I are off for a few days at the beach before our second child is due.

The other pundits are all able to post if they can muster the energy – thanks for your work today Mike! But I imagine it'll be meagre bloggy rations here at Pundit for the next week or so.

But I didn't want to finish cleaning out the fridge and packing the car without saying thanks to every one of you visitors to Pundit, who make it all worthwhile. The site's still growing, but we know well that, like New Zealand in many ways, we box above our weight. We're influential in our own small way because of the quality if the writing and the powerful people who read and monitor the site.

It looks like 118,000 unique visitors will have darkened our door this year – there have been a total of 365,822 visits this year, as I write this. Tuesdays and Wednesdays seems to be our biggest days, but our largest single day was a Thursday.

November was a big month for us – as you'd expect around an election, given the amount we write about politics. We were getting over a thousand visits every week day.

And the great thing is that when you come for a look, you stick around for a chat. We like that. Our friends at Scoop – who help us make tens of dollars from advertising! – tell us that in November a Neilsen study of hundreds of New Zealand sites ranked Pundit as the fifth most commented on website (53%), ahead of even Kiwiblog on a per capita basis.

So thanks.

Next year? It seems to me that, unknown unknowns aside, the big news will be global and economic. Of course we have the US elections, but the real heat will come from the rest of the world. If the Euro has the same membership this time next year, I'd be surprised. And one or three countries pulling out and taking the hit may be the best way to reduce debt. "Default" is likely to be a much-used word next year and the whole European project will come under immense pressure.

But let's not be too lacksidasical or "told you so"-ish about the EU. Peace is a valuable dividend from a contintent that lost so many lives to war in the past century. It's in all our interests that these countries find common cause.

It's going to be a year of haircuts for banks across the continent – and further afield. And frankly, it's no more than they deserve. Many of them have not yet felt their share of the pain from the dumb debt decisions of the past few decades.

New Zealand remains in a lucky position. Our country produces stuff the world still wants to buy and we're close to the growing economies of Asia.

The changing global hierachy remains the big, if naturally slow-moving, story of our times. Look at the story in our World News Brief today – the Brazilian economy is now larger than Britain's. When we were growing up in the shadow of Empire, in classrooms with maps dominated by imperial pink, who would have thought it?

'The West' is fading, dimmed by debt and greed. The Occupy crowd might not be the vanguard of revolution, but they are on the pulse. Corporate greed, crony capitalism and the unhealthy gap between rich and poor lie at the heart of western weakness and have to be addressed.

There's a long way to go in this story – the corruption in most of the fastest growing countries is worse, the violence and oppression more severe. But power is changing hands.

Look at that World Economic League Table and you see how. The table's producer, UK-based CEBR (Centre for Economics and Business Research) chief executive Douglas McWilliams, says:

"Brazil has beaten the European countries at soccer for a long time, but beating them at economics is a new phenomenon. Our world economic league table shows how the economic map is changing, with Asian countries and commodity-producing economies climbing up the league while we in Europe fall back."

The World Economic League Table shows the US ranked top this year, followed by China, Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, UK, Italy, Russia and India. However for 2020 the forecast is as follows: America followed by China, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil, Germany, UK, France and Italy.

And, to be honest, you've got to wonder if they're not being a bit optimistic about France and Italy. The growth is coming in countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, while the first world is gripped by unrelenting recessionishness.

This all raises serious questions for democracy and capitalism and the assumption that the West had maximised the combination of the two.Of course here in New Zealand, the question is how we respond and whether our minds are sharp enough to read the puzzles and patterns presenting themselves.

Anyway, that's quite enough hard thinking for today. The beach beckons.

Thanks again for all your contributions in 2011 and happy new year.