2004: A Look Ahead
The year 2003 was one of mixed and confusing signals. Stock prices rose, yet debt increased. The dollar sunk, but the Fed still printed more greenbacks. The Butcher of Baghdad was caught, yet voices continued to condemn U.S. strategy in Iraq. Experts said the economy was improving, but jobs remained scarce. It was the hottest year ever, but some regions broke records for sub-zero temperatures.
What’s going on? Out of the confusion of 2003, is there any hope of making reliable predictions about 2004?
Yes, indeed, there is. The key is to consider the trends, relate them to history, and align them with an impeccable source of the vision of the future—infallible Bible prophecy!
Consider the economy. Rumbles of trade war loom large on the horizon. Issues such as protective tariffs will continue to fester as the world continues to coalesce into separate free-trade blocs. It will be national economies, their global counterparts and how they relate to each other that will dominate our news this year, second only to foreign-policy issues. The finger is pointing to the out-of-control U.S. economy as a harbinger of global economic grief.
A little homework reviewing the past year’s record levels in new debt, in federal deficits, in trade imbalances, in bankruptcies and the continuing corporate fraud which seems now to be endemic to the way we do business, does little to raise hopes for a bright fiscal 2004.
The fact that the hoped-for surge in employment just has not materialized in America should lead anyone to conclude, as one Morgan Stanley professional actually did, that “there’s something new and big going on that will continue to defy the optimistic spin that is now being put on a still very sluggish American labor market” (Daily Reckoning, Dec. 15, 2003).
Despite other positive signs, on December 12 Reuters ran the headline, “Consumers Turn Gloomy Despite Good News.” A preliminary reading from the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index indicated that consumer spending will continue to drop in 2004 rather than rise as many economists had hoped. Even after the capture of Saddam Hussein, market watcher Addison Wiggin said, “Alas, the Butcher of Baghdad is no match for the two-headed ghoul that has been stalking the dollar of late: the ‘twin deficits—fiscal and trade.’ Expect the dollar to begin running scared again. Soon” (ibid.).
We drifted into the year 2004 on the news that the U.S. needs to attract $1.5 billion a day to offset the shortfall in the current account and maintain the dollar’s value. The trouble is, international investors are reducing their previously high purchase levels of U.S. bonds, which are the only means of underpinning American consumer spending.
This year we shall continue to see the progressive dismantling of any remaining locally owned industries within the English-speaking nations as consumers maintain the fiction of a “quality” lifestyle, surrounded by Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and Indian manufactured goods. In return, Asian suppliers receive only ious (federal bonds). Something has to eventually give. How long will America’s Asian suppliers continue to put up with receiving worthless paper in exchange for manufactured goods?
Added to all this is the toboggan slide of the U.S. dollar ripping great slices off the profits of international oil contracts. How long will it be before future oil contracts are denominated in euros, as some European-Russian contracts already are? Not only would that be devastating to the U.S. economy, it would result in turning global energy markets on their heads!
The purchasing power of the graying baby-boomers’ retirement funds will continue to erode. The social chaos to which this will lead as this year merges into the next few years hardly can be overestimated.
It has been said that when America sneezes, the whole world catches cold. The U.S. is running an economic and financial fever that the basic laws of economics indicate will peak in the mother of all financial headaches—leading inevitably to a seismic global economic restructuring. Few realize the Babylonish origin of our fiat money system. It was ultimately destined to fail. The only question has been the timing. Read Revelation 18:9-11 for the outcome to which this year’s trends will lead.
The year 2004 will see a rash of important elections in those nations tied by a common, once proud, now largely despised, Anglo-Saxon heritage. Two of the prime partners in the coalition against terror will each have a federal election to decide their leadership this year—the U.S. and Australia.
Early signs were that the capture of Saddam Hussein augured well for the re-election of President Bush. Two major factors to watch on the American election scene remain the war on terror and the perceived state of the economy—hot political issues that can swing the polls dramatically overnight.
With Australians increasingly aware of their country’s vulnerability to terrorism, and relations between the U.S. and Australia continuing to strengthen, the chances of Prime Minister John Howard’s return to office look good.
In Britain, watch conservative opposition leader, Michael Howard. He combines a high degree of eloquence in debate with a much leaner, but stronger, shadow cabinet than has been the case in divided conservative ranks since, perhaps, the days of Margaret Thatcher, under whom he once served. As an EU member, Britain will be involved in the federal European parliamentary elections in June. Michael Howard has just six months to put the case for the Euroskeptics and promote candidates for those elections who will work for British interests inside the EU. His future may rise or fall on the consequences.
The deck seems stacked in favor of Vladimir Putin in Russia’s presidential election this March. However, this will be preceded in January by Georgia’s parliamentary election. This breakaway ex-Soviet state could yet prove a handful for the Russian leader as he seeks to rebuild the old Russian empire into an international force to be reckoned with.
Putin’s attention will also be diverted to the renegade province of Chechnya, where parliamentary elections take place this month. The Chechen rebels seek a separate Islamic state. Russia is intent on holding the line on the northward incursion of Islam. Putin built his parliamentary campaign around this issue, which struck a chord with Russians tired of Chechen terrorism.
In East Asia, elections in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea should be watched with interest as all three countries bear some influence on the situation of mainland China. Of greatest interest will be March’s presidential elections in Taiwan. Will President Chen Shui-bian intensify his “separate Taiwan” rhetoric and risk the ire of China and severance from its main arms supplier, America?
The outcome of Indonesia’s parliamentary elections in April and presidential elections in July could well have a bearing on how easily Australians breathe, being mindful of the terrorist bombing that killed 88 Australian citizens in Bali two years ago. The war on terror will also be a continuing theme in the presidential and legislative elections to be held in the Philippines in May. Muslim terror cells still train and operate within its thousands of islands. Regional eyes will also be watching new Malaysia Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s leadership to follow through on his anti-terrorist rhetoric against Asian-based Islamic terrorists with assertive action. He will oversee legislative elections in December.
To the north, Japan will continue to strengthen its naval position, intent on keeping open the vital shipping lanes upon which it is so dependent for energy and natural resources. Re-elected Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will press ahead to ease changes into the Japanese constitution to replace the clause which ostensibly prevents Japan from developing military force beyond homeland security—in order to realize a longer-term vision of reasserting Tokyo’s influence within greater Asia.
Continue to watch the tussle between Japan, China and the Southeast Asian economies as each seeks to take the high ground in efforts to build a common market for Asia.
Presidents Vicente Fox of Mexico, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Néstor Kirchner of Argentina face some hard choices to kick start their countries’ economic and trade performance in 2004. The Bush administration’s efforts to ink free-trade deals with various Latino countries may offer a stop-gap measure, but the European Union is working on the longer term maximization of investment in South America, luring the Latin economies away from the U.S. Keep your eye on the EU as we anticipate its increasing negotiations with mercosur (the South American free trade association) in process of developing free-trade incentives between the two continents.
What hope is there for Africa in 2004? Many write off central Africa as a basket case. The international community hypocritically has allowed Robert Mugabe and his ilk to literally get away with murder. North Africa is a hotbed of terrorist cells, and South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki continues to play the ostrich on the aids issue. Expect more famine, more disease, more weeping over this still largely darkened continent, as slavering merchants, corporatists and bureaucrats in Europe bide their time until the price for Africa’s massive resources is right.
It is in Europe where much of the news of note, destined to affect you and your loved ones, will be written in 2004. Major events scheduled for this year are the accession of 10 nations from the east and south to EU membership in May, European parliamentary elections scheduled for June, and parliamentary elections due to take place in France in September. But it is the legacy of the failed constitutional convention of last December which will have greatest effect on Europe in 2004, for it is this event which has the potential to either slow down or spur forward fulfillment of the dream of European unity.
As we enter the new year, the world views a largely divided, argumentative, seemingly confused mess of nations which, though they carry the name European Union, appear the very antithesis of unity. Do not be fooled! This very state of seeming disunity will actually create the crisis that certain European minds thrive on fixing—their way! Europe has never unified voluntary. When it has been unified in the past, that unity has been imposed upon it—by force!
It will take more than the doubtful quality of leadership provided by French President Jacques Chirac or German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to pull this rag-tag bunch of nations together. What is presently lacking is the demagogic leader and the powerful religious force which have traditionally been able to create the magic of unity within this complex of nation-states.
Bible prophecy indicates that those powerfully influential leaders must be on the scene, somewhere, in Europe right now. Who are they? When will circumstances arise that will propel them to the fore? Will the further crisis created by absorbing 10 new nations into the EU this May prove to be the event which exposes that strong leader whom this magazine has always predicted will arise to lead Europe in a final resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire? Will the present pope’s death usher in that influential religious leader who will empower the Vatican to provide the spiritual glue to bind the fractious nations of Europe together for a brief moment in time? Follow these trends as the year unfolds.
Continuing efforts to implement a plan that allows for the creation of a separate Palestinian state will tend to dominate events in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has given till the middle of this year for the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan to produce results. If it fails, Sharon has warned that he will complete the West Bank security wall that imposes itself on large areas of land sought by the Palestinians as part of their state.
Europe, Germany in particular, will eventually take over and conclude the Middle East peace process. Watch for developments along this theme during 2004. Notwithstanding the German government’s strident resistance to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Germany will also insist on significant involvement in Iraq’s reconstruction—likely with the UN’s backing.
Although 2004 may bring negative trends, a true vision of hope emerges for those with the perspective to see their ultimate outcome. The events foreshadowed in this article are coalescing toward the ultimate demise of man’s civilization as we know it.
The good news is, as events climax toward the close of this doomed civilization, the scene is being set for a far better civilization, destined to open mankind’s potential to fulfill the most noble aspirations possible. You need that vision in order to contend with and understand the reasons for the negativity of world trends. Request your free copy of our mind-opening book The Incredible Human Potential to gain a perspective far beyond the year ahead, on into humankind’s breathtaking future!