The good news is that the 2022 outlook is looking brighter after two years of uncertainty and lockdowns.
The coronavirus pandemic that had forced the countries across the world to take unprecedented measures such as shutting down economies and closing the borders is likely to fade away in 2022 as predicted by top medical scientists of the world due largely to rising vaccination rates and developments of antiviral Covid pills that could become more widely available in the new year.
Economists and financial think tanks are also upbeat about a strong global economic recovery despite some bottlenecks, particularly the rising inflation fueled by the supply chain constraints. Also, they predict the new year will accelerate the journey to return to the pre-pandemic path.
The growing optimism prompts Chris Hyzy, chief investment officer for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank as he leads an Outlook 2022 discussion recently, to wonder whether the new year will be the dawn of a breakout era.
The year 2020 brought the world to a standstill resulting in the largest drop in global GDP history. Bangladesh was not shielded from the fallout as the growth of its flying economy suddenly dropped to 5% from over 8%.
As scientists were in a race against time to develop vaccines, their stunning success had shown a ray of hope at the end of 2020 for the survival of human beings by taming the virus. That hope got boosted in 2021 with the rollout of history's largest vaccination programmes.
More than 4.51 billion people, about 59% of the world population, have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. A third "booster" vaccine dose appears to offer protection against infections from the latest Omicron variant. At least 82 countries have begun booster vaccination programmes.
Around one and a half dozen vaccines are being used for inoculation and worldwide, more than 100 possible vaccines are undergoing trials.
Bangladesh has also done well in vaccinations in comparison to its peers. Beginning in January 2021, more than 53% of its people have been administered with at least one dose and 27% of them have been fully vaccinated. It has begun a booster programme too.
Like other countries, Bangladesh needs to continue the inoculation programmes as the Covid virus may never completely vanish.
Experts say that Covid will likely lose its "pandemic" status sometime in 2022. The virus will likely become "endemic," eventually fading in severity and folding into the backdrop of regular, everyday life, says a CNBC report.
Various strains of influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more, from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to the swine flu pandemic in 2009.
But there still is a fear as the economist Fahmida Khatun says the wheels of the economy may again come to a standstill if the new Omicron variant turns out to be as deadly as the Delta.
Though the coronavirus cases again surged due to the Omicron variant across the globe dampening the holiday weekend, the world is not in a knee jerk mode as it had reacted to the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. It's because of vaccinations that have strengthened the immune system of the global population.
Scientists are now cautiously optimistic that the variant may be a sign the virus is losing its power, despite the high infection figures. Countries in Europe and the US are taking some restrictive measures. But there has been no March 2020–style universal shutdown.
The success of taming the virus to a large extent through vaccination helped fuel the rise in consumer demands causing a ballooning demand to put pressure on the supply chain and inflation.
For decades, significant price growth eluded most major markets. Then, suddenly, a surge in demand coming out of the Covid-19 recession, coupled with lingering supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages, created a perfect storm for price increases, says Morgan Stanley.
"Inflation for developed markets is on track to reach 4.7% at the end of this year—not an insignificant number—and in a typical economic cycle, this would be a clear signal for central banks to raise rates and pump the brakes on growth. Then again, this cycle has been anything but typical."
"Things are normalising," says Morgan Stanley's Chief Global Economist Seth Carpenter, "but they are not normal."
Still, there is good news. The world economy is set to surpass $100 trillion for the first time in 2022, two years earlier than previously forecast, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a London based think tank.
The economic outlook of Bangladesh also looks bright. The World Bank, IMF and ADB projected a healthy growth in the new year. The country needs to maintain its pace of growth as it is set to graduate from LDC status in 2026. The year 2021 brought the good news: UN's final approval to leave the least developed country category. A smooth graduation will accelerate the journey to achieve the next big goals: becoming an upper middle income country by 2031 and becoming a developed country by 2040.
The country has its own problems to address. Of them, the state of poor governance has appeared to be a major hurdle in achieving the big goals. The year 2022 is likely to set the tone of the years to come as a formation of the new Election Commission will take place in February. Formation of a credible EC is the first major step to ensure a credible election at the end of 2023.
A credible election is a must for a functional parliament that can play an immense role in improving governance which appears as the biggest hurdle to the path of the economic development of the country and its people.
Shakhawat Liton is the Deputy Executive Editor of The Business Standard.