An Amazon ‘buyout’ of Cyprus, the demise of fake news and the widespread adoption of universal basic income are among a bank’s ‘outrageous predictions’ for 2021 which it says are ‘unlikely but underappreciated’.
Denmark’s Saxo Bank says the list of ten potential shocks to the market is an ‘exercise in considering the full extent of what is possible, even if not necessarily probable’.
But there is also the chance of a positive shock to the economy, with MIT scientists lining up a fusion reactor which could lead to the ‘largest upgrade in living standards ever witnessed’.
Here are all the imaginary scenarios which could cause a shock in 2021…
1. AMAZON ‘BUYS’ CYPRUS
In this scenario, Amazon launches a fightback against the efforts of various governments to limit its power and force it to pay more taxes.
Moving its EU headquarters to Cyprus, it persuades the government to rewrite the tax code and make it more favourable to Amazon.
The Cypriot authorities go along with this because even a small amount of Amazon revenue will help the island clear its massive public debts.
However, the EU hits back by forcing Cyprus to harmonise its tax rules with other European countries, while the US also launches a crusade against monopolies.
For sale? Beachgoers enjoy the sunshine in Cyprus – where Amazon could try to overhaul tax laws to escape governments’ attempts to wring more money from the firm
2. GERMANY BAILS OUT FRANCE
France falls into an economic crisis as firms go bust during repeated ‘stop and go’ lockdowns and the country’s debt continues to pile up.
The crisis leads to a banking sector sell-off and fears of a financial collapse, forcing Emmanuel Macron to beg Germany for help.
In an echo of the eurozone bailouts of the early 2010s, Angela Merkel becomes the key player in the rescue of the European economy.
In this scenario, Europe’s largest economy gives the green light for the European Central Bank to print more euros and enable a massive bailout of French banks.
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are all smiles in 2019… but they could be heading for bailout talks in 2021
3. TECHNOLOGY BANISHES FAKE NEWS
Mistrust in the ‘mainstream media’ reaches a ‘critical level’ in 2021, forcing publishers to take new measures.
Their response is to use blockchain, a type of ‘ledger’ used in the financial world to preserve an electronic record of Bitcoin transactions.
Blockchain news means that ‘every news item is always traceable to its original source’ and any changes in a news story are visible to everyone.
In an optimistic scenario, this means that conspiracy theories such as QAnon and anti-vaccine content are exposed as false and ‘suddenly become unavailable on major platforms’.
Browsing on Twitter could become a fake news-free experience thanks to new technology
4. CHINA’S NEW CURRENCY SPARKS DIGITAL REVOLUTION
Beijing pushes ahead with its digital currency, seen as the most advanced such project in the world, in order to create an ‘increasingly cashless society’.
The Chinese leadership opens the door for foreign investors to use the currency, making it a ‘compelling alternative to the US dollar’.
Amid a growing race for economic supremacy, Chinese government debt becomes more attractive for lenders than US Treasury bonds.
The digital revolution could also ‘boost Chinese consumption, fund an entirely new Chinese pension system and deepen the country’s capital markets’.
This Shanghai stock market display could bring positive news for the country in 2021 thanks to China’s new digital currency
5. FUSION ENERGY CHANGES THE WORLD
Fusion power has long been the dream of scientists who say it would release vast amounts of energy in a replica of the process that powers our Sun.
In 2021, the dream finally becomes a reality because of an AI algorithm which allows an MIT-designed reactor to make it work.
This brings the ‘biggest paradigm shift in energy technology since nuclear power’, leading to the dawn of commercial fusion power within only a few years.
‘The mastery of fusion energy opens up the prospect of a world no longer held back by water or food scarcity,’ the bank says. It’s a world with cheap transportation, fully unleashed robotics and automation tech, making the current young generation the last required to ‘work’ by necessity.
‘Best of all, fusion energy allows nearly every country to become food- and energy-independent and sees the most rapid and largest upgrade in living standards ever witnessed.’
The decades-old dream of fusion energy could finally become a reality in 2021
6. UNIVERSAL INCOME ‘DECIMATES’ BIG CITIES
The pandemic has made a government-funded basic income the norm for millions – and in 2021 the idea turns from a ‘panic response’ into a permanent reality.
Along with job redundancies and the rise of working from home, this means there is less and less need for people to work in city office jobs.
This is a disaster for big cities because property values are crushed and shops and restaurants feeding ‘worker drones’ are no longer viable.
Professionals and part-time workers also start fleeing cities because the ‘quality of life in small, over-priced apartments in higher crime neighbourhoods loses its appeal’.
This Manhattan removals worker might have more to do in 2021 if universal basic income leads to fewer people needing to live in cities
7. TECH SHARES GIVE US MORE LEISURE TIME
As a new way of tackling inequality, governments hand out shares in AI and other technology initiatives, allowing everyone to ‘participate in the productivity gains of the digital era’.
Priority is given to ‘displaced workers’ whose livelihoods have been massively disrupted by the rise of new technology.
Governments do this in order to fend off ‘deepening injustice’ which could lead to ‘political upheavals’ and ‘social unrest’.
Tackling inequality this way could also lead to a massive ‘uplift in leisure time’, ushering in a ‘golden age of culture and well-being’.
Parks like this one in Stockholm could be full of people if the redistribution of economic gains from technology leads to an increase in leisure time
8. A SUCCESSFUL VACCINE KILLS OFF COMPANIES
Governments hope that the incoming Covid-19 vaccines will put a stop to the unprecedented economic standstill of the last year.
But in this scenario, it turns out that ‘the economy was vastly over-stimulated’ with printed money during the pandemic, meaning that a ‘ripping post-vaccine recovery rapidly overheats the economy’ because so much money is available.
Spooked by surging inflation, central bankers try to slow the economy again, but this leads to even more companies going bust.
Companies with ‘physical retail space’ who were already struggling in the pre-pandemic economy are the first to go in this scenario.
People are vaccinated against Covid-19 in Britain today at the start of a global inoculation programme – which could lead to the economy ‘overheating’
9. SOLAR PANELS SEND COST OF SILVER SURGING
As 2021 begins, hard assets such as silver are in high demand because other investments such as the US dollar are weak and interest rates are still negative.
But silver is also needed for solar power and other industrial applications, and growing demand for these causes a shortage of the precious metal.
This pushes up the cost of solar power, frustrating efforts to tackle climate change by the Biden presidency and the EU.
Joe Biden’s environmental agenda could be set back by the surging cost of silver which is needed for solar panels
10. TECH ‘SUPERCHARGES’ EMERGING MARKETS
The cost of connecting emerging markets to the internet is ‘crushed’ by the arrival of satellite-based internet systems such as SpaceX’s Starlink.
The satellites, of which there could be as many as 1,500 by the end of 2021, also bring a massive increase in internet speeds.
Schools and businesses reap the benefits of the faster internet speeds, while new financial apps connect people worldwide to the digital economy.
Developing countries are also given a boost by drone technology, which helps people improve agricultural practices outside major cities and towns.
Sea of satellites: SpaceX technology could lead to a revolution in internet speeds