2014: Person of the Year

Once again, Navneet Munot, CIO at SBI Mutual Fund, has a very unique take on who should bag the title Person of the Year 2014.
By Guest |  02-01-15

Like every year, there were several contenders.

2014 is the silver jubilee year of the fall of Berlin wall. This year, we saw the U.S. and Cuba coming closer. Compared to our history, present times might be termed as the most peaceful time ever. Online war games may be popular, but mankind is surely less violent now than previous generations.

Yes, there are reasons to cheer but several to be cautious. Meltdown in oil and ruble haven't yet drowned the ambitions of Russia's Vladimir Putin. He is a smart Judo player and unpredictable. The volcanic rise of Islamic State, or ISIS, will go down as the worst intelligence failure since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1930s. The world is under-estimating their network, influence and ambitions. I worry about regimes like Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, Syria and Sudan where sinking oil revenues may create severe disruptions. One needs to watch developments in Saudi Arabia.

Sights of thousands of refugees fleeing their African homeland, shooting down of Malaysian airline’s MH17 and the Sydney siege scare me. The hacking following Sony pictures’ The interview exposes new dangers of cyber warfare. We cheered Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi on winning Nobel peace prize for children’s cause but the blood in Peshawar has stained humanity’s soul that no tears can wipe off. Fragility lurks beneath the veneer of a calm world. It is 100 years since the first gunshots of World War I were fired. Hope we learn the right lessons from history and the global leadership rises to the occasion.

In a world devoid of strong leaders, Narendra Modi stands tall. He was a rock star in the U.S. and Australia and got the United Nations to agree on a “World Yoga day”. He played drums in Kyoto and charmed the Japanese while getting Russian and Chinese Premiers savour Gujarati dishes here. Marketers have much to learn from “Abki Baar, Modi Sarkar” campaign and his smart use of radio, social media and technology. A broom now reminds of ‘Clean India movement’ and not the Aam Admi party, or AAP. They say, stars have aligned for him. I say, destiny favours the determined.

BJP and winds of change swept the states of Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. State chief ministers are competing for investments and their reforms for “make in my state” would lead to success of “make in India”. I salute the people of J&K for bravely combating Nature's fury and for fighting bullets with ballots.

Could it be the judicial activism? We saw the mightiest of politicians and businessmen go behind the bars. Courts may not get back India's black money stashed abroad but they have ensured days of milking money from black gold (coal) are over.

Referendums in Crimea, Scotland and Switzerland were interesting. Scots decided to remain "better together" with UK. The Swiss thumbed down a proposal that Gold should form at least 20% of SNB’s assets. Investors should look at precious metals again to hedge global left tail risks. Yes, despite the strong dollar and weaker commodities.

The commodity “super-cycle” is ending as witnessed in prices of crude oil to milk products, iron ore to thermal coal, cotton to copper, sugar to grains. Whether its terms of trade or political power structure, flow of savings or investments, fall in commodity will alter the world structurally. Countries joined by a simplistic acronym BRICS would be impacted so differently. The “turn of tables in the commodities market” was a strong contender.

The Chinese government is dealing decisively with issues of corruption, pollution, property bubble and shadow banking. Global investors are worried about risks like protests in Hong Kong but buoyed by rate cuts, retail investors truly looked like "bulls in a china shop" pushing the Shanghai index 40% higher. In their “year of Horse”, Alibaba made giant strides and the Jack (Ma) of all things e-commerce is a master contender.

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