A new year, 2016. Suddenly we are into the second half of the second decade of the 21st century. If the millennium seems like yesterday, consider that at that time the numbers 9/11 meant nothing in particular; words such as al Qaeda and jihad were unknown to most of us. So were "Facebook", "smartphone" and "global financial crisis". Few New Zealanders had heard of someone named John Key. It was a new century. Yet, already, it feels like we have been in it for ever.
It has been a good century for New Zealand so far, less so for the world. New Zealand has enjoyed a long period of comparative economic and political stability under two three-term governments, first led by Labour, now National. The economy slipped into recession a year before the global crisis but regained growth sooner than most and enters 2016 with continuing immigration gains, strong tourism and, hopefully, more house building in Auckland.
The only cloud in the sky this brilliant summer is the threat of drought it brings to our rural industry still suffering from diminished dairy returns.
Politically the year will bring a referendum on replacing the flag, which could be closer than predicted before an alternative was chosen, and a debate on euthanasia which should be well-informed once a committee of Parliament has heard the concerns of all sides. Electorally, interest will turn to local government, especially in Auckland, where a new mayor will be chosen. But the year's most interesting election is likely to be the United States' presidential contest, particularly the Republican primaries that begin in a few weeks.
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It is fervently to be hoped the new year brings more sense to Republican voters than they showed throughout last year with their support in polls for Donald Trump. The bullying braggart made no attempt to disguise his ignorance of most of the issues the next President will face, but the more obnoxious he became the higher he polled. Last year was the phony war, though, and now Americans may get serious. The young senator Marco Rubio looks the Republicans' best candidate to run against Hillary Clinton, almost certainly, later in the year.
US voters are already enjoying an economic upturn with unemployment down and the outlook strong enough for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates last month for the first time since the financial crisis. Few other large economies are in the same condition. Europe and Japan are still on artificial stimulants, coming into the eighth year since the crisis. China's rapid development has finished and no longer has the demand for minerals and commodities that gave suppliers such as Australia a boom.
Meanwhile, refugees from Syria and other war-ravaged Islamic countries are seeking asylum in Europe where those who made it to Germany in the rush last (northern) summer are finding their reception turning as chilly as the weather. Their welcome has not been helped by mass murder in Paris though the culprits were homegrown adherents of an "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria.
Isis lost a city this week, and it is being squeezed by powers now almost united in the quest to destroy it. That would be a happy new year.
All the best to our readers for 2016.