The Year Ahead: Are You Ready?

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Plus: Corporate Communication Trends: What's Hot and What's Not

From discussions with more than 340 experts in diverse fields including business, finance, journalism, the arts, academia and the nonprofit sector, we have identified a set of noteworthy trends for 1999.

There is plenty of good news in the world today. But what will dominate discussions in 1999 are the uncertainties surrounding the Clinton presidency; the political shifts in Europe and the new euro currency; the fragile nature of the global economy; a possible contraction on Wall Street; layoffs and rationalizations resulting from the many mergers and consolidations that have taken and will take place; the continuing problems in Asia; rapid changes in the media; the unprecedented advance of high tech; the millennium; economic dislocation problems in Russia; rising terrorism; and continuing pressures on the ideas and central systems that have shaped modern life.

Indeed, we believe the basic and fundamental shifts that are now well under way, but that will take deeper root in 1999, will create vast changes in the world on a scale similar to that of 1968.

To set the stage, we need to recognize that 1999 will be a bellwether year - one that may well determine the direction of the world for at least the first decade of the new millennium with respect to: 1. the world economy; 2. global political stability; 3. momentum toward democracy vs. retrogression to authoritarian government; and 4. support for, or challenges to, U.S. leadership by regional blocs including the European Union, the Pacific Rim nations (especially Japan, China and India), and the Muslim nations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON U.S. LEADERSHIP

There is no doubt that, at present, the United States is the unquestioned world leader in every vital area: economic, military and political. In maintaining global economic growth, containing or resolving dangerous regional conflicts, or setting the international agenda on such issues as the environment, energy policy and trade, the U.S. is clearly expected to take the lead.

But confidence in U.S. leadership is weakening as the decade nears its end because of:

1. the Asian economic crisis and its domino effect on Russia, Brazil and the emerging nations in general

2. a domestic crisis of confidence in President Clinton's leadership in the wake of Whitewater, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the latest problems with Iraq and impeachment

3. the Clinton administration's inability to win solid support from its NATO allies in dealing with the conflict in Kosovo and from its Arab friends in handling Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

EFFECT OF THE IMPEACHMENT MOVE

(Editor's note; As we go to press, the U.S. Senate is still deliberating the impeachment of U.S. President Clinton. It is possible that this matter will have been resolved by the time you read this: however, we think you'll find the comments interesting, regardless of the outcome.)

To a great extent, U.S. President Clinton's and the country's performance in critical leadership areas in 1999 will depend largely on how the U.S. Senate deals with the impeachment issue. A swift, bipartisan resolution with agreement on a resolution of censure or rebuke as opposed to a prolonged, full-scale trial on the two articles of impeachment approved by the House could set the stage for Clinton and the Congress to agree on a positive agenda and provide a continuation of world leadership by the United States.

But a full-scale impeachment trial by the Senate could not really get under way before mid-January and could drag on for at least several months. The federal government would be gridlocked for the first part of 1999, and whatever the outcome, partisan rancor and bitterness fueled by the trial would ensure deadlock on domestic issues and a dangerous weakening of U.S. influence abroad. …

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