Written by Sjoerd Bakker
April 22, 2021

In the West, we may be able to end the coronavirus pandemic this year, but a combination of problems could come to haunt us in the years to come. First of all, the virus will probably never really go away and may even force us into new lockdowns periodically. Especially as long as the virus is able to mutate and spread from other, developing countries. Second, governments are building up huge amounts of debt. In Europe alone, this amounts to more than €5 trillion and if and when interest rates start to rise again, this could pose serious problems for several countries. Third, groups in society fiercely disagree on strategies and priorities in battling the pandemic; the polarization, mutual distrust and violence will leave societies divided and scarred.

So, while we are all hoping to regain our freedom and restore the economy, the future may look a bit less bright. That is, from a somewhat pessimistic perspective, we’re facing a future in which deeply divided societies will have to figure out whether and how to cut public budgets or invest in new opportunities. Somewhat similar to the 1980s, this situation could easily lead to a prolonged period of economic and societal impasse.

Burning questions:

  • Will lockdown savings, due to travel bans and other brakes on spending, be spent as soon as lockdowns ease? Can such spending prevent a long term economic impasse?
  • Will nations remain divided after the pandemic or are we able to reunite? What kind of grand narrative could help societies overcome current divisions?