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THIS TOO SHALL PASS

A new year means a clean slate – and the continuation of old issues. But if we’re to make 2022 work, it’s worth recalling we’ve been here before and things are never quite as bad as we fear.

THE virus just won’t leave us alone, will it. Well, we’d better get used to it. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that being jabbed – even double vaccinated and boosted – isn’t enough to eradicate or completely protect you (or the country at large) from Covid-19. A dose of AZ helps, of course, and as a society we’ll take anything that eases the pain, even if only a bit. But you’d be forgiven for being frustrated about the way the virus just won’t vanish despite the best efforts of the global scientific community.

Then there’s the economy. I never believed the hype of a wonderful new economic paradise after the jabs were rolled out. Sure, a jabbed society was going to lead to a safer country and that in turn would result in a resurgent economy. But did anyone really think that GDP was going to bounce back with a vengeance, then just stay up there with the birds until – I don’t know – the end of times?

I don’t blame our politicians for trying to keep the message positive, after all it would’ve been easy for the country to talk itself into a recession or even a double-dip. During the Great Recession of 2008, negative sentiment fed itself and certainly didn’t help the economy recover from the banking crisis. But, at the same time, if you’re going to ‘give it large’ about how the country is going to be the new post-pandemic sunlit uplands, then you’d best brace yourself for public whiplash when that turns out not to be the case.

Inflation is a worry. It wasn’t that long ago, in the ‘80s, that the sharp rise in oil prices pushed already high levels in several countries to double-digit spikes. Between 1989-2021, inflation averaged 2.49%, reaching a record high of 8.5% in April 1991 and a low of -0.10% in April 2015.

Now, as a result of the bottleneck of supplies created by the ending of lockdowns, inflation is back, and threatening to turn into stagflation (defined as a period of stagnant or slow economic growth, alongside high inflation. In tandem, they have devastating long-term effects on the economy).

All this is a danger, of course. While the flooring industry has to a remarkable degree weathered all the travails of Covid-19 (and, to a surprising extent, any turmoil caused by Brexit, which most of the contractors we speak to in these pages say has caused minimal disruption), complacency – as I’ve mentioned previously – is not our friend.

Yet, in the spirit of the New Year, I’d like to remind readers that things seldom work out as badly as we fear. Covid-19 has been terrible enough and climate change appears to be happening at a faster pace than even many experts feared. But there’s always reason for hope. Let’s revisit that message this time next year.

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