I well remember as a young boy my mother saying – “I shudder the thought… that (this or that) could happen”, from very basic and unnewsworthy possibilities to major world events that might be life changing (but) for the wrong reasons.

The Trump moment on the 19 July 2016, when he officially became the Republican Party’s Nominee, and possibly the 45th President of the United States, was a ‘shudder’ moment. I admit I initially thought this could be good – a successful businessman rather than a career politician, (with no political favours to answer) might have a chance to really get things done and genuinely ‘Make America Great Again’.

Then I read more about the man – Michael D’Antonio’s book, ‘The Truth about Trump’, plus numerous magazines and newspaper articles. ‘Not a nice person’ was my take on the Donald, but more importantly across different academic studies, a consensus seemed to emerge regarding the ‘off the charts’ personality of Donald Trump characterized by very high extroversion, very low agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability plus sky-high narcissism.

In 2019 Forbes magazine provided the definition of a bad leader including a refusal to accept criticism, a refusal to evaluate errors and changes course when presented with new information, not doing what is right in the long term and succumbing to short term pressures, not taking care of your people and having no empathy.

So, that shudder moment in July 2016 culminated in the worst possible finale for the USA, democracy and really all of us, on 6 January 2021. At the same time I do shudder at the thought of conspiracy theorists who believe that ‘”The American Constitution has been subverted by the combined might of the Democratic Party machine, intimidated judges, Big Tech, Big Media, billionaires, cronies and possible Chinese collusion…. (that) there were 1,000 sworn affidavits by eyewitnesses testifying to serious electoral fraud, missing data logs and compelling CCTV footage, proved sufficient to sway legislators or, the courts.” I shudder the thought that it is fact 74 million Americans did vote for Trump…”that they actually tolerated Trump’s crass behaviour at home and abroad as a necessary price to pay for exposing scandals like NATO underpayments, the Paris Climate Agreement, lop-sided trade deals, illegal migration, drug cartel terrorism and monopolistic business practices” (Maurice Newman).

And of course, we all shuddered at the thought of a pandemic entering our lives in February last year. The thought became reality and the world continues to be affected – lives, families, businesses decimated. At our Bowen’s Board meeting in March 2020 we contemplated the worst, and of course were very relieved when industries declared ‘essential’ could remain open under strict Covid-19 protocols. So, Bowens has survived and in fact benefitted from an unexpected lift in demand for new construction, renovations, and home repairs. All of us involved in the construction industry need to appreciate the fortunate position we are in and must continue as much as possible to support the real victims of this terrible community burden.

So, what’s ahead in 2021? I shudder to think that the Covid-19 pandemic might not be shaken off by years end, that whatever vaccine becomes available may take much longer to protect us let alone eradicate the virus.

As far as the overall economy in 2021, I really have to leave that to the ‘experts’ and continue to back the Bowens team to keep our Company going and succeeding in the only industry we really know, the construction industry. Over the thirty years or so that I have been contributing articles to this Builders Bulletin, I have only had 2 people criticise me on the basis of “no expertise/you don’t know what you are writing about – so you shouldn’t”! To both I replied, “you are right, I am no expert, but I do have ‘opinions’ which anyone can either accept or reject – doesn’t worry me!

But it is important to have the facts right on issues that really matter. Opinions are fine but on sensitive matters like forestry and the environment – facts, not emotion, must be foremost in that debate. Expert ‘opinions’ on the economy ahead will have accurate data to work from but a huge amount of unpredictability as was the case in 2020.

Eleanor Whitehead (The Economist Magazine) recently wrote that “As the country claws its way out of a recession, Australians face a punishing year.” On the other hand, Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics stated that “Australia is one of just five nations (along with Taiwan, China, Vietnam and New Zealand) to enter 2021 very well placed.”

 My opinion, if I’m allowed to give it(!), is best focused on our industry – construction. The signs have been there for some time that the year ahead will be good. Issues around shortages of some materials need to be overcome but there is no doubt in my mind that in 2021 detached housing, renovations, home extensions will continue to be strong, with infrastructure spending and spending on aged care facilities, schools etc. providing an added boost.

Hopefully ‘Shudder to Think’ moments will be replaced with optimism and opportunity – my Mum can continue to rest in peace and leave any worries to her sons and grandchildren!

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