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  • Lawrence Bailey

More challenges than opportunities in 2019

I’ll start off by wishing you a Happy New Year – but that’s about as positive as it gets as I attempt a series of best guesses on what the next 12 months holds. Here goes:

In all things Brexit, the hokey-cokey indications are that its parliament that will be taking back control; after a fashion anyway.

May’s package will be rejected but there’s just as much opposition among MPs for the prospect of crashing out of Europe without a deal. As such, they will apply the brakes. It is then only a matter of how much dust is allowed to settle before we have a general election – or a second referendum. I won’t attempt to predict the outcome of either scenario although we can expect both to be messy. This, among other things, will doubtlessly prompt a resurgence of concerns of how shadowy organisations manipulate social media with fake news.

We can also expect more revelations about personal data ‘harvesting’ on a massive scale with hefty sanctions imposed on corporations who think they can dodge GDPR measures. Even then it will be more profitable to pay fines while continuing to monetise information without user permission. It’s a safe bet that focus will continue on the extent of institutionalised discrimination in business and public sectors when it comes to race and gender. Forecasting anything tangible arising as a result is harder Meanwhile, amid talk about press freedoms, something called the Cairncross review will give it’s view on how a newspaper industry, deprived of advertising lifeblood can continue to highlight and address local issues, campaign within communities, and hold local government and other public service providers to account.

We’re sure to see a further decline of the retail world. With too many shops chasing less footfall as online shopping becomes an entrenched social habit, more big names are likely to go bust.

It’s a sad legacy of past mergers and acquisitions, fuelled by unsustainable debt, and creating impossible circumstances under which to future-proof the business or safeguard jobs.

This is the season where we traditionally become more aware of how poverty inflicts itself into our lives. For all the hugely admirable work done by charitable outfits, we should never lose sight of the fact that food banks are not an answer to a problem - they are a symptom.

A brief walk in Swansea’s St Mary’s Square spells out the seriousness of the situation. Yet for every individual sleeping rough there are another three in abusive relationships or grappling with mental health issues or addiction that will see them potentially lose their homes.

Despite the best of intentions, Welsh government rent controls could end up putting council and housing association investment plans into reverse. On top of that, fresh legislation affecting house building in Wales might actually make affordable homes less possible.

More than ever we need a joined-up, radical and sustained attack on the reasons behind poverty. Without such an approach, we’ll be back here again next year wringing our hands over the same headlines. All in all, I predict far more challenges than opportunities in 2019. As ever, it’s up to us.

Good luck.

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