What? Another year over already? For anyone who has missed the past 12 months, here is my potted guide to the global economy: slowdown is when small companies go broke; recession is when big companies go broke; depression is when banks go broke and catastrophe is when governments go broke. On this basis, Europe has had a slowdown, America a recession, Japan a depression and Argentina a catastrophe. That more or less says it all about 2001.
Exactly one year ago, I wrote in MT that 2001 'may be the year where the US economy turns down and bad news there begins to make headlines'.
No-one predicted the terror attacks, but you didn't have to be a genius to see the economic problems coming (even if most US economists registered them only after 11 September). It is noteworthy that the recession has now been 'officially' dated from March.
But the big surprise of 2001 was the slowdown in the eurozone (and recession in Germany). I've been predicting a European economic revival for about two years; yet those dastardly continentals disappoint at every opportunity.
Surely in 2002 they can actually outpace our now low expectations? Let me make that a prediction for 2002. Third time lucky.
Another prediction for the next 12 months: things will start to look bad at Pizza Express. I'm a great fan of this restaurant. In fact, I live above a Pizza Express, and on warm summer evenings on my roof terrace I can enjoy the aroma of a Fiorentina wafting up from below without paying a penny.
I would even recommend membership of the Pizza Express Club, which gives you several free pizzas a year, a birthday voucher and other perks for an annual subscription well below that of the Groucho or Garrick. Moreover, when I was in Qatar for a week recently the existence of a Pizza Express in the local shopping centre - complete with the menu familiar from home - provided fond memories of Blighty.
But it seems to me the chain has expanded too far. You can barely walk a mile now without encountering one. That famous menu is becoming a tad too familiar. And I've started to notice an ominous faint groan from friends when one suggests a quick bite there after a movie.
Pizza Express has that Body Shop, Tie Rack, Sock Shop overexpansion written all over it. There's only so much oven-baked mozzarella a nation can take.
A quick bit of conference news now. First to Qatar, host nation to the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in November, which was almost overlooked, as it coincided with the liberation of Kabul.
The conference successfully organised a new trade round and tradition has it that these are named after the place where they were launched.
(The Uruguay Round was perhaps the most interminable.) Alas, no-one could agree on how to pronounce Qatar - Catter, Gatter and Catarrh were all being used. So the organisers settled on naming the round after the capital city, Doha, which is far more straightforward.
I've been meaning to report back to you on the annual CBI event. This occurred just before the WTO conference, not in Qatar but in Birmingham.
The CBI conference is generally billed as the biggest business chin-wag of the year. From our reporting of it, you would think top executives mingle with senior politicians, discussing the state of the world, the economy, business issues and life beyond. Certainly, the range of speakers on the platform would give that impression.
But for the biggest business conference of the year, the attendance is remarkably light on business people. It is full of lobbyists, trade association reps, exhibitors, union people, politicians, public affairs officials and journalists. Oh, and other journalists vainly looking for businessmen who can give 'the business reaction' to the latest speech. Anybody, in fact, except senior company executives.
I offer this insight not to undermine the CBI, but to point out the tendency for media coverage of any event to give the impression that there is some centre of power to which an almighty elite has gravitated. Life is more complicated, and power consists of loose networks of distantly related groups, none of which has much power individually.
Never allow yourself to get the impression that these events are some kind of exclusive party to which most people have not been invited. That couldn't be further from the truth.