A new year heralds a new beginning, a chance to start afresh, to seek new possibilities and seize opportunities. It is an apt time to realize and accept that everything in life changes. An old year makes way for a new one, winter inevitably changes to spring, difficulties yield opportunities, expansion and growth usually comes on the heels of a recession. The new year is also a time for reflections, an occasion to take stock of the past, and to refine, improve and enhance on it. This is as much true for individuals as it is for nations.
As the new year unfolds, we take a look at what the world got right, and what it did not, in the year gone by. Despite fears that spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 would drag out the pandemic, January 2022 began on a positive note, firm in the belief that the worst of the pestilence was behind us. On the economic front, a wider rollout of anti-COVID vaccines, a fall in global infections, and reopening of international borders gave rise to signs of economic recovery in many countries. Unfortunately, the optimism that prevailed at the start of 2022 was short-lived.
In February, the Russian invasion of Ukraine upturned all estimations and forecasts, with everything throughout 2022 then being defined and impacted by the events in eastern Europe. The aggression and its fallouts framed the uncertainty that prevailed throughout the past year, and affected global growth. The conflict fueled higher food and energy prices, spurred inflation, and hobbled reaching consensus at international forums on several issues of critical concern to the world.
The largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, along with the long tail of the pandemic, and response from China to rising COVID-19 infections, as well as measures by central banks to raise their interest rates to curb inflation, dramatically changed the economic, political and social narrative in 2022. Reflecting this sober mood, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, giving the Fund’s assessment of the global economy at the start of 2023, stated that the year ahead will be “tougher” than last year.
With the US, EU and China seeing their economies slow down, the potential for a third of the world to sink into recession in 2023 was highly likely, said the IMF chief. Adding to the economic pessimism, the world faces record debt levels, declining investment rates, rising widespread hunger, growing political instability, and attempts to reduce global poverty grinding to a halt in many countries. On multiple fronts, things have become a lot worse over the past 12 months than what was envisioned at the start of 2022.
But it was not all gloom and doom in the year gone by. The world witnessed spectacular performances by individuals and countries at the Winter Olympics in China, and at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The best of the world was displayed at the World Expo in the United Arab Emirates, and the James Webb telescope gave us glimpses into the universe that we never had before. In Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and again in Montreal, Canada, the world was able to find consensus on matters critical to climate change and biodiversity protection.
There was obviously a lot to cheer for in 2022, but also enough to dishearten the bravest of hearts. Here is a quick look at how the year gone-by unfolded over the world in the days and months of 2022.
January 1: Yet another regional organization comes into effect. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which groups together 15 Asia-Pacific nations, forms the largest free trade area in the world. RCEP that brings together Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, accounts for nearly a third (30%) of both, the world’s population (2.2 billion people), and the global GDP ($29.7 trillion), making it the largest trade bloc in history.
February 4–20: The world gathers in Beijing, China for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The event also made Beijing the first city ever to host both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. The Games featured a record 109 events across 15 disciplines, with a total of 2,871 athletes representing 91 teams competing in the Games, including Haiti and Saudi Arabia making their Winter Olympic debut.
February 21–24: Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a decree declaring the Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic as independent from Ukraine. These two areas in the Donbas region of Ukraine had announced independence from their country in a referendum held in 2014. Despite international condemnation and sanctions against the annexation, Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the aftermath of which has sent reverberations through every level of the global economy, and led to unprecedented Western sanctions on Russia.
March 31: After a 6-month run that began on 1 October 2021, Expo 2020 draws to a successful close. Originally scheduled to begin in 2020 it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 182 days of the Expo witnessed over 24 million visitors from 178 countries, with 30 percent of visitors coming from overseas. The top five countries for international visitors were from India, Germany, Saudi Arabia, UK and Russia. A total of 192 countries, 14 multilateral organizations and 22 partners participated in the Expo.
April 4: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases the third and final part of its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 at the latest and decline 43 percent by 2030, in order to limit global warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). It concludes that many impacts from climate change are already on the verge of becoming ‘irreversible’.
Climate change related weather anomalies were behind much of the human suffering witnessed during the year, including extensive droughts, ravaging floods, widespread forest fires, and blistering heat waves in various parts of the world.
May 9: Massive street protests in Sri Lanka result in the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The protests, which began in early March, were against the government’s mismanaging of the economy, which has spurred rising inflation, daily electricity blackouts, shortage of fuel, domestic cooking gas, and other essential goods. Three days after the ouster of Rajapaksha, his successor Ranil Wickremesinghe took office with the mandate to pull the country out of its economic crisis.
July 11: The first operational image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), gives the public their first detailed glimpse of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The JWST, launched on 25 December 2021 is the largest optical telescope in space, and at a cost of $10 billion is also the most expensive so far. Its high resolution and sensitivity allow it to view objects too old, distant, or faint for the other space-based telescopes, and enables observation of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets.
August 28: Pakistan declares a ‘climate catastrophe’ and appeals for international assistance, as the death toll from recent flooding in the country exceeds 1,000. Months after what is being described as the world’s deadliest flood since 2017, millions of people continued to remain exposed to the floodwaters with vast tracts of cropland and entire villages still remaining under water. A report by the UN showed that over 10 million children were in need of immediate, lifesaving support.
September 8: Queen Elizabeth II dies at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age of 96; her son Charles III succeeds her as King. She was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states during her lifetime, and head of state of 15 realms at the time of her death. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch and the longest verified reign of any female monarch in history.
November 6–18: The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on climate change mitigation takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The conference which spilled over to two more days ended on 20 November with a breakthrough agreement to provide ‘loss and damage’ funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters. The funding is expected to enable communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change, to mitigate and adapt to the changes.
November 15: The world population officially breaches the 8 billion mark, based on the United Nations’ report titled ‘World Population Prospects 2022’. The report, released on World Population Day on 11 July, also projected that India would surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023, and that, with falling fertility rates and growing longevity, the world population was estimated to reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people in 2080 and remain at that level to 2100.
November 20 to December 18: Millions of football fans gather in Doha, Qatar to witness the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The football extravaganza, which cost an estimated US$230 billion, and made it the most expensive World Cup in history, was won by Argentina in a nail-biting penalty-kickoff against France.
December 5: Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the United States, conducting the first controlled fusion experiment in history achieves ‘plasma burning’, a term used to describe energy breakeven — with more energy coming from the fusion reaction, than the laser energy used to drive it. Earlier this year on 9 February, scientists at the Joint European Torus (JET) nuclear fusion research center in the UK produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds, demonstrating that it was possible to sustain nuclear fusion reactions for longer periods of time.The two milestone achievement could provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy, which would be a game-changer for efforts to achieve the goal of a net-zero carbon economy.
December 19: At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), nearly 200 countries agree on a landmark deal to protect a third of the planet for nature by 2030. Protecting and preserving nature is critical to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and limiting global warming to 1.50C. The conference adopted an equitable and comprehensive framework, matched by resources needed for implementation. It also set clear targets to address overexploitation, pollution, fragmentation and unsustainable agricultural practices.
December 29: Legendary footballer Pele dies at the age of 82. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and having won three World Cups for Brazil. Labeled by FIFA as ‘the greatest’, he was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century.
December 31: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who headed the Catholic Church and was sovereign of the Vatican City State from 19 April 2005 until his resignation on 28 February 2013, dies at the age of 95. His resignation was the first by a pope in over 600 years.
Kuwait in 2022
In Kuwait, although there were individual and group achievements that raised the country’s flag high in 2022, the main news centered around the political arena.
Below is a look at how political and other events evolved during the past year:
17 February: Ministers of Defense and the Interior, both members of the ruling Al-Sabah family, resign citing repeated and lengthy parliamentary grillings as an abuse of power by the legislature.
10 March: His Highness the Amir issues a decree appointing Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad al-Sabah as the Interior Minister, and Sheikh Talal Khaled Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as Defense Minister
26 March: Saudi Arabia and Kuwait sign a 50-year program to explore the Arash gas field located on the maritime border between the two countries, but also extends into Iranian waters. Iran rejects the deal calling it illegal.
31 March: A fire breaks out at Al Mubarakiya market, one of the oldest traditional souks in the country, gutting over 20 shops. Although around a dozen people suffered minor injuries, luckily, no lives were claimed in the incident.
10 May: Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah accepts the resignation of the government, after the request had been submitted over a month earlier. No timeline is given for when the next election will occur.
24 July: An Amiri decree was issued by Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, assigning Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as new Prime Minister. He is tasked to form the 40th government in the history of Kuwait.
29 September: General elections were held in Kuwait following the dissolution of parliament by Crown Prince Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
17 October: Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah swore in a new government headed by the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. The new government, formed following general elections in September, aims to reconcile relations with the legislative arm of parliament, and push forward much-needed investment and fiscal reforms.