An in-depth version of this article was originally published on Rosa and Roubini Associates
GDP can often be a misleading measurement, and a year can sometimes be a misleadingly short period of time to measure. A review of a past year’s GDP growth trends may nevertheless serve as a useful starting point for understanding the world’s markets. Carrying out such an exercise in economic hindsight for 2019, we might settle upon the following list of approximate growth trends:
- Slowing growth occurred in all major regions and countries Global growth in 2019 was estimated to have been 3%, down from approximately 3.5% in recent years. This trend also held at both the regional and national levels. Regionally, North America, Europe, and Northeast Asia all faced slowing growth. Euro Area growth slowed from 1.8% during 2018 to 1.2% in 2019; US growth slowed from 2.8% to 2.2%; China’s growth slowed from an estimated 6.6% to 6.2%. (Elsewhere in Northeast Asia, Japan’s growth remained low at around 1% and South Korea’s slowed from 2.6 to 1.8%). No major country saw an increase in its growth rate, except perhaps a slight increase in Japan’s.
- America, China, and South Asia provided most of global growth
With European and Japanese growth little greater than 1%, and with many commodity-exporting economies struggling too, global growth was carried mainly by the United States, China, and to a lesser extent India and other countries in southern Asia. US growth was estimated at 2.2 percent, which given its size (roughly 25% of global GDP), and the slow growth of global economy, is still a substantial portion of the world’s total growth this year. China’s 6.2% growth (assuming this figure is accurate) is even more substantial. India, meanwhile, which is only around 3% of global GDP in nominal terms (7.5% in purchasing power parity-adjusted terms), experienced 4.9% growth this year. Other smaller South Asian economies grew even more quickly, such as Bangladesh (7.7%), Vietnam (6.5%), Indonesia (5.1%) and the Philippines (5.7%). Thailand, however, which is by far the largest economy in Southeast Asia apart from Indonesia, grew only 2.4%.
- Europe continued to struggle – and not just in the European Union
The EU’s growth in 2019 is estimated to have been below 1.5%. The Euro Area’s growth was even lower than that, because unlike the European Union it does not include the faster-growing East European economies, notably Poland and Romania with 4% growth and Hungary 4.6% growth. Even outside the EU growth was slow, however. Russia’s growth this year was only an estimated 1.1%, down from 2.3% in 2018. Norway’s was 1%; Switzerland’s 0.8%. Britain’s was 1.2% (that is, assuming you consider Britain as outside the EU). And Turkey’s GDP, after growing at 2.5% in 2018, did not grow at all in 2019.
- Central Europe in particular experienced slow growth
Perhaps the most notable regional trend in Europe was the slow growth within Central Europe, most notably in the Germany-Switzerland-Italy corridor of nations. Germany and Italy had by far the slowest growth among G7 economies: Germany grew at 0.5% (down from 1.4% in 2018), Italy grew at 0.2% (down from 0.8% in 2018). Most countries around them also had slow growth: France 1.3%, Belgium 1.3%, Sweden 1.3%, Austria 1.5%, the Netherlands 1.7%, Switzerland 0.8%. Even the Czech and Slovak economies slowed, to around 2.5%, down from the 3-4% range they had grown at in previous years. The Central European slowdown was probably the dominant trend in the EU in 2019. The previous dominant trend, namely Southern Europe’s slow growth, did not disappear (Italy, after all, still struggled) but it was eclipsed. Spain’s economy grew at 2.1%, Greece 1.9%.
- Europe’s North-South dynamic has become more complicated There is no longer any clear divide between a sluggish South and nimble North, either within the EU, the Euro Area, or Europe more broadly defined. At all three levels, the fastest and slowest major economies in 2019 were both Southern states: Spain was the fastest, Italy the slowest. Northern Europe was divided too: major economies such as Germany, Britain, Russia, and Scandinavia (ex-Denmark) grew slowly, while others like Poland, Ireland, and to a lesser extent the Dutch and Danes grew quickly. In the ex-EU Mediterranean region there were divides too: Turkey did not grow, but the Levant grew quickly (Israel 3.2%, Egypt 5.6% for e.g.). In the Maghreb, Morocco grew at 2.5%, Algeria 2.6%.
- Latin America had a rough year… Venezuela remained in crisis, and Argentina experienced a recession in which its GDP shrank by an estimated 3.3% in 2019. The two largest economies, Brazil and Mexico, grew at just 0.8% and 0.1%, respectively. The Pacific economies that had previously been strong, such as Chile and Peru (both significant commodity exporters), slowed as well. Chile grew by 1.8%, Peru 2.6%. Colombia’s growth did rise however, from 2.6% to 3.1%.
- …so did the Anglosphere The Anglosphere is a tricky group to define. Arguably it is does not even warrant being considered as a group to begin with. Even for those who do think the concept is useful, it is difficult to know which countries it should include. Certainly, it includes countries like Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More broadly, it could perhaps also be used to include economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and/or Nigeria. Wherever you do decide to draw the Anglosphere’s lines, the group had a year of slow growth. Britain grew at 1.2%; Canada and Australia at 1.6%. Singapore grew at just 0.8%; Hong Kong actually shrank by 0.3%. South Africa grew by 0.6% and Nigeria (starting at a lower income base) grew by 2.2%. Jamaica grew at 1%. Only New Zealand and Ireland had strong growth, at 2.5% and 4.2%. Ireland’s growth slowed too though, from 6.7% in 2018.
- East Africa grew quickly, but Africa in general did not
Rwanda may have led all countries in 2019, with 7.8% growth. Ethiopia may have led among all large developing countries, with 7.4% growth. Uganda, Kenya, and Egypt all grew between 5-6%. There were high growth numbers in some other parts of Africa too, but in the largest regional economies, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, and Algeria, growth was slow. Nearby in the Middle East, the Gulf Arab states’ GDP stalled and Iran’s shrank.
- In North America, the US kept ahead of Canada and Mexico US growth was 2.2% in 2019, compared to an estimated 1.6% in Canada and 0.1% in Mexico. This is the second year in a row that the US grew the fastest of the three. Before then, not since the 2009 recession did the US do so. And before then, not since 1999 was US growth the fastest. (The US grew at 4.7% in 1999, more than double its current pace). In contrast, as recently as 2014 the US grew slower than both Canada and Mexico.
- In America and China both, heartlands outgrew coastlands Unlike in the previous two years, US growth in 2019 seems to have occurred at a faster pace in the centre of the country – in the Rockies, the Greater Midwest, or in certain areas along the Gulf of Mexico – than it did along the eastern or western coasts. In China, somewhat similarly, the interior states in the south-west, centre-west, or central China, such as Yunnan, Jiangxi, Hubei, and Sichuan, grew faster than most of the country’s coastal states. The slowest-growing Chinese region of all was, as it has often been in recent years, the northeast: states like Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia.
What if, instead of building subway mezzanines underground, we put them at surface level, creating the space to do so by preventing automobiles from passing directly above each subway station?
- Eliminating underground mezzanines may become more viable as passengers pay for their subway tickets digitally rather than via fare booths or turnstiles
- If each car-free street-level mezzanine was, say, 100-200 metres long, it would free up space for bus stops, bikes, wheelchairs, and pedestrians, making it easier to get to and from the subway
- Putting the mezzanine at street level would allow the underground portion of subway stations to be made much smaller, reducing the cost of station construction
- A street-level mezzanine could have a social and aesthetic value. By making the space above a subway station free of cars, it could become a nice place to wait for anyone you are planning to meet up with at the station
- There would also be much more space available for stairwells, escalators, and elevators, making it easier to get in and out of stations quickly and comfortably and reducing platform crowding at busy stations. For deep underground stations especially, this would allow passengers to reach subway platforms from street level without having to fight through busy underground crowds to get from one set of escalators, elevators, or staircases to another
- For subway stations that have central platforms rather than side platforms, the ability to put station entrances in the middle of a car-free street might allow the subway platforms to be located less deep underground than they would otherwise need to be. It would also allow the platform to be accessible via a single elevator shaft, rather than force passengers with wheelchairs or baby-strollers to ride one elevator to reach the mezzanine and then a second elevator to reach the subway platform
- In certain cases, by making it easier to access central platforms, and by freeing up space for station entrances and exits generally, street-level mezzanines might allow for the Spanish Solution, to speed up and simplify passenger boarding and alighting
- Maglev elevators? Having more room for elevator shafts, and also having the ability to access central subway platforms from surface level via one rather than two separate elevator rides, would be especially significant if technological advancements make elevators more efficient. In theory, elevators could be far more space-efficient than escalators, since they travel vertically whereas subway escalators tend to be angled at only around 30 degrees, which is actually quite a bit more horizontal than vertical. In practice, though, elevators are inefficient, since they tend to have only one elevator per shaft, leaving the majority of each shaft empty. If a technological solution can be found to this problem, then a car-free street-level mezzanine with elevators taking passengers directly from surface level to the subway platform could be a great thing
- Staircase Diversity. The Mezzanine would leave more room for stairwells, which could allow each station to usefully have a number of different types of staircases. The staircases could differ in terms of steepness; steeper staircases are more space-efficient than less steep ones, but are also less easy to use going downstairs, less easy for seniors to use, etc. With more stairwells, some of the staircases could perhaps even be spiral staircases, which could be extremely space-efficient, but not attractive for anyone to use except when the normal staircases are overcrowded during rush hour. Some staircases could be bicycle-friendly
We probably shouldn’t need excuses to limit cars’ space or speed in urban areas, but all the same, a subway station could be an excellent excuse for doing so. Better yet, why not make the street above the entire subway line car-free? That way it would become even easier to get to and from stations, and the area around the entire subway line could become much nicer to spend time in, or to walk or roll through. I’m looking at you, Yonge Street.
Imagine there existed a Narrow Tram: a streetcar or light rail train that is only about half as wide as the streetcars and LRTs most cities use today.
Narrow trams could fit more easily on narrow streets where there is not otherwise room for a transit-only lane. They might also squeeze into unused edges of existing railway or expressway corridors, where they could avoid red lights. On wider streets, narrow trams could have room for double sets of tracks in each direction: one lane to provide local transit service, the other for express.
For passengers to comfortably navigate such narrow vehicles, each narrow tram could have an unprecedentedly large number of doors – the more doors the better. Each door would open only if passengers indicate they are getting on or off at that precise section of the vehicle. Platforms would tell passengers in advance which sections of each approaching narrow tram are crowded. Fold-up chairs would be located along one side of the vehicle, only one chair per row. Some chairs could be sideways-facing to let people to sit together, others would be front-facing.
In certain cases, narrow trams could perhaps free up enough room for platforms on both their sides – the Spanish Solution – in order to simplify boarding and alighting and allow passengers to transfer very easily between local and express vehicles. Spanish Solution narrow trams might have to have even fewer seats, but this might be manageable, since express trams would be able to travel further in less time than conventional transit, so passengers might be more willing to stand. Plus, with multi-multi-door vehicles and smart-platform systems, you might be able to put chairs close to doors without creating passenger blockages, so the number of chairs might not have to be reduced too much even with the Spanish Solution’s addition of doors along both walls.
Narrow tram systems that have separate local and express tracks might also eventually help to facilitate the use of freight trams, at least during times of day when there is not a high demand for passenger transit. With two tracks per direction, a narrow freight tram could linger in one spot to be loaded or unloaded without blocking other trams behind them. If, for example, the process of loading and unloading goods from trucks and trains becomes automated, leading to an increase in multi-modal freight transport or nighttime freight delivery, freight trams might become useful in urban areas because of how quiet, clean, and battery-free they are. Narrow trams might also serve well as freight trams by being able to squeeze into the edges of certain railway or expressway corridors where industrial and freight-transport infrastructure already exists.
Narrow trams might also allow for longer vehicles, at least on their express lines or on grade-separated sections. They could have more room to carve out the wide turns needed by longer vehicles, since their narrow size might allow them to make diagonal cuts to avoid intersections without taking up too much valuable street-corner real estate. Such diagonal cuts would also them to have useful indoor stations. Their longer length could help compensate for narrow trams’ smaller number of passengers per row. Eventually, perhaps, driverless vehicles (at least, in grade-separated corridors) might also allow for viable narrow trams that do not have long lengths.
In some cases, it would not just be the width of the vehicle that would be narrow, but also the diameter of the vehicle. A Narrow-Diameter tram would have both a narrow width and a low ceiling. A ceiling height of seven or eight feet, for instance, would be relatively low, yet would not be so low as to make passengers too uncomfortable, particularly given that the plentiful doors and smart-platform system would help prevent passengers from having to fight their way through a crowded vehicle. The benefits of having a lower ceiling and smaller diameter could be significant. Lower ceilings can make it easier to use underpasses or get in and out of tunnels. Smaller diameters also reduce the required size of tunnels. A tunnel with a 7-foot diameter, for example, would have a volume that is only a quarter as great as that of a tunnel with a 14-foot diameter.
Hypothetically – very, very hypothetically – a city could even take an existing subway tunnel and repurpose it to run local and express narrow subway trains in each direction, with the express narrow trains being so narrow that they could able to bypass the local trains at certain points. Even more unrealistically, a city could build a futuristically tubular train with a diameter of only, say, 4.5 feet, in which most passengers would have to sit in order to fit on board, like in a car. A 4.5-foot-diameter tunnel would have a volume only around one-tenth that of a 14-foot one.
Of course, such extreme steps are not needed. There might be benefits to be gained from making vehicles even just a little bit narrower than they are today. Technologies such as digital payment systems that make it easy to board any door on a vehicle, transit apps that make it easy to choose between local or express vehicles, the possibility of smart-platforms that can indicate which sections of approaching vehicles are crowded, and perhaps eventually also the possibility of automation, might all make narrower trams more viable than they have been until now.
Reward regular season success and increase fan excitement with an Opponent Draft: the 1-seed gets to pick its first-round opponent from any of the bottom-eight seeds among playoff teams (conferences will no longer matter in the playoffs), then the 2-seed picks from any of the remaining bottom seven, then the 3-seed picks, and so on. So, for example, last season the playoff Opponent Draft would have begun with Milwaukee picking its first-round opponent from among the bottom-eight seeds (Clippers, Celtics, Spurs, Thunder, Pistons, Magic, Nets, Pacers) then the Raptors would pick, then Golden State, then Denver, then Portland, then Houston, then Philly. Utah (the 8–seed) would then have played the last remaining bottom-8 team.
- All-Star Weekend
- Make the All-Star Game Juniors vs Seniors: players under 30 years old vs players 30 years and older. Or perhaps instead: players who have been in the league for ten years (say) vs. players who have not
- Replace the Rookie-Sophomore Game with an Offense-Defense Game: offensive specialists (Lou Williams, Brook Lopez, JJ Redick, etc.) vs. defensive specialists (Patrick Beverley, Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, etc.). This would give credit to key players who usually don’t make all-star teams, and it would be very exciting, and it would address the age-old question ‘does good offense beat good defense’? Plus. the Rookie-Sophomore game is boring as hell
- Replace Celebrity Game with Celebrity Bump Game. The celebrity game always sounds great but ends up being a let-down, in part because they are not able to entice enough real celebrities to play, and in part because they then have to unbalance the entire game by adding in retired players or female players who are a thousand times better than the celebrity players. With a Bump Game, shooting from the 3-point line, more celebs and more exciting celebs might participate. And Bump is a surprisingly intense and fun-to-watch game, especially when it gets to crunch time and lots of running back and forth to grab rebounds and then run back to the three-point line begins. Plus, fan involvement would take place: whenever a player bumps the ball into the stands, the fans in the stands would get to catch it and pass it back to the celeb.
- For three-point contest, have two players compete at the same time as one another, on opposite ends of the court.
- For slam-dunk contest, allow dunkers to have only one do-over (okay, maybe two) per round
In regular season games, instead of having a 2nd OT period if the first ends in a tie, instead have a college-football-style Shootout. The home team gets decide if it wants to start with possession of the ball or not, and the game then ends when one team scores and the other team misses. It does not matter if it is a three-pointer, two-pointer, or free throw: as long as you score on your possession you are still alive. No roster substitutions allowed, unless there is an injury. This format would end regular season games earlier and create exciting must-make shots and game-winning walk-offs.
The Washington ex-Pos won the World Series earlier this week, at the end of a very exciting playoff run. It would be nice if Montreal could get a team again: hopefully they will take Tampa Bay’s, and so join their neighbours Toronto, Boston, New York, and Baltimore inside the American League East.
If Montreal decides to build a new stadium, what should it be like? Here are two half-baked ideas:
- Pitched Outfield Walls
Baseball, arguably, needs more running and fielding plays, more extra-base hits and fewer shallow home runs. There may be a great way to achieve this: have part of the outfield wall be slanted. For instance, put a pitched roof over the outfield bullpens, with the roof serving as an angled extension of the outfield wall rather than part of home run territory. Very long fly balls and line drives would then bounce off the slanted roof and back up into the outfield into play, creating doubles and triples, attempts at triples, first-to-home scoring attempts, maybe even the odd inside-the-park homer.
If you really want to go big, you could even create a sort of angled version of Fenway’s Green Monster. This Monstre Bleu would produce exciting running and fielding plays and extra base hits, rather than the singles and shallow homers that Fenway’s Monster creates. What’s the ideal size and angle for a slanted portion of an outfield wall? I don’t know: maybe ten feet long, forming a 45-degree angle with the normal outfield wall from which the slanted section extends?
- Seasonally Enclosed Stadium
Half a dozen MLB teams have stadiums with retractable roofs, and one team, Tampa Bay, has a permanently closed roof. Retractable roofs are useful obviously, but they are also expensive and far from aesthetically ideal. Montreal has arguably the best summer baseball weather of any MLB city, but also the coldest weather in spring and fall. Maybe, then, instead of building a stadium with a conventionally retractable roof, it could pioneer a seasonally enclosed stadium of some sort, to be open in the summer but enclosed in spring, fall, and winter.
Ideally, such a stadium would overcome some of the financial and aesthetic limitations of conventional roofs. Perhaps, depending on how much time and effort would be needed to open and close the roof, the stadium could also be enclosed ahead of summer weeks when the forecast calls for lots of rain.
Wall Ball— or WalBall, if Walmart ponies up the cash to buy the rights — is baseball with one tiny, gigantic quirk: if a fielder catches a ball directly off of a wall, the batter who hit that ball is out.
This change will serve multiple purposes:
- it could allow for much smaller field sizes* without leading to a correspondingly large increase in home runs, so long as the outfield walls are built very tall. This can allow for much cheaper ballparks (whether at the recreational, amateur, or professional level), both for outdoor fields in urban areas where land is expensive, or for retractable-roof stadiums where reductions in field size can result in disproportionately large roof-cost savings
- it could make fielding and base-running much more of a coequal part of the game with hitting and pitching, rather than a distant third and fourth in terms of importance. One result of this will be far more highlight-of-the-night plays. Another may be more athletic players
- it could make game durations much shorter, as there will be more fly ball outs and, depending on the placement and height of any walls in foul territory, more foul outs too
- In city parks, it can prevent long fly balls or line drives from hitting pedestrians, parked cars, or cars in motion, thereby freeing up valuable park space or parking space in urban areas
- It could serve as a practice facility for amateur baseball players, and, particularly in very small parks, could allow recreational or practice games without needing nine players a side
- it could make for interesting variations from one ballpark to another. If there are also seats above the wall (assuming Wall Ball takes off enough to become more than just a recreational endeavor) it could make for cool outfield seats, much closer to the infield
- the high outfield walls could double as gigantic projector screen surfaces (the Dallas Cowboys’ jumbotron, by way of comparison, is 72 feet high), to be used for movies, concerts, etc. And the side of the wall facing away from the field could be a climbing wall!
*If, say, the outfield walls were made to be 37 feet tall (the same as Fenway’s Green Monster), and placed 310 feet from home plate (same as the Green Monster) in left field and right field, and 350 feet in center field, the overall field would be roughly 10-20 percent smaller than a typical MLB field. If the walls were 75 feet tall (a double Monster), at 290 feet in left and right field and 340 at center, the field would be maybe 20-30 percent smaller. If the walls were 150 feet high…well, you get the idea. Granted, such extreme reductions in field sizes would leave much less open space for balls to drop into the outfield for a hit. This would increase the importance of outfielders’ defensive ability (and especially their ability to catch balls off of the wall) and infielders’ ability to prevent singles
Pitching to Walmart:
The World Series may not be about actual world supremacy, but Walmart’s fight with Amazon might be. Walmart has one huge challenge – it must attract customers to its stores – and one huge asset: vast real estate holdings (mostly, its mega-parking lots) located close to Americans’ homes.
One big question is, in a future with online shopping, space-efficient autonomous-valet parking lots, mobility apps, and the like, what will Walmart do with parts of its gigantic parking lots, in order to prevent its customers from abandoning it for online retailers? One possible answer is recreation and entertainment. A small baseball field could fit easily into just a small fraction of a Walmart parking lot. (In fact, entire MLB stadiums could fit in Walmart parking lots, that’s how crazy North American parking lots really are). The outer-facing side of the outfield walls could act as drive-in movie theatres for the parking lot, and the field itself could double as a (wall-shaded) park or outdoor market.
If you build it, Walmart…
- Stanley Cup Playoffs
Reward regular season success and increase fan excitement with an Opponent Draft: the 1-seed gets to pick its first-round opponent from any of the bottom-eight seeds. Then the 2-seed picks from among the seven remaining bottom-eight seeds. Then the 3-seed picks. And so on: the top seven teams would all get to draft their first-round playoff opponents.
- All-Star Weekend
- Have the All-Star Game be an Offense-Defense Game: a team of forwards versus a team of defensemen
- In the speed-skating contest, have the racers skate at the same time as one another, like they do at the Olympics
- Power Play Elimination Contest: The top power play units in the league compete in an elimination contest, with AHL all-stars providing the penalty killers and goalies. You are eliminated from the contest if you do not score a goal in two minutes. You can pull your own goalie at any time for a 6 on 4, but if the penalty-kill scores short-handed you are out. If there are time constraints in the contest, the team that scored earlier in the clock wins
- Sharpshooter Elimination Contest: instead of shooting from a stationary position, which never happens in real hockey games, the sharpshooter has to skate into their shot, like they would on an odd-man rush. They should maybe also be aiming at something more interesting than a usual target: perhaps at a bottle on a ledge (Coca-Cola could sponsor…). If you miss you are eliminated: the last shooter standing wins.
- The Imperial Box: the NHL needs more helmet-off exposure for its all-stars. The Imperial Box, then, is a special VIP box in which only the all-stars are allowed to sit and watch a game together. You could have this box at Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. .
…OR, you could put it at the NHL Open:
- The 3-on-3 NHL Open
The current outdoor games should continue to be played the way they are, but in addition to them there should be some smaller-scale outdoor games, games in which the stands are actually located next to the rink like they are in indoor arenas. Probably the only venue suitable for such an event would be New York’s 23,770-seat Arthur Asche Stadium, where the US Open tennis tournament is held. While it is probably not big enough to hold a full-sized NHL rink without renovation to the lower bowl, it could host a smaller rink on which to play 3-on-3. I would suggest hosting at least an All-Star Game or exhibition games there. The stadium had a retractable roof put in in 2016, so it can handle any bad weather. Pictured above is the time when the WNBA played a game there in 2008.