For people around the world, arguably the greatest hope is that 2021 will be a year of beneficial transformation: Rapidly recovering economies, firms eager to pivot to offence with “resized” business models and governments talking about “building back better”. The risk, as yet insufficiently appreciated, is that decision-makers will end up spending most (and too much) of the year dealing with both existing and new damage from the Covid-19 shock.

There are four good reasons to be optimistic about 2021. First and foremost, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have been working furiously to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, often supported by sizeable direct and indirect government funding. There are signs that a handful of vaccines may soon be approved, thus opening the way to the herd immunity needed for economic and social interactions to return to normal.

Second, a substantial part of the private sector — supported by wide-open capital markets providing ample low-cost financing — has been busy thinking and planning for the post-pandemic world. Firms are looking to emerge from the crisis with a better balance between resilience and efficiency, as well as with the increased operational agility and open-mindedness that they were able to acquire only when forced into a highly uncertain and uneven crisis-management paradigm.

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