Firing line  

Leading economist: we are unlikely to get a V-Shaped recovery

And, after her time at Goldman Sachs, she feels fortunate to have had the practical as well as the theoretical experience to inform her career, especially when it came to writing several books, such as Edge of Chaos in 2018 and How the West Was Lost in 2011. 

Ms Moyo, who was named as Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, says the publication of her books over the past decade has been a “highlight”, allowing her to bring all her academic and practical knowledge into one place – the “printed page”. 

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While she is not writing or sitting on corporate boards, she reads history, something she has been doing a lot of since lockdown. In particular, she has been reading about the so-called ‘gilded age’ of American history; approximately 1870 to 1900.

Ms Moyo says this has pressed home how history lessons have been ignored. She explains: “History tends to repeat itself. In the gilded age, there were so many markers similar to what we had experienced: high economic growth, a globalised economy, a movement of ideas and a period with large corporations in dominant sectors.

“Then you’ve got the war in 1914, a global pandemic and an economic crash in 1929. After that you had aggressive protectionism, progressive economics, de-globalisation, low economic growth and high unemployment and I feel that is where we are today.”

However, she warns the answers to today’s problems will be different to those developed in the 1930s, mostly because of the inexorable rise of technology and digitisation – as noted especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ms Moyo, who is also a member of the Bretton Woods Committee, which works to further international economic co-operation, explains: “We have a deep structural issue. In the 1930s, [John Maynard] Keynes was already forecasting that by 2030 we would have a jobless underclass. 

“What Covid-19 has done is catalyse the risk of us ending in a place where those lower income jobs are particularly vulnerable to digitisation.”

Where now for the UK?

Given the economic slowdown and huge fiscal stimulus (debt) in the UK, as well as Brexit on the horizon, Ms Moyo says one has to “question whether we can really get that V-shaped recovery that economists are suggesting”.

She says we need to ask where the economy is now, and where is the economy going to land, and this should be considered by government.

“I’ve heard it said that the A-team might be working on Covid and the B-team might be working on Brexit, but everyone needs to work on future-proofing the economy,” Ms Moyo says.

But she is not pessimistic. “Everyone needs trade and investment and I think people will move forward and work together in these uncertain times.”