VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Change and Ambiguity

Thursday, Jan 09 2020 07:00 PM

Introduction to Week One of 2020:

Australia is on Fire

Unprecedented bushfires raging in New South Wales and Queensland have killed 24 people, devastated the region’s wildlife, destroyed more than 2,000 homes, and forced tens of thousands to be evacuated from their homes. An area of more than 84 thousand square kilometres — almost 120 times the size of Singapore — has burned across Australia since October 2019.

Jakarta is Underwater

Jakarta’s worst flooding since 2013 has left at least 29 people dead. Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated. All this after torrential rains battered the Jakarta region, home to about 30 million, causing floods and landslides that have left huge areas of the city underwater. Indonesia’s disaster agency has warned of more deaths.

New Disease Emerges in China

An epidemic of African Swine Fever (ASF, not the same as ‘swine flu’, and harmless to humans) swept through China's hog farms in 2019 (the Year of the Pig). With every province affected (according to the Economist); a highly contagious virus; a grim fatality rate of more than 90%; and no vaccine available for ASF, 40-50% of China’s massive herd, the largest in the world, could be lost.

US on Brink of War with Iran

Three days into the new year, a US drone strike killed Iran’s most powerful military commander and other members of Iran-backed militia. Iran has declared the killing to be an act of war and vowed revenge. It followed up this threat by launching more than a dozen missiles at two bases housing US troops and coalition forces in Iraq on 8 January.

These are a harbinger of things to come. The uncomfortable but likely truth is that periods of peace and co-existence are the exception rather than the rule. It’s worth reminding to keep your powder dry and your assets mobile at offsite private vaults.

Let us return to Indonesia.

In May 1998, massive protests / riots occurred throughout Indonesia, mainly in Medan in the province of North Sumatra (4–8 May), the capital city of Jakarta (12–15 May), and Surakarta (also called Solo) in the province of Central Java (13–15 May).

Economic problems such as food shortages and mass unemployment have been cited as the cause. Nevertheless, Chinese Indonesians soon became the target. It has been estimated that 1,000 people (including rioters) died, most trapped in burning buildings. At least 168 cases of rape were reported. Material damage has been put at S$300,000.

Many Indonesians fled to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, and the USA. Most remained, but Mely Tan, a University of Indonesia sociologist, says that many have prepared escape plans should riots ever erupt again.

This incident is by no means an isolated event — similar riots, ethnic cleansing, and even pogroms have occurred throughout history, on every continent.

The truth is that human civilisation is no stranger to ‘Acts of God’ or ‘Acts of Man’, natural calamities or man-made mayhem, in historical times or in modern times. Wise old dynasties maintain eternal vigilance and hand down fail-safe traditions of asset preservation. Newer generation could do a lot worse than following these time-tested blueprints of success.

Modernity and globalisation have added political, social, economic, and technological change to the mix. So pervasive is the sense of unease that a new acronym, ‘VUCA’ — volatility, uncertainty, change and ambiguity — has been created.

Disheartening? Certainly.

Pessimistic? Perhaps.

Unactionable? Not at all.

Want to predict the future? Study the past. Throughout history, men and women have prepared themselves, made plans, maintained multiple hoards. Homes are subject to fire, flood, burglary, mob violence. Societies can collapse, countries can implode. So switch to private vaults — the gold standard for savvy persons when it comes to convenience, security and privacy. And maintain your assets in safe havens such as Singapore, in the top-10 of safest countries in the world (Global Peace Index, 2019).

Times change. Cultures change. Technology changes. Human nature stays the same.


Information accurate at time of publishing.

Image: New York Times - Mast Irham, via Shutterstock (no copyright infringement is intended) 

Copyright © Vault@268 Pte Ltd   Author: Vinay Kumar Rai