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Mark Pesce is a leading futurist, author, entrepreneur, speaker, podcaster and innovator. He has been at the forefront of the digital revolution for thirty-five years and is a sought-after keynote speaker for major conferences and leadership gatherings.
Mark aims to bring clarity, understanding and insight. From virtual reality to education, finance, manufacturing, transportation and communication, Mark gives individuals and organisations the tools they need to think effectively about the future, its opportunities, and its disruptions
What should the government be doing to stimulate the economy?
The government should be printing money like it’s going out of style.
I’m a big advocate of what’s now called ‘modern monetary theory’, which is a new macroeconomic theory that says that, particularly in situations like this, governments should print money as long as it doesn’t create inflation…and we have a long way to go on that.
The government should be printing money and getting it into circulation, whether that’s through JobKeeper and JobSeeker, but basically they should print as much money as it takes to stimulate demand.
Of course, we have already seen that having been the case with JobKeeper, and we can see direct economic correlation to that. Because this seems to work, we should continue doing that until further notice.
Now, this is where people go, ‘Well, we can’t print money forever.’ My argument is, well, we probably have a while to run on that. Rather than saying that this is just something for a couple of months, actually we might be at this for a five years and that’s totally okay.
But there’s a lot of ways that governments can print money usefully with more than just handing it to people, which is good, because that stimulates demand. But the government should also be thinking about what sort of infrastructure we need and what sort of nation we want to be in 2030.
The government should keep printing money and getting it into circulation.
These are the things I get very passionate about. My feeling is very much that Australia has an enormous business and an enormous strength in education.
Australia has an enormous strength in education. If we can invest in the infrastructure for education, then you have the capacity for rescaling and upskilling the workforce. If we put that in place, if we sit down and have a conversation about what the pieces are and what we need to do, then we set ourselves up for the long term.
Education, as an investment, tends not to be expensive. But in return you have developed the skills of the workforce for whatever the world is going to look like when they head into it.
No-one knows the kind of economy that we are going to have in a post COVID world. What we do know is that tourism and travel are not going to be the same for a while. Even opening up the international borders isn’t going to reboot tourism. It doesn’t reboot the airlines. So there’s a whole set of industries that will not be the same going forward, which means a whole bunch of people who are involved in them will probably start to consider what else they can do. We need to have infrastructure in place around that.
We don’t want to get stuck just thinking about this in regards to tertiary education or TAFE. It’s also about employers being willing to make sure that their employees are consistently learning on the job. That they’re not just punching in. It’s not just about getting people to take some classes, but it’s about the nation as a whole adopting a different attitude towards their career.
Can you see any current broken Government policies?
There is nothing that is so broken that we can’t fix it.
I do feel that our energy policy needs to be focussed on the kind of energy economy we want in 2030, rather than the kind of energy economy we wanted back in 1970. Our energy policy does not reflect that our investment policy around renewables and transmission networks.
This is obviously a huge policy debate within the coalition, which is why we haven’t seen much movement on it. It’s the thing three prime ministers have died of.
Australia should be a net energy exporter because of its enormous resources of solar energy. We’ve got all this beautiful, high quality desert and we should be using it to power South East Asia.
Australians are very good at digging up things and selling them – we always tell ourselves this, and it’s quite true. What we should be doing is digging up sunlight, and selling that.
Australia should be a net energy exporter because of its enormous resources of solar energy.
The other are of policy we need to take a look at is the ACCC and their strong line on the big internet companies such as Facebook and Google in particular. Now, this may give Australia an advantage, because some companies and come businesses may want their data domiciled here, because they understand that it’s more secure here than it is in other places.
25 years ago maybe people used to store money in Swiss bank accounts, because it gave them a lot of privacy security. Security that was made basically impossible to get by the world’s financial bodies. Currently, there’s a place in South Asia for people that have data businesses that are high secure and in a highly well-regulated jurisdiction. One of our intensely natural resources in our history of common law and the fact that we can regulate the way that data is controlled. That is very attractive to people because it grants businesses surety, and that is another asset we should be exporting.
What can business founders be doing to help themselves?
Patience is a virtue. We have to earn to be patient, because this is going to keep going on for a long time.
During this period of time businesses are going to be learning lessons they’ve never had to learn before. It’s going to be hard, right? Like it’s not just the hardest of business conditions, but in a fundamental sense most of these businesses have never encountered adverse business conditions. There’s going to be a lot of value from just learning how to endure these times.
In other words, there’s an opportunity here. There’s an opportunity to learn a lot about how to do your business better than you did before. There is going to be a lot of pain, but there’s an opportunity to rethink your business around the constraints that the world is offering up right now.
Start thinking about the unthinkable. Start creating plans, plans and more plans, making all of the plan B’s and plan C’s that you can.
What are the biggest challenges to the economy in the next year?
There’s a big international element to the Australian economy that is focussed on serving international needs, and that may be the big problem.
Be it tourism, be it education, be in certain classes of exports, we don’t really know yet, but this will be the biggest challenge to get past to rebuild the economy.
There’s a lot of interstate tourism that’s going to happen once the borders reopen, but we are still going to be missing $3 billion in foreign tourism.
I also have a lot of friends who are teaching at Sydney Uni, and all of their Chinese students are taking classes over Zoom from China, which obviously isn’t doing much to help the Australian economy.
There are also some interesting questions to be raised in regards to the impact the weakening of our international ties will have on our economy.
How has COVID-19 impacted your industry, and you personally?
I make a good portion of my income as a public speaker, and there are no public events right now.
Now, some of these events have moved online. In fact, I did one earlier today, and that’s a beautiful thing when it happens, but they’re not happening to anywhere near the frequency that they were this time last year. Normally I am pretty was fully booked in September, October into November.
Events as we had thought of them are not happening and that’s quite a large industry sector that has been hit. The industry is just basically frozen in place now. So personally, I’ve seen an enormous shift to my income.
On the other hand, I also work as a podcaster. People have been listening to more podcasts now, even though they’re not commuting, because people often listen to podcasts to take their mind off of things. That business is actually doing quite well right now.
On a personal level, it’s been hard to not be able to go and have coffee with not just friends but with people that are working with or want to do a project with.
The amount of uncertainty has been hard, as has watching friends getting laid off.
Ultimately, I’m a very optimistic, positive person – that’s just kind of my nature. And so I’ve found that I’m spending a lot of time reassuring people that I’m close to that it will get better for after a while.