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5 steps for planning 2021 budgets amid uncertainty

Kevin Sneader, global managing partner for McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on how corporate business leaders think in response to the coronavirus crisis:

How can business leaders approach budget planning for 2021 when the environment is so uncertain?

In short, I believe that the planning process for 2021 presents an opportunity to turn hard earned lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. It's an enduring exercise that links strategy to value. Now, five steps are needed for this to happen.


First, stress test scenarios and assumptions to counter uncertainty. Two, reimagine the business from a zero base in order to determine key business drivers. Three, hold back some spending centrally, as contingency, to build flexibility and optionality into budgets. Four assign finance talent to support the highest priority areas, or topics in order to prevent burnout. Five, rethink decision-making with the explicit goal of de-biasing the planning process.Given the scale of disruption, means previously held beliefs likely no longer hold true. The past year has been full of challenges. 2021 will no doubt bring another set of challenges, but it's also a year when companies invest now behind resilience and sustainability are those that will emerge stronger, not weaker from this crisis.

Now that Joe Biden is officially US president, leaders from around the world would like a word with him — but where will he make his first international trip?

After a tumultuous four years, many countries are now clamoring for a face-to-face with President Biden. That includes allies who felt abandoned by Trump's "America First" presidency, as well as adversaries with thorny issues on the agenda. We check in on who's pitching him hardest on a near-term state visit.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on what to expect from President Biden's first 100 days:

It's Inauguration Day. And you can see behind me the Capitol Building with some of the security corridor set up that's preventing people like me from getting too close to the building, as Joe Biden gets sworn in as our 46th president. Historic day when you consider that you've got Kamala Harris, the first woman vice president, the first woman of color to be vice president.

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On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

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Kamala Harris was sworn in today as the first woman Vice President of the United States. That means she's only a heartbeat away from occupying the Oval Office — and could well be the Democratic candidate to replace Joe Biden if the 78-year-old president decides to not run for reelection in 2024. Should Harris — or another woman — become US president soon in the future, that'll (finally) put America on par with most of the world's top 20 economies, which have already had a female head of state or government at some point in their democratic history. Here we take a look at which ones those are.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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