Wearing my increasingly tattered futurist’s hat, I was struck by this otherwise not hugely exciting article at the Guardian about the IMF’s forecast for the UK’s economy. The IMF has changed its forecast for 2011:
The IMF said it was cutting its growth forecast for the UK to 1.1% this year — down from 1.5% in June, 1.7% in April and 2% at the start of the year.
I’m very, very far from an expert in economics, economic forecasting or the workings of the IMF, but… but… I’m surprised that this seems perfectly normal. The Fund has issued four different forecasts about growth for 2011. It has changed its mind three times in nine months. Its most recent forecast is half its original one.
I have no doubt that it’s extremely difficult to predict how something that’s both complicated and, possibly, hard to define as a country’s economy will change with much precision. Which leads me to wonder… why do they try to predict it with this much precision, and why does anyone still take the forecasts seriously?
If (or when) someone calling themselves a futurist rashly made a forecast like this for some time in 10, 20, 50 years, and got it wrong, we’d look back and laugh at their naivety. So why is it fine to be continually this wrong about the year we’re currently in? This is a genuine question.
(All of which reminds me of this article by Michael Blastland from 2010 about the Bank of England’s predictions for GDP. Be sure to click the “Click here to see what actually happened to GDP” link below the graph.)