Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Forecasting the world in 2016"

From the Financial Times, Dec. 30:

FT writers indulge in a feast of predictions — from the price of oil to Vladimir Putin’s next moves 
A New Year beckons and the Financial Times once more indulges in the ritual of forecasting the 12 months ahead. Our experts and commentators set caution to one side and predict what will happen in everything from the US presidential election to the Euro 2016 football tournament.

A quick judgment on how they did last year. Ed Crooks correctly forecast that the oil price had further to fall, a brave claim at the end of a year in which it had already halved. Martin Wolf said the ECB would adopt full quantitative easing, which it did. Clive Cookson rightly opined that Ebola would be eliminated in west Africa by the close of 2015. Gideon Rachman said Vladimir Putin would annexe no further territory in Ukraine and Europe. Not many at the end of 2014 were saying that.

We got one wrong. Jonathan Ford was among many who assumed the British general election would end in a hung parliament (he went so far as to predict a national government). Otherwise, the fault last year lay not with the answers we gave but the questions we failed to ask. We did not foresee a surge of Isis-sponsored terrorism in France; that Russia would take military action in Syria; and that the migrant crisis would become a grave threat to the EU. In 2016 too, events will happen that are as yet beyond our imagination.
James Blitz
Will Hillary Clinton win the US presidential election?
Yes. It will be a rollercoaster election — and the nastiest in memory. Mrs Clinton will be pilloried by her Republican opponent, Ted Cruz, for her character flaws and weaknesses in the face of America’s enemies. A large chunk of the electorate will hold up the Clinton name as an emblem of all that is wrong — and corrupt — about today’s America. But elections are still won in the centre, or what is left of it, and Mr Cruz will be too far to the right of the median voter to make it to the White House. Despite uncomfortably close polls, Mrs Clinton will win the electoral college by a landslide. Democrats will take back the Senate. But she will start her term in a very polarised Washington. There will be no honeymoon.
Edward Luce
Will Britain leave the EU in the referendum expected in 2016?
No. Britain will vote to stay in the European Union. Not with any sense of enthusiasm or excitement but because the innate common sense of British voters ultimately will prevail. Forget the technical arguments about whether David Cameron manages to secure a good deal in his renegotiation or whether the UK gets back its contribution to Brussels in increased investment and trade. Consider instead the protagonists on both sides. In the end voters will choose between the calm logic of former prime minister John Major and the populism of Ukip’s Nigel Farage. My money is on Mr Major. If I am wrong, Britain faces truly turbulent times.
Philip Stephens

Will Bashar al-Assad still be in power 12 months from now?
Yes. Assad will remain nominally president of Syria in 2016, even if in reality he has already been reduced to the status of the biggest warlord rather than the ruler of a state. Militarily, he has been bolstered by the Russian military intervention that has targeted his rebel enemies. Politically, a US-Russian plan agreed in recent weeks envisages an 18-month transition and is fraught with risks. Even in the event that a peace process gains traction, Mr Assad will do his best to stall and hold on to his seat of power in Damascus.
Roula Khalaf