Forget forecasts

This is the BBC

The art of forecasting is falling out of favour. Its usefulness as a prediction of the future has come under severe pressure. This is especially true in the world of political forecasting and for one reason, forecasts in this sense are invariably wrong. They have now become synonymous with the other meaning of the word, as conjecture, the formation or expression of an opinion or theory without sufficient evidence for proof. In other words, forecasts are seen for what they are, a guess.

Instead, a new euphemism is entering the parlance. Illustrative scenario is the new forecast.

Instead of projecting forward to demonstrate what is expected, a scenario is painted that represents a possible future. If you are lucky you may even get a choice of futures to consider. These scenarios illustrate what might be.

In some ways this is a more honest portrayal of the future. Nobody can predict with absolute certainty what is going to happen. There are just too many variables to consider. The Illustrative scenario at least recognises that, in that it allows for all possible futures.

The phrase reeks of political hi-jinks however, and appears as a mechanism to allow politicians to backtrack on their original assumptions. They can claim therefore that they never promised anything of the sort and instead had laid out information pertaining to the way things might have been under different circumstances. 

An illustrative scenario is far more forgiving than a forecast. You can’t be held to task for what in effect is merely a vision of possibility. It has much more wriggle room and this is something that politicians desire, the ability to give a plausible answer that does not hold them hostage to fortune.

They may have a different name but underneath the bonnet they are the same thing. Forecasts, projections and illustrative scenarios are all attempts to foresee the future and nobody can do that, not even those in government.

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