Davos pundits: how good are they?

How well do the Davos moguls and gurus do in predicting the future?

The EurActiv website, with Reuters, reported as the World Economic Forum prepared for its 21-24 January Annual Meeting: "No-one last year saw Russia's annexation of Crimea, the rise of Islamic State or oil at $50 a barrel."

The report added: "The twin crises in the euro zone and the banking sector have also been notorious for wrong-footing policymakers and pundits."

It noted some other embarrasing moments: "In 2011 the French finance minister at the time, Christine Lagarde, declared the euro zone had 'turned the corner' and told financial markets not to 'short Europe'."

But Davos pundits also chalked up some successes in their predictions, EurActiv suggests: the rise of emerging markets and the shale gas-driven rebalancing of economic growth in the United States (though these sound like chicken-counting exercises).

The report credits business leaders with spotting the source of future global tensions: access to water and cybersecurity, though these hardly need much vision to see. EurActiv and Reuters also credit CEOs with "a reasonably good idea of what was in store" in 2007, 2009 and over the past three years, if not in 2008 and 2011.

The nadir for the nabobs of globalism: January 2008, says EurActiv. "Despite the onset of the U.S. sub-prime crisis, the Davos crowd overwhelmingly failed to spot the coming crash sparked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers only eight months later." They weren't alone.

Theme of this year's Davos meeting: "The new global context". The Forum says: "Complexity, fragility and uncertainty are potentially ending an era of economic integration and international partnership that began in 1989. What is clear is that we are confronted by profound political, economic, social and, above all, technological transformations. They are altering long-standing assumptions about our prospects."

Sources

EurActiv World Economic Forum