IFS director defends forecasts as "the best we have" while Jacob Rees-Mogg says IFS experts are "sticking finger in the wind"

 
Jasper Jolly
Jacob Rees-Mogg Visits New Bagpuss Pop-up Shop
Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised experts since the EU referendum result (Source: Getty)

Economists from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have defended their analysis of UK forecasts to parliament's Treasury select committee.

Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, maintained his stance on the official data, saying the forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility are “the best starting point that we have”.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a member of the committee, questioned Johnson repeatedly on the methodology of economists.

He asked: “Are you concerned that forecasters all using the same models are all coming to the wrong answers and that this is very unhelpful for public policy because we’re effectively sticking our finger in the wind and guessing which way the wind is blowing?”

Rees-Mogg described the IFS analysis as “a bold assertion on a forecast that will inevitably be inaccurate”.

The IFS director had previously said the OBR forecasts show "a dreadful situation" in which UK wages do not grow for a decade.

Johnson stuck with his interpretation to the committee. “I think it’s a pretty safe forecast,” he said. “It’s almost inconceivable that we will not have a decade without earnings growth.”


The OBR predicted a big fall in GDP growth forecasts last week

However, Rees-Mogg was scathing, saying: “What do you add if you just follow slavishly the OBR forecasts?”

The MP for north east Somerset was a prominent voice in favour of leaving the European Union during the referendum campaign, and he has been an outspoken critic of “experts” since the vote.

Last week Rees-Mogg spoke to the BBC’s Newsnight programme about experts, saying: “There’s a great line from Cicero that there’s nothing so absurd that it hasn’t been said by some philosopher.”

“I think suspicion of experts goes back into antiquity. It’s a very healthy thing to have,” he added.

He had previously called for Bank of England governor Mark Carney to resign after the bank warned of potential damage to the economy if the UK voted to leave the EU.

“On every occasion he wants to talk down the economy and find doom and gloom, which doesn't seem to me to be the job of the governor of the Bank of England,” he told the Daily Mail.

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