It shows a comparison of successive UK GDP growth projections made by the Office for Budget Responsibility from the 2010 Budget onwards, both with each other and also with the actual UK GDP growth experienced to 2012. It is just one of many comparisons of economic projections with reality which could be shown to demonstrate how terrible we are at predicting the future, how we make ourselves forget this fact with detailed explanations of the special circumstances which made our predictions fail last time and how we need to find less useless ways to support decision making.


  1. So what makes the OBR predictions so poor and the UUK ones so saintly? It seems to me, as you, that deficit/surfeit predictions are entirely in the eye of the beholder, most likely reflecting what it is that the beholder wants. Everything I have seen looking at the historic value of the USS holdings suggest that it is constantly outperforming expectations (and I don’t just mean this which undoubtedly you have seen). And yes, I am just a biologist somewhat lost in what I should vote tomorrow.

    • Hi Andy. My apologies for the ridiculous time it has taken me to respond to your comment, and I hope the UCU vote went the way you wanted it to. You are completely correct that valuations can be very subjective, which is why a pensions funding regulatory regime has been constructed, very much by trial-and-error, over decades to protect scheme members from over-optimistic or just plain opportunistic employers. As a result, there are very real constraints on what can be assumed and still get approved by the regulator. One of a scheme actuary’s main jobs is to make sure the scheme trustees are aware of where these constraints are for their particular scheme. The thing which has been missing from many of the USS Briefs I have seen is that it is not just the asset valuation which matters, but the asset valuation relative to the liabilities. If assets have performed better than assumed in absolute terms but liabilities have grown more due to reducing real bond yields and increasing longevity, then a deficit may still increase between valuations.

  2. Angela Carter


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