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The Lustig predictions for 2008

Robin Lustig | 10:03 UK time, Friday, 21 December 2007

(This week's newsletter)

It’s that time of year again … when I go into a trance and pretend that I can forecast what’s going to happen in the year ahead. It’s a silly game, I know, but it keeps me amused.

How did I do with last year’s predictions? Well, I feared that violence in Iraq would get worse, which it didn’t. I’m perfectly happy to have been wrong on that one.

I said Somalia would descend into more factional fighting, which it has done, not that anyone has taken much notice. I also said Gordon Brown would take over as prime minister (I claim no prizes for that one), that the SNP would probably emerge as the largest single party in Scotland, which it did, and that there’d be an increase in anti-Scottish sentiment south of the border, which there has been.

I also said that Mr Brown “might be sorely tempted to call a snap election in the autumn, both to establish his own authority and to wrong-foot David Cameron”. Which he was, and much good did it do him …

I noted that June would mark the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War in the Middle East and suggested that Hamas would not want to let that go unnoticed. And guess what, June was when they seized control in Gaza.

Finally, I noted that Romania and Bulgaria were about to join the EU and that Germany was determined to revive the debate over the EU constitution, sorry, reform treaty. Both turned into major stories of 2007.

So, what do my tea leaves tell me about 2008? First the US presidential election, and no, daft I may be, but not daft enough to predict the outcome of that one. Not even the most respected US political pundits are daring to forecast the winner at the moment, although I do intend to be in the US in early February when the picture may become a great deal clearer after a whole series of primaries and caucuses. Ask me again then …

I think the big story of the coming year will be the economy … because both in the US and in this country, it looks as if the decade of growth is coming to an end. So the big question in my mind is whether governments and central bankers can manage the downturn. And I’ll be watching for more bad news from the banks as they discover that the wave of speculative finance they’ve been riding so profitably for the past few years is now crashing down on them.

Which means even fewer smiles, I suspect, from G Brown. I predict that the opinion polls will continue to make gloomy reading for Labour, that the anti-Brown sniping from his own party ranks will increase, and that the Tories will still find it difficult to believe their luck. As for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, I fear they’ll continue to feel the pinch: on one side, a Tory leader who disobligingly describes himself as a liberal; and on the other, a Labour party that isn’t led by Tony Blair.

I think we’ll hear less about Iran and more about Pakistan. President Putin of Russia will become Prime Minister Putin of Russia, and I doubt that anyone will notice the difference. The Olympics in Beijing will be the occasion for much breast-beating about human rights abuses in China, and it wouldn’t surprise me if something goes horribly wrong.

I’m also going to be keeping a close eye on Cuba, which is already in the throes of a transition to a post-Fidel future, and on Venezuela and Bolivia, where there are growing signs of popular dissatisfaction with their populist leftist leaders. And finally, unfinished business in Kosovo: I expect a unilateral declaration of independence in February or March, and then a lot of grumbling and mumbling and gnashing of teeth from Belgrade and Moscow. But I doubt it’ll explode into a major conflagration.

As for what’s left of this year, I do hope you’ll try to catch the programme on Monday, Christmas Eve: it’ll be a bit different from the usual fare, because (i) we’ve already recorded it; (ii) it’s all about one subject; and (iii) no, you’ll have to listen to find out …

I’m going to be taking a break next week, but The World Tonight will be on air as usual (except for Christmas Day and New Year's Eve), so you’ll have no excuse not to keep up with world events. In the meantime, thank you for all your support – and comments -- over the past year.


  1. At 03:12 AM on 23 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    These are hardly daring predictions and they do not go out on much of a limb. Since this is not for money, you are no fun at all Mr. Lustig, you are being unreasonably conservative just so that you won't be proven wrong. I promise you your salary will not be at risk one haypenny if you don't get it right on this one. Therefore, I will try to compensate by making some of my own predictions, many or even all of which may not come true;

    There will be an economic slowdown in the US and in Europe early in the year. (You failed to predict the subprime mortgage fiasco the full extent of which we don't know yet.) The stock markets will go down. There will be many mortgage foreclosures in the US. Buying more cheap Chinese junk will be the last thing on most Americans mind. The Bush administration will be powerless to stop the continued downturn towards recession. The fed will make heroic efforts by lowering interest rates while the treasury will begin printing lots of money driving the dollar even lower against the Euro, perhaps below 50 cents by late summer.

    The benefits of the surge in Iraq will expire in the spring and the Iraqis will not have made any progress towards compromise creating a unified central government. Violence will increase substantially and the Presidential race in the US will revolve around the economy and a pullout of all American troops, the only issue being how fast. The slowdown and looming recession will be blamed on the war and the incompetence with which the Bush administration fought most of it. The unfair tax breaks the Bush administration gave the wealthy will also be an issue. The winner will be the one who promises to begin pulling all the troops out of Iraq on an accelerated schedule starting on January 21, 2009. I'm guessing Hillary Clinton will be the next President if she is not assassinated during the campaign and doesn't make a horrible blunder, and her VP will be John Edwards. Her likely competitor in the race will be John McCain but the outcome of the election could be a cliffhanger.

    The Olympics in China will be uneventful and the Chinese government will suppress even the slightest hint of protests with extreme force. If any outsiders join the protests, they will forcibly be removed to other cities and then quickly ejected from the country. As the economy in the US continues to slow, its impact will be felt in Europe and China. Europe will head into deep recession and many Chinese companies will lay off large numbers of workers. The Chinese government will take extreme measures to suppress public uprisings and demonstrations in some large cities but will have no effective strategies to stop the economic downturn. The Chinese stock market will crash. In the US the Dow will drop below 11,000.

    There will be an ecological catastrophe of unprecedented impact somewhere in the world and it may be linked to global warming. This could come in the form of torrential rains and floods, extreme drought and famine, or a heat wave killing hundreds of thousands. Africa, India, and Bangladesh are at high risk, Europe at moderate risk.

    Russia will begin making greater political demands on Europe including concessions on trade benefits equal to being an EU member and the right to buy much of its energy assets now off limits in exchange for assuring Europe continued uninterrupted adequate supplies of gas and oil.

    Fidel Castro will die but the failed Cuban revolution will continue on under his brother much as it is now with only minor liberalizations. The governments in Bolivia and Venezuela will experience large protests but will survive into 2009.

    There will be an impressive terrorist attack by al Qaeda somewhere in a large European city, possibly London, Paris, or Berlin. This will force Europeans to rethink their ambivalent attitude on Islamic terrorism and adopt a stance much closer to the Bush administration's.

    The Israelis will warn Iran that its continued nuclear program of uranium enrichment will result in war while privately the Arab countries will look for excuses to secretly sell out the Palestinians and draw closer to Israel acknowledging them in all but name because they are fearful of Iran developing a nuclear weapon. Publicly however their stance will remain mostly unchanged.

    Robert Mugabe will die or be assassinated.

    China will launch another astronaut into space and he will stay in orbit for about a day.

    200,000 refugees will die in Darfur as the world continues to lament helplessly.

    Will the Euro finally crack up under the weight of impossible pressure the result of years of unviable economies and huge government debts to pay for social safety nets? If it does, look for it to drop below the dollar in the aftermath, possibly this could happen in 2009. There will be social unrest all over Western Europe in the aftermath when Europeans realize their utopia was a fantasy all along and now have to somehow survive in its ashes.

    Japan looks stable, a safe place to be even if its economy remains stagnant unless...there is a major earthquake.

    OK, I've climbed out on a limb, now all that remains is for events to saw it off :-)

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  2. At 05:56 AM on 30 Dec 2007, Shahrzad Samii wrote:

    It was unbelievable when I heard the news of the late Mrs. Bhutto and I remembered this article which I had read on 21st of DEC.
    Shahrzad Samii - Iran

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  3. At 04:25 PM on 31 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    I predict that one year from today which will be December 31, 2008, BBC will still have multiple serious problems with the software on most of its blog sites.

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