Lamont names his new forecasters

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The Independent Online
GAVYN DAVIES, a partner at Goldman Sachs and an Independent economics columnist, was yesterday appointed to Norman Lamont's new seven-man team of independent forecasters created to defuse recent criticism over Treasury failure to foresee the 1980s boom or the severity of the recession.

The panel includes leading British economists encompassing the two extremes of economic policy debate.

One is represented by Professor Wynne Godley of Cambridge, Britain's most eminent Keynesian and a persistent critic of government failure to stem the erosion of the country's industrial base. Professor Tim Congdon of Lombard Street Research is a leading monetarist who correctly predicted the timing, depth and duration of the current recession, and represents the other extreme.

The panel also features Professor Patrick Minford, of Liverpool University, another prominent monetarist and informal adviser to Margaret Thatcher.

Andrew Sentance, the chief economist of the Confederation of British Industry, will bring to the panel a well-informed view on manufacturing industry's prospects.

Andrew Britton, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and David Currie, who heads the Centre for Economic Performance at the London Business School, will represent the views of Britain's two leading economic think tanks.

The National Institute follows a traditionally Keynesian school of economic analysis whereas the LBS, which has supported both monetarism and fixed exchange rate systems, like the European exchange rate mechanism, has exerted the heaviest influence on the Treasury.

Alan Budd, the Government's chief economic adviser, Sir Terence Burns, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, and Bill Robinson, special adviser to the Chancellor, are all LBS alumni. Mr Budd will chair the new panel, which will meet each February, June and October. It will send an agreed report to the Chancellor, a summary of which will be published. But there will be no attempt to impose the Treasury's own views on the panel.

The reports are expected to include economic forecasts embracing a central tendency and the full range of predictions. The Treasury will solicit the panel's views on short-term economic prospects at all three meetings, but two of the sessions will also include a debate on medium-term economic developments.

Panel members have been appointed for a renewable two-year term and are understood to have been offered a nominal fee of pounds 125 for each meeting plus expenses.

Mr Lamont announced the creation of an outside team of independent forecasters in his Mansion House speech to the City in October, in response to the scathing criticism of economic policy following sterling's ejection from the ERM last September.

Some Treasury economists fear that the panel's forecasts will constrain the Treasury from publishing forecasts that are significantly different. They tacitly acknowledge that the panel may be a cynical attempt to hide behind the outside consensus rather than an effort to improve macro-economic management.

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