The law of average suggests that sooner or later the Met Office will produce an accurate forecast. But no luck so far. Today we arrived at the allotments expecting torrential rain and the possibility of a typhoon, we actually enjoyed several hours of sunshine. The forecast for tomorrow is sun, so we are braced for the arrival of the typhoon and the disappearance of the hens in the direction of Manchester airport. The truth is that forecasting the movement of the jet stream over these islands is a near impossibility, which leaves us wondering why we are deluged on TV and the internet with endless updates. But then it has to be admitted that the things we codgers cannot understand would fill a book of Cyril Smith proportions.
In the category of our bewilderment would be two stories that emerged today. The first came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has warned that Britain is grossly underestimating life expectancy. The result will be a pensions time bomb that could cost £750 billion cost in pensions for people who the present statistics suggest will be long dead. An example of the maths involved is the current actuary assumption that anyone reaching their 65th birthday will survive until their 82.2 year, the IMF project the average survival as 89.2. Good news for us codgers, very bad news for the treasury!
The IMF insist that its calculations are validly calculated. The government has the choice of burying its head in the sand, or of facing up right now to the need to increase retirement age to 70, plus increased contributions. It is hardly the development that a government already well behind in public esteem will wish to pursue. But with the economy failing to respond to treatment, what alternative has it?
How about cutting major financial commitments that make no sense and are extremely unpopular with the electorate, and I am not referring to silly little savings that make no contribution of any note yet cause enormous hardship to many. I am referring to projects such as high-speed rail. It is already forecast to cost £35 billion, and we all know what happens to initial cost estimates. And today the forecast economic benefits have been downgraded for the fourth time. The latest projection suggests the scheme will barely, if ever, so much as break even.
Martin Tett, who leads the group of councils challenging the high-speed network, was quick to comment. “This proves fundamentally that we were right all along. Ours is not a nimby objection but an economic argument for the entire country..this is a catastrophically poor return at a time of austerity and this project needs to be reconsidered urgently by the government”, he said.
So we now know that after the expenditure of what will probably be the best part of £4o billion, the new service will run at a loss. For a fraction of the cost the existing rail network could be upgraded and that might well lead to an economic contribution. That would facililiate speeds of up to 125mph and the idea that doubling the speed would give businessmen more time to create miracles is ludicrous. As indeed is the idea that by 2024 tycoons will need to constantly travel to communicate.
There are of course many other examples of bizaare projects alongside rising contributions to the national debt. But this single pairing is enough to show that any faith in the idea that the politicians know what they are doing is somewhat misplaced.
Of course there could be a national appeal for codgers to die early to fund high-speed rail!
THE JOYS OF UNPREDICTABLITY!
It is said that only two things in life are certain; death and taxes. Last night’s Premiership results remind us that all else is entirely unpredictable.
After the weekend results the sports writers quickly penned their tributes to Alex Ferguson whilst setting about Mancini. The race was over, nothing could change things now. And then Rooney and co went along the road to Wigan Pier for the mere formality of ticking another easy fixture off the list.
Few of us could have predicted what happened next. Little Wigan outplayed the champions whilst Man City romped home. It would take a brave man to predict what happens from here on.
All of which goes to prove that forward planning is the ultimate myth!