Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

Time to Build a New Practice of Foresight for National Economies? Ireland, and Uncertain Futures in Forecasts and Scenarios

List of AuthorsO’Mahony Tadhg, Luukkanen Jyrki, Vehmas Jarmo, Kaivo-oja Jari Roy Lee


Publication year2023




Self-archived copy’s web address


The literature on economic forecasting, is showing an increase in criticism, of the inaccuracy of forecasts, with major implications for economic, and fiscal policymaking. Forecasts are subject to the systemic uncertainty of human systems, considerable event-driven uncertainty, and show biases towards optimistic growth paths. The purpose of this study is to consider approaches to improve economic foresight.


This study describes the practice of economic foresight as evolving in two separate, non-overlapping branches, short-term economic forecasting, and long-term scenario analysis of development, the latter found in studies of climate change and sustainability. The unique case of Ireland is considered, a country that has experienced both steep growth and deep troughs, with uncertainty that has confounded forecasting. The challenges facing forecasts are discussed, with brief review of the drivers of growth, and of long-term economic scenarios in the global literature.


Economic forecasting seeks to manage uncertainty by improving the accuracy of quantitative point forecasts, and related models. Yet, systematic forecast failures remain, and the economy defies prediction, even in the near-term. In contrast, long-term scenario analysis eschews forecasts in favour of a set of plausible or possible alternative scenarios. Using alternative scenarios is a response to the irreducible uncertainty of complex systems, with sophisticated approaches employed to integrate qualitative and quantitative insights.

Research limitations/implications

To support economic and fiscal policymaking, it is necessary support advancement in approaches to economic foresight, to improve handling of uncertainty and related risk.

Practical implications

While European Union Regulation (EC) 1466/97 mandates pursuit of improved accuracy, in short-term economic forecasts, there is now a case for implementing advanced foresight approaches, for improved analysis, and more robust decision-making.

Social implications

Building economic resilience and adaptability, as part of a sustainable future, requires both long-term strategic planning, and short-term policy. A 21st century policymaking process can be better supported by analysis of alternative scenarios.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the article is original in considering the application of scenario foresight approaches, in economic forecasting. The study has value in improving the baseline forecast methods, that are fundamental to contemporary economics, and in bringing the field of economics into the heart of foresight.

Downloadable publication

This is an electronic reprint of the original article.
This reprint may differ from the original in pagination and typographic detail. Please cite the original version.

Last updated on 2023-07-06 at 12:15