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IMF Working Paper

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An Evaluation of World Economic Outlook Growth Forecasts—2004–17

Prepared by Oya Celasun, Jungjin Lee, Mico Mrkaic, Allan Timmermann1

Authorized for distribution by Oya Celasun

August 2021

IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.


This paper examines the performance of World Economic Outlook (WEO) growth forecasts for 2004–17. Short-term real GDP growth forecasts over that period exhibit little bias, and their accuracy is broadly similar to those of Consensus Economics forecasts. By contrast, two- to five-year ahead WEO growth forecasts in 2004–17 tend to be upward biased, and in up to half of countries less accurate than a naïve forecast given by the average growth rate in the recent past. The analysis suggests that a more efficient use of available information on internal and external factors—such as the estimated output gap, projected terms of trade, and the growth forecasts of major trading partners—can improve the accuracy of some economies’ growth forecasts.

JEL Classification Numbers: C12, C40, C53

Keywords: Forecasting, forecasting bias and efficiency

Author’s E-Mail Address:,,,


The authors thank Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti for very useful discussions, Bryan Zou and Ritong Qu for excellent research assistance, and Luisa Calixto and Daniela Rojas for excellent editorial support. The analysis in this paper is based on the statistical tests presented in Timmermann (2018), provided as an online annex of this working paper.

An Evaluation of World Economic Outlook Growth Forecasts, 2004–17
Author: Oya Celasun, Jungjin Lee, Mr. Mico Mrkaic, and Mr. Allan Timmermann