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“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable,” said John Kenneth Galbraith, the wisest American economist of his generation. (“A paltry honor,” he would have murmured.) But you still can’t resist wondering when the Chinese economy will be bigger than the U.S. economy — or the Brazilian bigger than the British, or the Turkish bigger than the Italian — as if it were some kind of horse race.

The latest document to tackle these questions is “The World in 2050,” drawn up by HSBC bank, which ranks the world’s hundred biggest economies as they are now, and as (it thinks) they will be in 2050. It contains the usual little surprises, like a prediction that per capita incomes in the Philippines and Indonesia, now roughly the same, will diverge so fast that the average Filipino will have twice the income of the average Indonesian by 2050.

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