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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 December 2007, 10:54 GMT
Correspondents gaze into 2008
As 2007 draws to a close, five top BBC correspondents give their predictions for 2008.

The year ahead will see a new president elected in the world's most powerful country. Climate change and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are also likely to remain hot topics.

How will the global economy fare, and what roles will emerging powerhouses like China and India play?

Our correspondents can also be seen sharing their views on television on BBC World and BBC News 24 on 1 January 2008 and heard on BBC Radio Four on 28 and 29 December 2007.

Justin Webb

Justin Webb
North America Editor

Evan Davis

Evan Davis
Economics Editor

James Robbins

James Robbins
Diplomatic Correspondent

Lyse Doucet

Lyse Doucet
World Affairs Correspondent

Stephen Sackur

Stephen Sackur
HardTalk presenter


What will be the biggest story in 2008?

The biggest story will be the way in which the winning candidate in the 2008 presidential election deals with the outside world.

Will he or she mark out a new course in US policy, away from pre-emptive military action and towards so called 'soft power'?

What are you looking forward to most?

I am looking forward to the presidential debates.

The drama of the one-on-one encounters between two new candidates is easy to dismiss in advance as scripted and lame, but on the night it will be electric.

They will be fighting for the right to inherit the keys to the White House at a time of enormous potential change - they will throw everything, really everything, into the fight.

What are you looking forward to least?

The dog days of the summer when everyone loses interest and wishes it were over already.

What would entertain you most in 2008?

I would love to see Ron Paul win the Republican nomination. If you need to ask why, you haven't been concentrating so far.

On Facebook, who would you most like to be poked by?

What is Facebook? I like talking to "ordinary" Americans about their lives and their plans, preferably in Starbucks but in Dunkin Donuts if necessary. I am not that fussed about famous people.


What will be the biggest story in 2008?

Global economic slowdown and falling house prices.

It'll probably affect most of the Western countries to varying degrees; the UK economy, for example, will probably see growth dive from about 3% this year, to more like 1.5% next.

That may be far from outright recession and, given the circumstances, should be considered satisfactory.

But nothing can be ruled out and it will feel unpleasant compared to recent years.

What are you looking forward to most?

Apart from not having to talk about house prices going up any more, I think the gradual unwinding of various economic imbalances will be a positive development in 2008.

I expect that in the US and UK, the level of savings will rise as consumers become more cautious, exports will rise and the trade deficit will narrow. That's all to the good.

And to help in that process, China might even allow its currency, the renminbi, to rise in value significantly.

This will be a pretty big development when it happens but it will make industry in the West more competitive.

What are you looking forward to least?

Housing defaults and repossessions. We've started seeing them soar in the US. They are expected to rise in the UK.

Some borrowers who fixed their mortgages two years ago, and who have a less-than-perfect credit record, will find it hard to re-mortgage on realistic terms. Some may have little choice but to default. That's the housing side of things.

Then you have the corporate side as well. Some big companies were taken over with large amounts of borrowed money in the last couple of years.

When the going gets tough, the companies may get going - to the administrator.

What would entertain you most in 2008?

For me, the most entertaining prospect is the total eclipse of the sun in China and Russia on 1 August, just ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.

While on the Olympics, I'll also be entertained to see the start of construction of the London Olympic site.

In my own economics subject area, I think there won't be much entertaining.

But it will be interesting to see the countries that have been accumulating wealth in the last few years - China and the Middle-East - buying banks, property and companies in the West.

It will be even more interesting to see how it goes down. But maybe not entertaining.

On Facebook, who would you most like to be poked by?

Errmm.... difficult one. And perhaps the word "poked" ought to be replaced.

I'm not on Facebook, because I don't think I have enough friends to want to publicise the list. But I'm assured that Twitter is the big new thing and I expect that we'll hear more of that in 2008.

If I had to pick a person, I would say Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, sometimes known as Robert Mugabe's private banker.

He's had to shave three zeros off Zimbabwe's dollar notes this year, but they've got too many zeros again, and there will have to be more currency reform.

I rather hope he sends me a message admitting that it's more than the currency that needs replacing.


What will be the biggest story in 2008?

Frankly the biggest story in the regions I normally cover is the "next big story".

Sadly, violence has taken on such brutal proportions in some parts of the world that we just have to brace ourselves for the next outrage.

But if I had to pick, Iraq is the country to watch, five years since the US-led invasion.

Will the trend towards improved security continue to hold? Will US troops pull out in great numbers? Will feuding Iraqi politicians finally compromise to agree on key legislation?

There will also be some important moments in the tortuous negotiations towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and a wider Arab-Israeli peace.

A pledge, backed by the international community, has been made to reach a deal by the end of 2008. They may not make it but there will certainly be eruptions on the way.

I should also point out that, even in the regions I mainly cover, the US elections are regarded as the biggest story.

Some countries are waiting for the Bush team to go; others are wondering if the Democrats will be any different.

What are you looking forward to most?

Will 2008 be the year of dialogue?

In a number of countries, we end the year with hints of "it's time to talk" but there is still the overwhelming threat of more violence.

Will the US find a way to overcome decades of silence and hostility and talk to Iran or will there be a strike before the Bush team bows out?

Will Israelis find a way to communicate with Hamas?

Will the Nato-backed Afghan government be able to find ways to bring more of the Taliban in the fold?

What are you looking forward to least?

More violence. In Pakistan where militant Islamic groups, including a Pakistani Taleban, seem to go from strength to strength and neither the Pakistan government nor the international community (including Nato in Afghanistan) has a clear and convincing strategy to deal with this threat.

Also, if the Israeli-Palestinian talks break down there will certainly be more violence and anger; and I fear that the suicide bombings in Afghanistan, including Kabul, will grow in numbers and strength.

What would entertain you most in 2008?

Hmm... not sure what you mean by this.

I can think of some stories that would entertain but while they are comic to watch, they are tragic for people who have to live with the consequences.

I think any answer I would give might not sound right!

On Facebook, who would you most like to be poked by?

The US's Condoleezza Rice and Israel's Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, because I'd like to know from these two women, who work closely together, how they rate their chances of bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace by the end of 2008...

General David Petraeus, because I'd like to know how sustainable he really thinks some of the recent improvements in security in parts of Iraq are. Is he worried his time is running out?

The Afghan novelist Khaled Hosseini, because I'd like to know how much he likes the amazing film of his best-selling book, The Kite Runner.

George Clooney, because he has the platform to get lots of people interested in world events who don't normally care, so I'd like to find out how much his father's journalistic insights have rubbed off on him.


What will be the biggest story in 2008?

The Olympics in China. It will be the biggest Olympics ever, staged by the nation which already has the world's largest population and is building fast towards becoming the largest economy in the world.

Will the estimated four billion people around the globe who watch the games on television also see rising China as a positive force in the world, or as a potential threat?

By the middle of this century, China will eclipse the US and become the dominant power. How is it using its power now around the world? and how will it develop that role?

China insists its path is one of "peaceful development" but its astounding economic growth and patchy political development and human rights record will come under unprecedented scrutiny in its Olympic year.

What are you looking forward to most?

Some travelling, perhaps in Asia, to learn more about our complex world.

What are you looking forward to least?

Too much travelling!

I am an optimist. I look forward positively but I remain gloomy about the plight of the people of Sudan.

The regime will continue to work hard to block international efforts to stop violence and protect the innocent.

What would entertain you most in 2008?

The accidental release of recordings from inside the campaign teams of the leading contenders for the US presidency as the candidates open up in private to their real feelings about the issues and their rivals.

News that I had won an "everlasting" golden ticket to the world's concert halls and opera houses - I'm not counting on it!

On Facebook, who would you most like to be poked by?

I don't use Facebook but Daniel Barenboim would be my choice. He has been a hero to me since my teens as the complete pianist, with intelligence, insight, and huge emotional range.

I grew up with his first recordings of the Beethoven piano concertos in the late 1960s and I heard him play on the South Bank with Pinchas Zukerman and Jacqueline du Pre.

I'll be there again in 2008 in February and March to hear him play the Beethoven sonatas.

I'd like to talk to him both about music (especially Wagner!) and about his extraordinary effort to use music as a unifying force between Israelis, Palestinians and other young Arab musicians in the East-West Divan Orchestra.


What will be the biggest story in 2008?

Americans will elect a new president and, in the process, get their first First Husband.

But by November 2008, when Hillary Clinton wins a narrow victory, the big thematic story of the year will be unfolding: economic woe in the industrialised world.

The mantle of economic leadership will begin to slip away from the US. "De-coupling" will be the buzz word.

China India, and the so-called N11 - the next 11 most dynamic economies - will maintain strong growth in spite of the G8 economic doldrums.

The dollar will no longer be the world's favourite safe haven currency and, in a final symbol of the shifting balance of economic power, highly educated and motivated Indian and Chinese migrants to the UK and US will start heading for home in a reverse migration of talent.

What are you looking forward to most?

Massive growth of mobile technology in Africa.

Thanks to digital networks, phone and internet access is spreading across the poorest continent, empowering people and creating business opportunities.

I look forward to Africans watching the best goals from the African Cup of Nations on their mobile phones.

What are you looking forward to least?

The launch in mid-2008 of the world's cheapest car.

Manufactured by Indian company Tata it'll cost between $2,000 - $3,000 and promises to make the combustion engine affordable to millions of wannabe drivers in the developing world.

Here's where spreading prosperity and the climate change agenda collide. Never mind the emissions I'm worried about the road safety.

The car is going to be less metal, more plastic, and is going to be stuck together with adhesive. How long before the bits start falling off?

I'm also grimly awaiting the first drugs scandal from the Beijing Olympics and the feigned expressions of shock from fellow athletes.

Drugs are rife, why don't they just admit it?

What would entertain you most in 2008?

Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone mud-wrestling to decide the London Mayoral election after a tied vote. Proof positive that politics doesn't have to be boring.

Fabio Capello dropping the entire current England football squad and moulding a new team from willing workhorses in the lower leagues - it's about time the bling was taken out of football.

On Facebook, who would you most like to be poked by?

My mother. Hope this doesn't sound too Freudian but she's been agonising about buying a computer and "getting on that internet-thingy" for the last decade.

If she would just dare to take the plunge it'd open up a whole new world - millions of people in her generation are already there.

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