Middle Eastern CEOs among most optimistic on global economy: Report

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CEOs in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are some of the most confident in the global economy’s three-year growth prospects, according to a new report from KPMG.

Fifty-four percent of Saudi Arabian CEOs reported confidence in the global economy, while 63 percent and 68 percent of CEOs in the UAE and Oman respectively also expressed confidence in global economic growth. In comparison, CEOs in the UK (43 percent), France (44 percent), China (48 percent), and Australia (38 percent) reported much lower confidence in their global economy outlook.

Although 87 percent of CEOs in the US reported a confident outlook, KPMG confirmed to Al Arabiya English that this number is likely an outlier, as US survey data was taken in 2019 prior to heightened geopolitical tensions.

Overall CEO confidence in the global economy was, however, significantly lower than the 94 percent that global CEOs expressed in their own business’ growth prospects.

The figures for Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE were listed in KPMG’s 2019 Global CEO Outlook: UAE, which also assessed CEO thoughts on a variety of other topics.

CEOs in the UAE reported technological disruption as the top challenge to growth in 2019. In tandem, the percentage of UAE CEOs that said their company is actively disrupting their sector, rather than waiting to be disrupted, grew to 69 percent, from 60 percent in 2018.

Cybersecurity risk, environmental and climate change, operational risk, and a return to territorialism, were also identified by CEOs as key challenges, each with an equal weighting.

“This year’s KPMG CEO Outlook report shows that UAE CEOs are championing a digital reinvention, while navigating other big issues like economic territorialism and climate change,” said Nader Haffar, Chairman & CEO KPMG Lower Gulf.

“To weather the challenges that lie ahead, they may have to fundamentally transform their operating models and build an agile, customer-focused and connected enterprise with a strong workforce at the helm.”

KPMG’s overall CEO report is based on a survey of 1,300 CEOs in 11 of the world’s largest economies. For the latest report, KPMG also interviewed 50 CEOs in Saudi Arabia, 35 in the UAE, and 25 in Oman. The CEOs interviewed operate in 11 key industries, including asset management, automotive, retail, banking, energy, manufacturing, technology, and telecommunications.