After more than two years of navigating different dimensions and phases of the COVID-19 crisis, concerns over inflation, affordability, and national debt are front of mind for businesses, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Executive Opinion Survey (EOS).
Executives were asked to identify the risks they considered the biggest threats to their country over the next two years. The responses from more than 12,500 executives across 122 economies reflect a clear unease about economic headwinds against a backdrop of aggravated geopolitical tensions.
Although a true comparison with last year’s results isn’t possible owing to changes in the list of risks presented, “infectious diseases” has plummeted as a concern despite new variants of COVID-19 and periodic surges in case numbers; cost-based challenges trump concerns about growth and employment; and cross-border friction is now perceived as more of a threat than domestic stability within countries, except for a notable elevation of concern about “state collapse” in certain emerging market countries.
Top risk concerns by economy
Leaders across regions share similar risk perceptions. Inflation, affordability, and national debt related risks feature prominently in top-five risk rankings for executives globally. Conflict-induced commodity concerns also appear in the top risk rankings across regions along with other geo-political risks that feature in various manifestations, depending on regional contexts.
Top risk concerns by region
- With growth in many large economies stalling and debts mounting, “rapid and/or sustained inflation” and “debt crises” featured among the top ten risks in every region
- Reflecting the multiple instances of conflict and strained international relations, “geoeconomic confrontation” and “geopolitical contestation of strategic resources” are top-ten risks for business leaders in both advanced economies and emerging markets
- In a year of notable extreme heat events, droughts, wildfires, floods, and windstorms in North America, Europe, East and South Asia, it’s no surprise that “natural disasters and extreme weather events” is a top-ten concern in emerging markets, while aggregate responses from advanced economies prioritize the “failure of climate-change adaptation”
- With such an intense focus on economic and geopolitical issues, cyber and digital risks featured less prominently in the rankings this year, in particular for executives based in advanced economies, although “lack of widespread access to digital services and digital inequality” landed in the top five for respondents in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa
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