By Andy Sambidge
New World Economic Forum report outlines main economic, social concerns for region
Severe income disparity is regarded as the most likely risk over the next decade by experts on the Middle East and North Africa, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report.
Reflecting a somewhat different set of priorities from the global results of a poll of over 1,000 experts and industry leaders, respondents with expertise on the MENA region also put water supply crises, chronic fiscal imbalances, rising religious fanaticism and volatile energy and agriculture prices in the top five most likely global risks.
The global overview was of a world seen as more at risk as the financial crisis lingers, deflecting attention from climate change at a time of increasing freak weather events.
Overall, the report highlighted severe income disparity followed by chronic fiscal imbalances as the top two most prevalent global risks, which reflects on-going concerns about government debt as well as a slightly more pessimistic outlook overall for the coming 10 years.
Following a year scarred by extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to flooding in China, respondents rated rising greenhouse gas emissions as the third most likely global risk overall, while the failure of climate change adaptation is seen as the environmental risk with the most knock-on effects for the next decade.
“These global risks are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems,” warned Lee Howell, the editor of the report and managing director at the World Economic Forum.
“National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems continue to function despite a major disturbance,” he added.
Axel P Lehmann, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, added: “With the growing cost of events like Superstorm Sandy, huge threats to island nations and coastal communities, and no resolution to greenhouse gas emissions, the writing is on the wall. It is time to act.”