PwC Middle East poll also finds that a large portion of regional CEOs believe their businesses will be disrupted by changing customer behaviours
A majority of CEOs in the Middle East are optimistic about global economic growth, according to new survey data from PwC Middle East.
According to PwC’s Middle East CEO survey, 52 percent of CEOs in the region believe that the global economy is set to improve, compared to just 26 percent who expressed the same sentiment last year. This figure, according to PwC, places the Middle East on par with the global average.
The report also found that 81 percent of CEOs in the region were confident that their company would grow over the next 12 months, down from 88 percent the previous year. Globally, 88 percent of CEOs expressed confidence that their companies would grow.
“The region is rapidly evolving in the wake of shifting global trends. In particular, it has been a landmark year of change for the Gulf’s largest economy, Saudi Arabia,” said Hani Ashkar, PwC Middle East territory senior partner. “Given this macro environment, it comes as no surprise that our survey responses are often paradoxical.”
The PwC statistics also show that 85 percent of CEOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia expressed concerns about ‘increasing tax burdens’, compared to 74 percent the year before. PwC credits this increase to the recent implementation of VAT in both countries.
Additionally, many CEOs expressed concerns about cybercrime, with 77 percent of respondents saying that they were concerned with cyber threats, compared to 66 percent last year.
Many CEOs also said they were experiencing significant changes in customer behaviour, with 79 percent of CEOs in the region saying their businesses will be disrupted, compared to the global average of 68 percent. A total of 58 percent of CEOs in the region also said they are creating transparency in their organisations to build trust with customers.
When it came to recruitment, CEOs in the region expressed pessimism, with a third of regional CEOs noting that they expect headcounts to decrease over the next year – the highest figure globally.
PwC noted that this is likely due to efficiency drives, with 76 percent of CEOs in the Middle East saying that headcount would decrease due to automation, compared to 80 percent globally.
“It is clear from the survey that Middle East CEOs are feeling more pressure and accountability on results,” said Stephen Anderson, Middle East clients and market leader for PwC. “The private sector looks set for a sustained period of relatively low growth.
CEOs are being asked to drive improved returns but this will not come from riding a market wave,” he added. “They need to drive market share, differentiate, embrace digital and to innovate, whilst also keeping a tight rein on cost, efficiency and risk. In short, this is the new normal for regional CEOs.”