View From the Gulf: C-Suite Survey Shows Rising Optimism

The Middle East's Gulf region is emerging from the shadow of the global financial crisis with a strong sense of confidence as business leaders set priorities for bolstering their competitiveness on the world stage.

This rising optimism is among the findings in the second Oliver Wyman/Zogby International survey of 134 C-suite executives in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The survey, conducted in April and May 2010, offers a snapshot of post-crisis business sentiment in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, a dynamic, highly interconnected part of the world where such data are rare.

Across the GCC, 58% of those surveyed say they find current business conditions improved, and 82% are optimistic about the prospects for the next two years. In the UAE, where the effects of the crisis were especially pronounced, there was a dramatic increase in confidence, with 74% expecting improved business conditions in two years — up 29 percentage points from the previous survey in October 2009. 85% of those surveyed in Saudi Arabia say they expect improvement in two years, up 19 points; the level of two-year optimism in Qatar rose 13 points to 96%.

While GCC executives are upbeat, they are also clear-eyed about obstacles. Concerns about labor issues, for instance, are rising. 41% of respondents believe labor reform is an issue requiring immediate attention, up 12 percentage points since the first survey. Education reform tops the list of long-term concerns — up 15 points to 36%. (See the chart below.)

To make the region more competitive, senior GCC executives are generally looking at home and to the developing world: 46% say that diversification within GCC economies is the greatest opportunity to build competitiveness, and more prefer to pursue partnerships with BRIC nations or developing economies (28%) than with developed ones (4%).

The next Oliver Wyman/Zogby International survey of GCC executives is planned for fall 2010.

View From the Gulf: C-Suite Survey Shows Rising Optimism