View from the Gulf: 9th Oliver Wyman/Zogby Research Poll

Confidence in the UAE and focus on growth within the GCC

The effects of ongoing political and economic turmoil within and outside the Gulf region may be taking a toll on the executives of some countries in the GCC more than others. Our recent poll of 200 senior executives in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE shows that those in the UAE, perhaps buoyed by Dubai’s having been awarded the World Expo 20/20 in November, are the most confident in the region, with executives from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait less so.

Overall, the UAE and Qatar see opportunities for growth and potential challenges coming from outside their own countries.  Saudi and Kuwaiti executives are more internally-focused; they see internal threats as the most worrisome and look to internal investment as a source of growth.  

Confidence in current and future conditions

When asked to compare current conditions with those of a year ago, 75% from the UAE say things have improved (only 4% said conditions have actually declined).  Saudi and Qatari executives are less pleased with current conditions – a little more than half (55% in Saudi Arabia and 56% in Qatar) say conditions have improved, and around 23% in each say conditions have actually declined.  In Kuwait only 38% see improvement.

Turning to business conditions over the next two years in their country, 79% of senior executives in the UAE see things improving, and only 6% see conditions worsening.  By contrast, optimism in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait is more than 20 points lower, and pessimism about the future more pronounced – 23% of Saudi executives expect a decline in business conditions.

Other highlights from the survey:


  • Over 60% of executives in UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait see a unified GCC and a single currency as better for business, with UAE most optimistic about the GCC and nearly uniform support of a single currency across all four countries

  • Expo 2020 in Dubai will benefit the region by strengthening the GCC’s position, with optimism about these effects greatest in the UAE (perhaps influencing the views of executives on current and future conditions)

  • Despite opportunities for increased trade and investment, the impact on business of an open Iran are mixed – driven by its potential for political turmoil; 68% still see the potential for increased tension and instability as a potential negative effect

  • "Sustained pressure from events in the region and unremitting economic challenges in Europe may be revealing fault lines in the confidence of executives in different countries, and particularly in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” says Jeff Youssef, Associate Partner in Oliver Wyman.  

    Dr. James Zogby, the Managing Director of Zogby Research Services finds these results most interesting from a long-term perspective:  “We now have a truly unique set of bi-annual polls across 5 years on how senior executives assess their current business confidence and optimism.  The UAE’s continued resilience and confidence, post 2009 crisis, is striking, as is a recent inward turn from Saudi executives.”



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    View from the Gulf: 9th Oliver Wyman/Zogby Research Poll