Financial crime leads to billions of lost business in Middle East, survey finds

Some 45 percent of MENA respondents in a Thomson Reuters survey had been a victim of financial crime as opposed to 47 percent globally. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Financial crime leads to billions of lost business in Middle East, survey finds

  • Some 45 percent of MENA respondents in Thomson Reuters victims of fraud, corruption and bribery
  • 77 percent of MENA respondents deliberately avoided customers, suppliers, countries or industries viewed as most exposed to financial crime.

LONDON: Middle Eastern companies are losing billions of dollars in business opportunities because of fears about financial crime, according to a Thomson Reuters survey published on Thursday.

Concern about the possibility of severe financial and reputational damage due to regulatory breaches leads foreign investors and firms to shun companies and entire regions where they see “heightened risk.”

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), 77 percent of survey respondents said that they deliberately avoided customers, suppliers, countries or industries which they viewed as most exposed to financial crime.

“The impact in terms of lost opportunities at both organizational and national level is difficult to quantify, but likely to impact productivity and economic development,” Thomson Reuters said.

The report was conducted online by an independent third party in March 2018. More than 2,000 senior managers at large global organizations completed the survey, from 19 countries.

In a hard-hitting conclusion, the report said: “For the first time our research has put a price on financial crime: three and a half percent of corporate turnover for the 2,373 large companies in our survey alone. That adds up to a staggering $1.45 trillion.”

Financial crime was said to blight individual lives and undermine the ability of governments to provide key services such as education and health. The IMF has shown that it reduces economic growth and social cohesion.

Che Sidanius, global head of financial crime regulation at Thomson Reuters, said that financial crime caused “incalculable” harm around the world. The proceeds of activities spanning bribery, corruption, fraud, and narcotics trafficking have been implicated in the financing of terrorism, human rights abuses such as slavery and child labor, and environmental crime.

“This has serious economic and social costs in terms of the lost revenues to national exchequers that could be invested in social development, and in terms of the impact on individual lives,” Sidanius said.

Other key findings were that 45 percent of MENA respondents had been a victim of financial crime as opposed to 47 percent globally; 96 percent believed that bribery and corruption was an important issue to tackle; 57 percent indicated that the consequences of bribery and corruption meant less government revenue; only 59 percent said that they fully conducted due diligence; and only 60 percent fully conducted due diligence, the report said.


Davos 2019: Mideast CEOs turn gloomy on global economy, PwC study finds

Political and business leaders are gathering in the mountain resort of Davos in Switzerland this week. (AP)
Updated 15 min 23 sec ago
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Davos 2019: Mideast CEOs turn gloomy on global economy, PwC study finds

  • The loss of confidence from regional CEOs was the second biggest fall in the world, beaten only by North American bosses, whose optimism fell from 63 percent to 37 percent

DAVOS: Chief executives in the Middle East are much less confident on prospects for the global economy than they were in 2018, according to a report from accounting and consulting group PwC.

The firm’s annual survey of top bosses’ attitudes, traditionally launched on the eve of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, showed a big drop in the number of CEOs from the region who believe global economic growth will improve in the next 12 months.

Only 28 percent of Middle East business leaders now see an improvement in economic prospects, compared with 52 percent this time last year. Bob Moritz, global chairman of PwC, said: “The prevailing sentiment this year is one of caution in the face of increasing uncertainty.”

The loss of confidence from regional CEOs was the second biggest fall in the world, beaten only by North American bosses, whose optimism fell from 63 percent to 37 percent.

PwC said that the Middle East decline was due to “increased regional economic uncertainty,” while the North American fall was “likely due to the fading of fiscal stimulus and emerging trade tensions.”

The results of the PwC poll - conducted among 1,300 business leaders around the world - reflected an overall decline in business confidence in each region surveyed. Last year, only 5 percent of CEOs said that global economic growth would decline. For 2019, this has jumped to nearly 30 percent.

Globally, confidence in CEOs’ own companies to grow revenue this year has also fallen sharply. Moritz said: “With the rise in trade tension and protectionism it stands to reason that confidence is waning.”

The US retains its lead as the top market for growth among international investors, but many CEOs are turning to other markets, or investing at home. The ongoing trade conflict between the US and China has resulted in a sharp decline in the number of Chinese bosses chosing the US as a market for growth, down from 59 percent last year to only 17 percent for 2019.

Globally, CEOs are still more worried about the threat of over-regulation of their businesses - named as the top concern again in 2019 - but uncertainty about policy has become a major issue too.

In the Middle East, the main concern is geopolitical uncertainty, followed by the threat of cyberattack, policy uncertainty and the speed of technological change.