Chinese astrology has it that 2020 is a “metal rat” year, and is associated with turbulence. Covid-19 has certainly provided a quantum of it. With a steep market dive in the first quarter, and sharp worldwide economic contraction, Asian business has had a rough ride. As star signs go, 2020 has so far lived up to its ratty astrological reputation.
The results of a survey conducted from August to September of Hong Kong-based Asia Business Council’s members, who are the chairmen and CEOs of some of Asia’s leading multi-national companies, collectively valued at nearly $3 trillion, and with some 3 million employees, offer insights against the turbulent backdrop of a year dominated by Covid-19. With a response rate of 83% (58 out of 70 members), the results showed a latent optimism and the confidence to re-tool investment focus. Though the outlook for job growth remains uncertain, not surprisingly, these leaders ranked public health and geopolitics as top concerns for their businesses.
A lot of numbers follow here, but they are very telling. When asked their outlook for business conditions in Asia over the next 12 months, and in spite of significant declines in their own revenues, half said they expect to see an improvement, while 33% expect conditions to worsen. Though not a table-pounding endorsement, this is a significant change from 2019, when 55% expected conditions to worsen.
Only 16% of members foresee a prolonged downturn or depression, and just 5% anticipate inflation. The wide distribution of an effective vaccine for Covid-19 is viewed as a pre-condition for a return to pre-pandemic economic levels–an opinion expressed by 91%—that speaks well of the latent, “coiled-spring” potential of