A new survey of business executives in emerging Europe has found varying degrees of confidence about their firms' future prospects in the region, with the optimism shown by people in Poland being offset by the pessimism found in Croatia and Czech Republic. Could this be the start of Poland pulling ahead of its neighbours?
In the debut Deloitte Business Sentiment Index, a survey of the views of leading corporate executives from the largest organisations across Central Europe and some of Southeast Europe, the consultancy found that although the majority of respondents are at best cautious - or as is more often the case very pessimistic about the state of the global and regional economy - there are initial signs the sharp recession is coming to an end in the region. "True, the general sentiment index is negative, but a large group of companies view the situation for their own operations fairly optimistically," the accompanying report said.
Overall, the Deloitte Business Sentiment Index came in at 97 in this first edition, with the index scale being 0 to 200. Deloitte will use this as a benchmark figure for future waves of the index, with the next one due in December, in order to build up a bank of sentiment figures for comparison and analysis. "The value 97 has been arrived at as a result of the overly positive sentiment of business leaders from Poland (with their positive responses pulling the index upwards) balanced out by companies from Croatia and Czech Republic (whose predominantly negative responses pulled the index downwards), and with the three other countries - Slovakia, Hungary and Romania - polled in the index scoring around the mid-point," the report said.
Poland was consistently the most optimistic country in its attitude toward the future - hardly surprising given that this will be the only emerging European country to put in any growth this year. Deloitte also notes that Poland is a well-established economy in the region and is, therefore, much better equipped to weather the storm than less mature economies such as Croatia. "But the significant differences between its upbeat answers compared to its more pessimistic partners in the index suggest this may herald a new era in the business dynamics of Central Europe, with Poland pulling away for good from its neighbours," the report surmised. "Polish executives gave every indication that the country will emerge not just as the most important player in Central Europe, but also as a significant force in the global markets."
In total, over 40% of those surveyed feel that the general prospects of the economy will deteriorate over the next six months, with just over a quarter (26.8%) believing that it will improve. The worst expectations are in Croatia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, whereas over half of professionals from Poland (51.2%) believe the economy will improve.
By contrast, the executives surveyed were much more optimistic about the future financial prospects for their companies, with a positive result of 45.8% of respondents compared to a negative of 15.3% of those surveyed. The most positive feelings about financial prospects are in Poland (76.7%), Slovakia (56.7%) and Hungary (48.4%).
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