Leaders’ fear of political unrest grows

WORLD leaders are increasingly fearful of major social and political unrest as they gather for a week of debates and drinks parties in Davos, according to three reports released yesterday.

A majority of 345 designated “risk experts” surveyed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) expected “a major geopolitical disruption” – ranging from a terrorist attack to political unrest or war – to materialise over the next year. That compares to just over a third of those asked at the start of 2012.

“The possibility of a geoeconomic disruption, such as sovereign default, is to some degree reflected in the market, but a major geopolitical disruption clearly is not,” said WEF managing director Lee Howell.

Respondents have highlighted the low levels of trust in political leaders as a growing problem.

The findings coincide with an annual Davos “trust barometer” published by Edelman, the public relations firm, that has shown its biggest drop in trust in government on record.

Forty-nine per cent of those asked said they had some trust in government a year ago, but only 38 per cent said the same this year.

While trust in non-governmental organisations and business has also gone down, the number of people saying they place some faith in media has edged up marginally by one per cent to 47 per cent – now on level pegging with the status of business. Social media accounted for most of the increase.

Among different sectors, banks are singled out for particular distrust: 40 per cent of those asked said they have some faith in them, down from 56 per cent in 2011.

A third survey also suggested yesterday that the degree of political and economic uncertainty plaguing leaders is on the rise.

A poll by FTI Consulting said that 31 per cent of business leaders think “the euro will not last the year”, which increases to nearly two thirds when asked whether at least one country will have dropped out of the currency by 2013.