29 March 2009

Who's at risk for social and political unrest?

If things feel bad now, how much worse could they get?

In line with our previous risk reports (Heading for the Rocks and Shooting the Rapids), we have identified three macroeconomic scenarios for the evolution of the crisis that began in the US sub-prime mortgage market and is now reverberating throughout the world economy.

Scenario 1: Our central forecast (60% probability)

Government stimulus stabilises the global financial system and restores economic growth in leading developed markets during 2010, albeit at lower levels than in recent years. This scenario underpins our regular analysis and is not the subject of this report.

Scenario 2: The main risk scenario (30% probability)

Stimulus fails, leading to continued asset price deflation and sustained contraction in the leading economies—a depression persisting for some years. The stubborn decline in global economic activity is punctuated by occasional rallies that are taken as signs of recovery, but these quickly fade as the underlying downward trend reasserts itself. The prominent role of governments in propping up banks and reviving domestic demand leads to strong political pressure for protectionism, effectively putting the process of globalisation into reverse.

Scenario 3: The alternative risk scenario (10% probability)

Failing confidence in the dollar leads to its collapse, and the search for alternative safe-havens proves fruitless.

Economic upheaval sharply raises the risk of social unrest and violent protest. A Political Instability Index covering 165 countries, developed for this report, highlights the countries particularly vulnerable to political instability as a result of economic distress. The results of the index are displayed in map form and in a ranking table in the centre pages, along with a brief methodology.

The political implications of the economic downturn, informed by the results of the Social and Political Unrest Index, are discussed at length in the second half of the report.

The full report, in both PDF and HTML format, is available online at www.eiu.com/special. The microsite includes a full methodology for the Political Instability Index, a complete ranking of results including a comparison with the results for 2007, and a large-format version of the map.

full report

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