In Singapore, nearly 90% of Singapore CEOs have embarked on or are planning a hiring freeze over the next six months, KPMG says.

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Global CEOs are anticipating a recession in the next 12 months, according to a new survey by professional services firm KPMG, which said more than half of the business leaders polled expect the slowdown to be “mild and short.”

A majority of the 1,300 chief executives polled by KPMG between July and August warned, however, that increased disruptions — such as a recession — could make it difficult for their businesses to rebound from the pandemic. 

That said, the CEOs expressed more optimistim compared to the start of the year, and said there would be growth prospects in the next three years.

“CEOs worldwide are displaying greater confidence, grit and tenacity in riding out the short-term economic impacts to their businesses as seen in their rising confidence in the global economy and their optimism over a three-year horizon,” said KPMG Singapore managing partner, Ong Pang Thye. 

“We are also seeing many positioning for long-term growth, such as in Singapore where about 80% of CEOs have indicated that their corporate purpose will have the greatest impact in building customer relationships over the next three years.”

Globally, CEOs are also viewing mergers, acquisitions and innovation favorably, but many are concerned that dealmakers are “taking a much sharper pencil to the numbers and focus on value creation to unlock and track deal value,” the KPMG report said.

Across the globe, aside from recessions and the economic impact of rising interest rates, CEOs are also worried about pandemic fatigue, KPMG said. 

On top of immediate challenges such as a recession, business leaders say they remain under pressure to meet their broader social responsibilities in the face of public scrutiny on their corporate purpose and environmental, social and governance (ESG) accountabilities. 

Asia business leaders’ outlook

In Asia-Pacific, fewer CEOs are expecting a recession. Of those surveyed, 63% saw a recession happening in the next year compared with 86% globally. 

But they are also less optimistic about growth in the next three years compared with their global peers. 

Globally and in Asia-Pacific, about 20% say they will not expand hiring in the next three years and will keep their headcount or reduce it further. 

UN projects 2.2% global GDP growth for 2023, pushing world economy into recession

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