Press release

31 Mar 2023

Singapore CEOs fear and are preparing for a recession worse than the financial crisis

The vast majority of CEO respondents are bracing for an economic downturn characterized by geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruption and ongoing COVID-19-related uncertainty, but appear split on its length, depth and severity.

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  • 75% of Singapore respondents (global 65%) are delaying or halting planned investments due to geopolitics
  • 70% of Singapore respondents (global 67%) are planning to actively pursue M&A or divestments in next 12 months to secure growth

The vast majority of CEO respondents (Singapore 100%, global 98%) are bracing for an economic downturn characterized by geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruption and ongoing COVID-19-related uncertainty, but appear split on its length, depth and severity. These are some of the findings of the EY CEO Outlook Pulse – Q1 2023 that underline the uncertainty that looks set to define the business environment in 2023.

The survey, which recorded the views of 1,200 CEOs across the globe (including 40 from Singapore) on their prospects, challenges and opportunities, found that CEOs (Singapore 63%, global 50%) are preparing for a severe economic downturn, with about half of them (Singapore 49%, global 55%) fearing for a recession that will be worse than the global financial crisis of 2007-08 in terms of its length and severity.

For the first time since 2020 (inaugural CEO Outlook survey), restrictive regulatory, trade and investment policies (Singapore and global 28%) have superseded COVID-19-related issues (Singapore 25%, global 19%) as the key reason for CEO respondents altering investment plans. As a result of these exacerbated geopolitical challenges, 75% of Singapore respondents (global 65%) are delaying a planned investment or stopping planned investments altogether.

Almost a third (Singapore 28%, global 32%) of respondents consider uncertainty around the direction of monetary policy and an increase in the cost of capital to be the greatest risks to future growth for their business. While concerns over COVID-19-related uncertainty have receded, 28% of Singapore respondents (global 32%) still cite this as a key risk to their business (down from 43% for both Singapore and global in October 2022).

Geophin George, EY Asean Transaction Diligence Leader says:

“CEOs are aware that this recession will be different. A combination of interconnected risks – ranging from geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruption, talent shortages and ongoing pandemic-related uncertainty and policy responses – will need to be carefully considered as CEOs plan to systematically manage these risks through robust scenario planning and transformed governance structures and processes to assess the impact on strategy.”

CEOs eye deals as routes to growth

Despite the negative outlook, CEOs are on the lookout for opportunities to gain competitive advantage. Dealmaking of one kind or another remains a priority for corporates over the next 12 months with all (100%) of Singapore respondents (global 93%) looking to actively pursue deals, which include M&As, divestments, joint ventures or strategic alliances with third parties. Of them, 70% of Singapore respondents (global 67%) are targeting M&As or divestments.

To further shift the dial and emerge stronger and more competitive from the downturn, 25% of Singapore respondents (global 39%) are planning to increase investment in sustainability as a core aspect of their strategy and offering, including net-zero and other environmental and societal priorities. In addition, a third (Singapore 33%, global 36%) plan to increase their investment in talent, including workforce wellbeing and skills development.

Sriram Changali, EY-Parthenon Asean Value Creation Leader says:

“In the near term, CEOs are focusing on cash management, cost optimization and restructuring which will not only protect against the downturn but also be a key enabler for continued investments in digital transformation and sustainability. Portfolio transformation through deals continues to be high on the agenda among CEOs who are looking to transform their businesses and position for future growth. The focus for acquisitions in 2023 will be on innovation and R&D, including product and service innovation to enhance portfolios, among other focus areas such as accessing new talent or entering new markets that are economically and geopolitically aligned to their home market.”

To read the full report, please visit:


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About the EY 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse

The EY 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse survey aims to provide valuable insights on the main trends and developments impacting the world’s leading companies as well as business leaders’ expectations for future growth and long-term value creation.

It is a regular “pulse” survey of CEOs from large companies around the world, conducted by Longitude Research Limited, a Financial Times company.

In November 2022, Longitude surveyed on behalf of the global EY organization a panel of 1,200 CEOs in 22 countries and across six industries. Respondents represented the following industries: advanced manufacturing and mobility, consumer products and retail, energy and resources, financial services, health sciences and wellness, technology, media and telecoms.

Surveyed companies’ annual global revenues were as follows: less than US$500m (20%), US$500m–US$999.9m (20%), US$1b–US$4.9b (30%) and greater than US$5b (30%).

The CEO Imperative series provides critical answers and actions to help CEOs reframe their organization’s future. For more insights in this series visit