After heightening economic risk in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic will remain a looming challenge as the global economy seeks to recover in 2021.
COVID-19 has widened the divide between rich and poor, setting some countries back decades in their efforts to reduce poverty. Food security, water access, and energy costs remain acute pressures that can lead to growing nationalism and civil unrest. Societal inequality, meanwhile, will factor in electoral platforms, especially in middle- and low-income countries.
Against this backdrop, many governments have implemented fiscal and monetary policies to fuel a recovery. Marsh Specialty’s Political Risk Map 2021 shows larger increases than ever in country economic risk across all regions, driven by increases in deficit spending, adding to sovereign and commercial credit risks in less developed economies. Key themes include:
Our analysis projects a growing disparity between emerging economies and industrialized nations. Strains on public financing in emerging markets will result from increases in sovereign indebtedness and may create unfavorable conditions for domestic and foreign-owned businesses.
China’s early emergence from the pandemic combined with the unprecedentedly large stimulus measures by the EU and US, are highly likely to generate a near-term economic boost. This effect should benefit certain countries, including oil exporters, but the impact may be transitory and only delay a reckoning with social inequalities, unsustainable debt, and the energy sector’s green transition.
Nationalism is on the rise as governments fight for strategic resources. Whether in the form of mineral resources, vaccines and other medicines, secure supply chains, advanced technologies, or trade routes, these resources are all vital to economic recovery and political competition in an increasingly multi-polar world.
The global pandemic response adds a new weapon to the political arsenal of competing powers: vaccine diplomacy. Nations seeking influence are offering access to the vaccines as a bargaining chip with allies and trading partners. While COVID-19 responses obscured long-simmering geopolitical tensions in 2020, such older tensions will resurface as the pandemic comes under control and governments relax lockdowns, removing restraints that prevented outright inter-state conflict.
Our Political Risk Map 2021 is based on data from Marsh Specialty’s World Risk Review platform. The country risk platform provides risk ratings for 197 countries across nine indicators relating to security, trading, and investments. Ratings are updated monthly and range along a 0.1 to 10 scale, with 10 representing the highest risk, and 0.1 the lowest risk. This World Risk Review platform is accessible to Marsh Specialty clients; for information, please contact your Marsh Specialty representative. The nine risks tracked in the World Risk Review platform are:
Marsh Specialty’s Political Risk Map highlights the risk by region and profiles nine countries based on the risks outlined above. Although the pandemic has intensified the risk outlook, there are still opportunities for corporate entities, financiers, and investors. Insurance-backed political risk and credit solutions can help to secure trade and investment capital, unlock liquidity, and enable growth that will fuel and sustain recovery.
A variety of tools exist to manage political and credit risk, from both public and private sources. In addition to government-backed export credit agencies and multilateral organizations, a robust private political risk insurance market has developed to help investors and businesses weather political and economic crises. Solutions to protect against non-payment risks, improve supply chain resilience, and protect people and assets in various countries can involve public programs, private insurance, or a combination of both.