A majority of chief executives in the Middle East are very confident about prospects for business and economic growth over the next 12 months, according to a latest survey. In conjunction with the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa 2013, PwC Middle East revealed the results of the 2013 Middle East CEO Survey titled “Matching confidence with competitiveness.” The depth of confidence (53 per cent) sets Middle East CEOs apart from any other region in the world (36 per cent). This relative optimism is expressed both in terms of confidence about their companies’ growth and the outlook for wider economic growth. In common with the global trend, confidence among CEOs in the region is down compared to last year’s survey (60 per cent). Commenting on the findings Hani Ashkar, Middle East Deals Leader at PwC, said: “The high confidence percentage of Middle East CEOs led to a positive outlook for the economy. Compared to their global counterparts, Middle East CEOs are expecting a major employment headcount increase with over two thirds expecting a five per cent or more rise.” Domestic markets present a more open and competitive environment now than in the past. Around 44 per cent of the region’s CEOs see organic domestic growth as a primary driver in 2013. Alternatively, 25 per cent view growth stemming from new operations in foreign markets and 13 per cent from new mergers and acquisitions (M&A), joint ventures or strategic alliances. Many CEOs are positioning their companies to take advantage of emerging market opportunities that exists in Africa and Asia. A quarter of the Middle East CEOs appear to have their sights set on this ‘south-south’ opportunity as their main route to growth in the period ahead. Thirty-eight per cent of CEOs count M&A and strategic alliances, among the top investment priorities for their companies in the upcoming 12 months. A massive 73 per cent target those M&A’s and alliances in their own region, followed by 36 per cent for Africa, 27 per cent for South-East Asia, and 27 per cent for Western Europe. Commenting on this finding Warwick Hunt, PwC Middle East Senior Partner said: “Middle East CEOs are acknowledging the challenges present and are adding a stronger emphasis on strengthening their companies’ operational effectiveness, including investing in roll out of new technologies and addressing talent gaps.” Professionals’ salary A separate study by Bayt.com and YouGov reveals that a significant 67 per cent of UAE professionals feel they receive less salary than industry peers, according to Bayt.com and YouGov Salary Survey. Only three per cent expressed a high level of satisfaction with their current remuneration while eight in 10 believe that the cost of living will continue to increase, according to the findings. “The results of the 2013 Bayt.com Mena Salary Survey suggest that salaries are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living in the UAE. This is a general trend across the Middle East that companies must begin to address,” said, Suhail Masri, VP of Sales, Bayt.com. ?Most UAE respondents have held either one (26 per cent) or two (38 per cent) jobs in the past five years. The majority claim that they spend on average between one-three years in a job, though 23 per cent held a position for at least six years. “Employees across the Mena region seem overall dissatisfied with their current packages and the rising cost of living; if the two do not draw closer, then there could be potential economic difficulties in the coming years,” said Sundip Chahal, CEO, YouGov.