Every quarter, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) publish a Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS), the largest recurring economic survey among accountants in the world. The Q1 2020 survey, which took place between February 28 and March 12, 2020, attracted responses from 2,560 accountants and CFOs worldwide, and it revealed the shocking effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the global and European economies:

  • Confidence in the economy in Europe decreased by 32% in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter in 2019. 
  • Orders, employment, and investment held up in Europe and showed no decline, unlike other parts of the world. 
  • The region, including the UK, will experience sharp economic contraction in the coming months. 
  • Respondents estimate that there will be a global GDP decline of 4% to 5% this year and a production decline of 10%.
  • Risks of a new sovereign debt crisis in Europe will inevitably increase. 
  • World trade will drop sharply this year, possibly by as much as 20%. 

“It's the sharpest drop in confidence we've seen in our research so far, and these numbers don't even reflect the full scale of the global economic contraction that is now underway. Deglobalization is mentioned by many respondents as a real scenario for the near future,” said Alain Mulder, senior director of Europe operations at IMA. “Respondents indicate that there will undoubtedly be a contraction of 4% to 5% of global GDP and a production decline of 10%. During the 2008/09 recession, this was 2.5% and 6%, respectively, at its lowest point.”

The GECS report garnered considerable attention in the European news media, with feature stories appearing in Het Financieel Dagblad, Accountant Week, Finance Executive, CFO, Accountant.nl, Wallstreet-online.de, and many others. In addition, Mulder posted a blog on this LinkedIn profile about the results, which can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/accountants-share-figures-covid-19-impact-global-european-mulder/.

Among other survey findings:

The approach taken by countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, and the UK, in which the state pays a large proportion of the wages of workers in affected companies, provides the right conditions to return to regular economic activity after the coronavirus crisis.

However, due to the aftermath of this economic shock, many Eurozone countries will have significant public sector deficits and debts. These will well exceed the limits set for euro membership, resulting in an inevitable increase in the risk of a new sovereign debt crisis. Even before the current economic shock, Italy was considered by many to be the most likely candidate for such a crisis, with very high public debt (130% of GDP). Now that this country has been struck by the crisis, it will only increase.


With the vulnerability of various supply chains exposed, financial professionals expect that the long-term impact of the crisis will mean that international economic ties are declining and becoming more regional. World trade will drop sharply this year, possibly by as much as 20%. So, the big question is whether world trade will recover with the world economy, or whether globalization will take place.

For more information, see the entire GECS report on the IMA website.