Syria ranks bottom in index on civil unrest threat to business

By Kieran Guilbert LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syria was the worst performer in a civil unrest index released on Wednesday which showed that strikes, protests and conflict have increased the risk of business disruption in one in five countries over the past three months. It was the second successive quarter in which Syria was at the bottom of the Civil Unrest Index, which analysed the risk of civil unrest disrupting business operations in 197 countries. War-torn Syria was followed by Central African Republic, Pakistan, Sudan and South Sudan, all of which were considered at "extreme risk" because of internal conflict and violence. The risk to businesses from civil unrest has risen for several reasons - the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, protests against the Israeli military operation in Gaza and demonstrations against Russian military intervention in Ukraine, said risk analysis company Maplecroft, which compiled the index. Charlotte Ingham, principal analyst at Maplecroft, said the index would help multinational corporations and non governmental organisations alike to put in place contingency measures when working in areas affected by civil unrest. "Civil unrest is a significant concern for organisations, as it can impact the safety of employees and company property," Ingham told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Tracking the trajectory of countries with rising levels of unrest should be a top priority for business community planners and risk managers," she said. Maplecroft is a global risk analytics, mapping and forecasting company. INCREASED RISK IN HONG KONG Hong Kong experienced the largest increase in risk over the last quarter, falling to 70th from 132nd place in the ranking after the mass democracy protests of recent weeks. Liberia saw the second highest rise in risk, dropping to 74th from 113th place due to mounting unrest caused by the spread of the Ebola virus. The index found that civil unrest in a further 69 countries potentially posed a "high risk" to the continuity of business operations, including the Asian manufacturing hubs of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, India, Cambodia and the Philippines. Several companies operating in and sourcing from these countries have faced severe disruption as a result of civil unrest, including strikes, while the economic impacts have also been significant, the report accompanying the index said. Prolonged anti-government protests in Thailand, culminating in a military coup in May 2014, led the International Monetary Fund to lower the 2014 projected GDP growth rate to 2.5 percent from 5.2 percent, which could cost the country an estimated $9.8 billion, the report said. The best-performing countries in the index were San Marino, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, all of which were in the top 10 in the previous quarter too. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Tim Pearce)