Matthew Boyle
December 13, 2012

Unilever (UNA) Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman said Europe is facing 10 years of economic stagnation while the U.S. grapples with the rise of an “emerging poor” class dependent on government benefits.

“We are in for at least 10 years of slow economic growth in Europe, and I don’t see that changing,” Polman said in an interview yesterday at Bloomberg’s New York office. “If you run a business like mine and don’t assume that, you are fooling yourself. I hope for the benefit of Europe I am proven wrong, but even then we are in a better position by taking that as our starting point. The key thing is to see reality in the eye.”

Polman said declining consumer confidence in the U.S. has “people worried” and the recovery in the world’s largest economy will be muted, with 2 percent growth in gross domestic product “if you’re lucky.” With 46 million people relying on government benefits to buy food, “people scrape by until the end of the month,” the executive said.

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