Almost half of the world's countries - 49% - are not stable enough for business to operate in. Control Risks, an international business risk consultancy, says 96 out of 198 countries posed a medium, high or extreme political risk. This means that at best, businesses there are likely to face disruption. In worst case scenarios, they find that find the state is actively hostile towards them.

The most politically hostile countries for business include Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Liberia, Cuba, Haiti, and Bolivia.

The findings are contained in Control Risks' annual RiskMap for 2007, which also says that 78 of the countries surveyed posed a medium to extreme security risk. In some countries the security is so great that operating a business there is completely untenable. Among the most difficult countries to operate in from a security point of view are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Ireland, like most European countries, poses a low political and security risk for business. Essentially that means business may suffer from occasional negative policy change from government, while companies and personnel face only infrequent exposure to violence or terrorism.

It highlights the prospect of a closely-run election in 2007 with the possibility of the possibility of the balance of power being held by Sinn Fein.

Control Risks say energy concerns will be a critical issue for businesses across the globe in 2007 as well as what it describes as the exponential growth of international crime such as counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. Terrorism threats are also a risk. but business has proven itself resilient in its ability to recover from terrorism events.

It says terrorism can be dealt with by good contingency planning, but the report also says that there is an argument that terrorism concerns are having a disproportionate and pernicious impact on political and commercial decision making.

RiskMap 2007 also warns business and government to be prepared for a global pandemic scenario such as avian flu.