Economists to Discuss 2021 Outlook at 27th Arkansas Business Forecast

From L to R: Mark Palim, Mervin Jebaraj, Catherine Mann
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From L to R: Mark Palim, Mervin Jebaraj, Catherine Mann

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 27th annual Business Forecast will be streamed online this year as attendees get a chance to hear from three distinguished economists on the regional, national and international outlook for 2021.

The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Due to the current risk from the pandemic, the event will be held via Zoom. Sign up on the webpage for the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, which is coordinating the event.

This year’s Business Forecast will be hosted via a link sent to registrants who sign up using a valid email. Each link will be sent individually, the day before the event. 

The 2021 Business Forecast panelists are:

  • International Speaker: Catherine Mann, global chief economist, Citibank
  • Domestic Speaker: Mark Palim, vice president and deputy chief economist at Fannie Mae
  • State and Regional Speaker: Mervin Jebaraj, director, Center for Business and Economic Research

“The annual Business Forecast is a chance for business and community leaders from Northwest Arkansas, the state and the region to get first-hand insight into the direction for the next year from top economists,” said Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College. “The insights provided by these three experts will inform and shape decisions that help to drive the business community in Arkansas in 2021.”

Waller said those valuable insights and networking opportunities are only possible through the continued strong support of event sponsors. 

“Each year, the interest and level of participation in the Business Forecast event continues to grow and expand,” Jebaraj said. “Hearing economists talk on the condition of the economy in these tough times and on areas of strength and resilience will help everyone better understand where we are headed in 2021.”

Sponsors to date for the 2021 Business Forecast are:  

  • Walton Presenting Partner – Walmart and Sam’s Club
  • Walton Academic Partners – Greenwood Gearhart Inc.; RMP LLP – Attorneys at Law; 
  • Walton Corporate Partners – Cox Communications; Regions Bank
  • Walton Business Partners – Black Hills Energy; Centennial Bank; Conner & Winters LLP; Cushman & Wakefield/Sage Partners; Entergy; Frost PLLC; HoganTaylor LLP; J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.; J.P. Morgan Chase; Landmark PLC; Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC; Simmons Foods; Smith Hurst PLC; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP.

Additional information is available at the Center for Business and Economic Research webpage. Reservations also can be made by calling 479-575-4151.


Mann has been the global chief economist at Citibank since February 2018, where she is responsible for thought leadership, research guidance of a global team of economists and cross-fertilization of research across macroeconomics, fixed-income and equities. 

Prior to this position, she was chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, where she also was director of the economics department and was finance deputy to the G20 in 2014-2017. Prior to the OECD, she held the Barbara '54 and Richard M. Rosenberg Professor of Global Finance at the International Business School, Brandeis University, where she also directed the Rosenberg Institute of Global Finance in 2006-2014. 

She spent 20-plus years in Washington, D.C., where her positions included senior fellow at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics; economist, senior economist and assistant director in the International Finance Division at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors; senior international economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and adviser to the chief economist at the World Bank.


Palim is vice president and deputy chief economist at Fannie Mae. He is responsible for overseeing the Economic and Strategic Research Group’s forecasting functions and manages multi-disciplinary partnerships across the company to address specific business issues facing Fannie Mae. Palim is a key spokesperson on economic trends and a frequent speaker at national mortgage finance and housing industry events. 

Prior to working at Fannie Mae, Palim was an economic consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and LECG. His practice focused on applying economic and financial theory to a variety of business disputes and policy questions. He worked as a consulting and testifying expert in antitrust cases and disputes in the financial services industry. 

In addition, Palim led a team of 75 adjudicators charged with valuing claims for the Department of Justice and the Special Master administering the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.


Jebaraj is the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research. During his time at the center, he has been instrumental in creating and executing economic studies for clients such as the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Northwest Arkansas Council, the Walton Family Foundation, Arvest Bank, the University of Arkansas and many others. 

He has contributed to economic thinking and public policy discussion that journalists, business people, and community leaders alike rely on to understand how national and regional issues impact Northwest Arkansas and Arkansas as a whole. Arkansas Businessand the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal recognized Mervin in their 40 Under 40 lists and on the Arkansas 250 list. 

He makes presentations that share the center’s expertise directly to over 5,000 individuals annually and tens of thousands more hear and see his economic analysis and commentary through television, radio and print media. 

Jebaraj serves on the Community Development Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, on the Board of Directors of the Association for University Business and Economic Research and on the Board of Directors of the Walton Arts Center. He is also a member of the National Association for Business Economics.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Mervin Jebaraj, director
Center for Business and Economic Research

David Speer, senior director of communications
Sam M. Walton College of Business


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