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Sun 29 Mar 2009 03:40 PM

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Consumer confidence falls across ME amid global crisis

UAE sharpest drop, but 25% of job seekers think economy will improve 2009.

Customer confidence has dropped across the Middle East, falling for the fourth consecutive time in the UAE by a record 15 points, according to a new online poll.

The survey by YouGov and job's website Bayt.com shows that responders in the UAE are roughly divided three ways on the future.

A total of 26 percent say things will get better, 23 percent state things will get worse and 22 percent believing the status quo will prevail.

However, job seekers are more optimistic, with 28 percent believing that business conditions will improve in the coming year and 25 percent saying the country's economy will improve.

The trend of falling consumer confidence, however, is repeated across the Gulf and Levant countries, the survey of 8,686 people shows.

Kuwait's consumer confidence has been hit the hardest, dipping even lower than the UAE - falling by 16.7 points - with dips in Bahrain of 12.0 points and Qatar of 8.9 points.

However, consumer confidence in Saudi Arabia dipped by less than one point at 0.9, while confidence in Syria and Lebanon dropped by 9.7 and 8.0 points.

Overall, on a regional level, 34 percent felt they were worse off than this time last year, 35 percent felt their financial position had not changed, but 25 percent actually thought they were better off.

And despite the UAE being hardest ht by the global crisis in the region, a fifth thought they were better off than last year.

Personal finances improved most significantly in Algeria, Qatar and KSA, with 31 percent, 29 percent and 28 percent saying their financial position had picked up.

The Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) is a measure of consumer expectations and satisfaction of various elements of the economy including inflation, job opportunities and the cost of living, explained Bayt.com's Regional Manager, Amer Zureikat.

'What we are seeing with the results of the CCI is that while the effects of the global economic downturn can't be taken in isolation, they are having a significant impact on this region, and more specifically are affecting some Middle Eastern countries much worse than others,” he said. There is some light however at the end of the tunnel according to the survey's respondents, with 28 percent believing that their country's economy would be better in a year's time, while 20 percent believe it will stay the same.

In the UAE, a quarter of all respondents believed things would get better within their country's economy, the study added.

Data for the February/March 2009 Consumer Confidence Index Survey was collected online between the period of Feb. 2 and Mar. 2, 2009.

Respondents came from across the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Pakistan and included males and females aged over 18 years old.