By Ben Flanagan
Despite heavy stock market losses, Saudi Arabia is a Kingdom of economic optimists, says a new survey.
Saudi Arabia has come top in a consumer confidence survey conducted by MasterIndex.
The survey of five Middle East and North Africa countries found that people in the Kingdom felt most optimistic about five key factors – employment, economy, income, the stock market and quality of life.
This is despite the heavy losses on the local Tadawul stock market, on which Saudi investors lost more than $320 billion in 2006.
Saudi Arabia scored 97.3 on the MasterIndex consumer confidence score, with Kuwait a close second at 94.6. Next came the UAE (80), Egypt (78.2) and Lebanon (67.6).
The average consumer confidence score across the five countries has increased from 66.1 in the first half of 2004 to the current score of 83.9.
“Consumer's perception of the economy is in most cases in line with the actual economic growth outcomes and is reflecting the 'feel good' factor for the economy, regular income and employment,” said Dr. Nasser H. Saidi, Chief Economist of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
“Real GDP for the region has expanded by some 6.5-7% during 2006 and growth is expected at similar rates into 2007.”
MasterIndex surveyed 400 people in each of the countries, except in Egypt where 600 people were interviewed. The survey took place in September 2006.
In the UAE, the MasterIndex score of 80.0 out of 100 is an improvement on the 77.5 score six months ago. Consumer sentiment on employment rose to 79.0, up from 69.5 in second half 2005. However confidence in this area has not returned to its high of 90.5 in the first half 2005. Perceptions of quality of life registered the biggest improvement in the UAE.