BY OUR BUSINESS BUREAU
DUBAI: Despite the effects of the global credit crunch being widely felt in the UAE, marked by the fourth consecutive drop in consumer confidence by a record 15 points, job seekers are still optimistic for the future with 28 per cent of respondents believing business conditions -- and 25 per cent believing the country's economy -- will improve in the next year.
According to recent research conducted by the Middle East's number one job site -- Bayt.com in conjunction with research specialists YouGov.
The trend of falling consumer confidence was repeated across the Gulf and Levant countries.
Kuwait's consumer confidence was the hardest hit, 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.
Remarkably consumer confidence in Kingdom of 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 respectively. Lebanon's large decline in February's consumer confidence levels is starkly contrasted against a phenomenal improvement in the index of 25.5 points in the last wave conducted in November of last year.
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.
"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.
"This sort of research is really important as an indicator of the prevailing feelings towards the current business and economic environment, because it comes from a grass roots level -- from the people that are most affected," Bayt.com's Regional Manager, Amer Zureikat said.
Surprisingly a fifth of all respondents in the UAE felt that they were better off than last year, indicating that the gloomy financial environment isn't negatively affecting everyone in the UAE.
Overall, on a regional level, a quarter of respondents felt they were better off; 34 per cent felt they were worse off, and 35 per cent felt their financial position hadn't changed.
Personal finances improved most significantly in Algeria, Qatar and KSA, with 31 per cent , 29 per cent and 28 per cent saying their financial position had picked up.