CAIRO: Egypt rose to its highest level on the Consumer Confidence Index at 102 points during the first quarter of 2011, according to a study released by The Nielsen Company.
The country also saw the highest increase among all markets tracked in the first quarter, going up 29 points.
Confidence rose from 73 points on the index in the fourth quarter of 2010, which was a drop from 98 in the prior quarter, with 60 percent of Egyptians expecting short-term recovery for the market.
Despite the current economic stagnation as well as global concerns over rising food and fuel prices, Egyptians are among the most optimistic about recovery in the Middle East.
The report points out that Egyptians are very mindful of the current economic stagnation, and more people are beginning to feel the pinch. Still, many consumers are optimistic.
According to the global online survey, “consumer confidence rose two points in the first quarter of this year to an index of 92 driven by record confidence gains in the Middle East/Africa following social and political unrest in the region and strong-performing Asia Pacific economies.”
Consumer confidence levels in Europe, however, continued to decline in 18 out of 28 countries including Spain, Greece, Ireland and Italy reaching record lows for this quarter.
Many in Egypt said they have no spare cash, but when they do, the top two priorities are savings and buying new clothes.
“Major issues have become the major concern for Egyptians with political stability and the economy leading,” the study found.
“Also important is that crime, terrorism and war; normally near the bottom of concerns are very high up n Egypt again indicating the large-scale concerns of the Egyptians.”
The study, which tracked major concerns and spending intentions among more than 28,000 internet consumers in 51 different countries, found that despite a global concern for rising food and fuel prices, Egyptians are among the most optimistic about recovery in the Middle East.
After Egypt’s January 25 revolution forced Hosni Mubarak out of power, and called for the prosecution of allegedly corrupt government and business tycoons closely associated with the regime, Egyptians’ outlook towards change has become irrepressible.
Experts say that the country’s push for democracy and equality, along with the constitutional referendum that took place on March 19 has given people a new sense of optimism
“The joy of gaining civil and political freedom and experiencing the first truly free voting has raised consumers’ expectations and hopes for faster economic growth,” Khaled El Tohami, managing director of Nielsen Egypt said in a statement.
However, Egyptians are not the only online consumers who are currently changing their perception towards the economy.
The nation’s “newfound confidence” swept across to next-door countries like the United Arab Emirates which saw an 11 point increase and Saudi Arabia with an 11 point increase compared numbers in the previous quarter.
As the world’s economies diverge, the study showed that the number of online consumers who feel they are in a recession has dwindled across other regions as well.
“Global recovery, despite its slow pace, is heading in the right direction,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of The Nielsen Company. “Still, more than half (55 percent) of global online consumers say they are currently in a recession, and of those, 51 percent expect to be in a recession for at least another year.”
When it comes to China, the world’s largest economy, the study found that consumer confidence increased by eight points to an index of 108.
“The good news is that income is rising faster than inflation, particularly in rural areas, and living standards continue to improve,” said Karthik Rao, managing director of Nielsen China. “As a result, we continue to see strong growth in marketplace demand, even in discretionary categories.”
The study also found that regional differences prevail with 37 percent of Asia Pacific consumers saying they are in a recession today compared with 82 percent of North Americans and 68 percent of Europeans.
“It’s been an action-packed start to the year marked by widespread social and political reforms in the Middle East, natural disasters and food inflation in Asia, skyrocketing fuel prices in North American and the searing reality of painful austerity measures in southern Europe,” said Bala.