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UAE residents 4th bullish in the world

Survey for the final quarter of 2014 reveals that consumer confidence in the UAE rose 2 points over the previous quarter. (Supplied)

By Vicky Kapur

Bolstered by a brightening jobs situation and a positive perception of their personal finances, UAE residents are willing to further loosen their purse-strings, according to a new report. That’s good news for UAE businesses, which means it’s good news for UAE residents. 

Consumer confidence in the UAE remains among the Top 5 in the world, with residents most bullish about their job prospects in the next 12 months, maintains the latest survey by insights firm Nielson.

The survey for the final quarter of 2014 reveals that consumer confidence in the UAE rose 2 points over the previous quarter to reach an index score of 114, ranking the fourth-highest score of the 60 countries measured.

The UAE ended the year up 4 points from 2013, as did Pakistan (101 points). South Africa (+2 points) and Saudi Arabia (+1 points) were the other annual gainers in the region.

“The consumer sentiment in the UAE remains steady and optimistic,” said Arslan Ashraf, managing director, Nielsen Arabian Peninsula. “There were small steps back in the second and third quarter reflecting some increased consumer apprehension but these doubts have been dispelled in the fourth quarter,” he added.

The UAE is ranked highly among people around the world on the happiness and satisfaction indices, with UAE residents emerging as the 14th happiest people on the planet. 

The UAE’s leaders and authorities focus not just on material wellbeing of the people, but also try to enhance their physical and sentimental wellbeing too. 

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, last year launched a unique initiative to measure the happiness and satisfaction of the public in government services on a daily basis using electronic devices connected to a central network. 

The initiative called the ‘Happiness Meter’ sends daily reports to decision-makers that enable them to monitor the types of government services that people are most happy about, and identify the geographical areas where these services are being provided as part of the sustained efforts to develop customer service and improve the happiness of the people.

Last year, Dubai Municipality launched an initiative called ‘Happy Dubai’ to allow everyone a platform to express their happiness about the services rendered by the civic body.

The Nielsen survey, which measures perceptions of local job prospects, personal finances and immediate spending intentions, also found that confidence had decreased by three points in Saudi Arabia to reach 102, which made it fall out of the Top 10 to No. 12 globally.

Indian consumers remained the most bullish in the world for the third consecutive quarter, with an index score of 129. Indians’ bullishness was followed by consumers in Indonesia and the Philippines (tied at No. 2 with an index score of 120 each).

The UAE with an index score of 114 followed at No. 4 while Thailand (index score of 111) rounded up the Top 5.

Only 36 per cent of the UAE respondents believed they were in a recession in the fourth quarter, a one-percentage point increase from the previous quarter but an eight-point improvement from the previous year (Q4 2013).

UAE discretionary spending/saving intentions varied slightly in the fourth quarter. Half of them (50 per cent) plan to save their spare cash. One-fourth of UAE respondents expect to spend on holiday/vacations (24 per cent) and new clothes (23 per cent).

One-fifth plan to pay off debts (21 per cent) and spend on out-of-home entertainment (21 per cent). Fourteen per cent of UAE respondents said they have no spare cash, which was one point up from the previous quarter.

The research firm tracks consumers in 60 markets on various parameters to analyse what consumers watch and buy. While confidence increased slightly from the previous quarter, year-over-year, the index score in the market remained stable, the firm noted.

More than two-third of UAE respondents (69 per cent) believed the job market would be good or excellent in the next 12 months, up from 66 per cent in fourth-quarter 2013.

Likewise, immediate spending intentions rose to 51 per cent (from 42 per cent) but on the other hand, perceptions of personal finances slightly decreased to 64 per cent (from 65 per cent the previous year).

Overall, consumer confidence decreased one point in the Middle East/Africa (95) even as the region continues to show slow but stable progress.

The index increased in three of five countries measured in the fourth quarter. At 114, the UAE had the highest index in the region, an increase of two points from the third quarter. Confidence also increased five points in Egypt to 90 and two points in South Africa to 88. Conversely, confidence decreased three points in Saudi Arabia to 102 and two points in Pakistan to 101.

Year-Over-Year Performance Is Positive

Progress is slow, but it is indeed taking place in more than half of global markets measured. In fact, confidence scores in all AME markets improved year over year. One market reported double-digit confidence climbs, Egypt, which rose 14 points.

The other increases from the previous year include UAE (+4), Pakistan (+4), South Africa (+2) and Saudi Arabia (+1).