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Global economic confidence halves

By Nicholas Timmins in London
March 31, 2009 09:58 IST
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Economic confidence across the globe has halved since April 2007, with the general public's fear of a worsening economic situation driving the downturn, according to a survey of about 1,000 citizens in each of 22 countries by Ipsos Mori.

Between April 2007, when the first signs of big problems in the US subprime mortgage market were emerging, and last November, when the 23,000 online interviews were completed, pessimism has spiralled, with only Brazil bucking the trend.

Pessimists outweigh optimists by two to one, with the sharpest falls in confidence in big western economies but with an equally dramatic fall in China and even a decline in India, which nonetheless remains the most positive country.

Almost three out of four citizens said they had already cut back on spending. "The irony here is that the very act of cutting back is helping create what the public fears most: a full-blown, deep and long-lasting economic decline," Gideon Skinner, a director of Ipsos Mori, said.

With the Group of 20 meeting in London this week, it was important for governments "to communicate a sense of hope", he said. With business and political leaders both panicked it was unsurprising that citizens felt panicked, he added.

Unemployment is the top concern, while across Latin America crime and violence are the most pressing issues, with corruption high among people's worries in many emerging markets.

Despite the gloom, support for globalisation remains pretty strong, although the finding comes with the qualification that the survey's internet-based nature means it is mainly the more affluent who replied in some countries.

Two-thirds of those surveyed say globalisation has been good for their country, although with marked differences. Those in India, China and South Korea are most likely to agree - well over 80 per cent. Fewer than 60 per cent believe that proposition in Britain, the Czech Republic and Belgium, while just 45 per cent do in France.

"Whether this perception will survive as the world economy slips deeper into recession remains to be seen," Mr Skinner said.

But trust in business remains low. "There is a widely held perception that companies cannot generally be trusted," he added.


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Nicholas Timmins in London
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