2023 Consumer Confidence & Purchasing Trends In Central Asia
Central Asian consumer confidence ratios averaging 125.7 points, compared with 47.6 points in the European Union during September
A major macroeconomic survey on consumer confidence (CCI) in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan has just been released by Freedom Finance Global, a listed financial analytical business in Astana.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, due to the relatively more closed nature of the country compared to other Central Asian republics, does not officially participate in the analysis, although we do provide data. Turkmenistan was not included in this survey due to the local difficulties of compiling consumer data.
This new research allows us to assess the dynamics of changes in the indicators, including consumer confidence, inflation assessment and expectations of the population on the dollar exchange rate. The main emphasis is placed on comparing the obtained data with official statistics on inflation (including for individual goods) and Central Bank surveys (if available in the regions).
The research is based on the methodology used for obtaining consumer confidence indices in many countries of the world and adapted to local tasks by specialists of the United Research Technologies Group. The method of data collection is a telephone survey. The survey questionnaire is localised: the survey is conducted in the native language of the respondents.
In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, analysts collected 3,600 questionnaires per wave, in Kyrgyzstan at 1,600 and Tajikistan at 1,200 questionnaires per month, proportionate to the population of the countries under study. The sample in each country is constructed taking into account gender and age quotas in the regions where respondents live (representative by gender, age, income level and place of residence).
In August consumer confidence index of Kazakhstan citizens made 100.3 points, which is slightly lower than in July, but higher in formally positive value.
A noticeable decrease by 4.5 p.p. showed the assessment of favourable current conditions for large purchases: in August, only 38.6% of respondents assessed the situation positively, in July this figure was higher 40.7%. Kazakhstanis assessed the possibility of current and future changes in the personal financial situation slightly lower, but this parameter continues to outpace assessments of the economic situation as a whole. It is worth noting the best result for six months on the indicator of the level of expectations of the economic situation in the future. In August, the share of those who expect the economy to deteriorate within five years decreased from 16.9% to 14.8%.
In August, annual inflation expectedly continued its decline to 13.1%. Inflation expectations of respondents also fell, as well as the assessment it fell even more significantly and showed the lowest result for the entire period of the survey, despite the growing expectations of weakening of tenge against the dollar.
Dynamics of inflation expectations of Kazakhstan citizens in the polls of the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the conducted research is contradictory. The share of respondents expecting strong price growth within one and 12 months decreased by 0.9 and 0.6 p.p., respectively.
According to the National Bank’s research, the number of such respondents increased by 2.1 and 6 p.p., which indicates a significant increase in inflation expectations. The same multidirectional dynamics can be seen in the assessment of current inflation.
Most likely, the reason for the discrepancy lies in the sample of respondents: our survey included both urban and rural residents, while in the National Bank’s survey only urban residents. Therefore, there is a difference in the list of goods and services, which, according to respondents, have increased in price. Our respondents are still concerned about the rise in food prices, while those surveyed by the National Bank especially note the high cost of non-food products and paid services.
In August, monthly inflation was 0.7% slightly higher than in the previous three months. But if we look at the structure, we can trace the absence of average price growth for food products. What cannot be said about paid services they showed intensive price growth of 1.9% mom, which is much higher than the monthly average from January to June 0.8% mom. Most likely, this is the reason for the multidirectional dynamics between the two surveys.
If we consider individual goods and services, we can say that the results of the survey are similar to the data of official statistics on inflation. Respondents naturally noticed a seasonal decrease in prices for fruits and vegetables, as well as a monthly drop in prices for household chemicals, sugar, salt and vegetable oil. The share of those who believe that prices for bread and bakery products, confectionery and milk have increased the most has also noticeably decreased. It should be noted that a slowdown in growth rates can be traced for these products relative to the average value of the previous six months.
Among 22 goods and services, for which Kazakhstanis are least likely to notice a rapid rise in prices, only two commodities stand out, showing an acceleration in growth rates. But in fact, it is rather technical, as prices for vegetable oil earlier fell more slowly. The cost of eggs, although they rose in August, fell by an average of 1.1% each month for the previous six months.
On the other hand, people began to notice the rapid growth of prices for clothes and shoes their share rose from 10.3% to 11.7%, while the price increase in August for these goods amounted to 1% against an average of 0.88% in the previous six months.
In the survey of the National Bank, we also note a change in the perception of price increases for the following goods: fruits and vegetables (the share of those who noted a strong increase increased by 21.6 p.p.), milk (down by 19 p.p.) and housing and utilities services (down by 18.7 p.p.). Taking into account a slight increase in milk prices by 0.4% against the average 1.3% for the period from January to July and a drop in prices for fruits and vegetables by 2.1%, such dynamics is reasonable. But at the same time, housing and communal services officially rose in price by 3% in August. Such a strong growth over the past five years was observed only in September 2022.
Monthly dynamics in the two studies among the 30 goods examined was the same for 20 items. Particularly significant differences can be noted for housing and utilities services, cereals and pasta (despite the slowdown in price growth), electronics and household appliances.
Respondents continue to note the increased prices for housing and utilities services the share of such people increased from 12.1% to 12.8%. Taking into account the inertia and delay in receipt of receipts, it is likely to be expected that the share of those noticing a strong increase in prices for housing and utilities services will remain the same. The situation is the opposite for AI-95 petrol. Due to the fact that the brand is not the most popular, the price growth did not particularly affect the share, which decreased from 14.4% to 12.3%. The same situation in the survey of the National Bank, where the share decreased even more significantly: from 20.5 to 12.9%. The growth of AI-95 petrol prices was 3.9% mom amid shortages in the southern regions.
August showed that Kazakhstanis began to worry more about the dollar exchange rate. The share of those who believe that the rate will rise in a year rose from 52.2% to 54.7%. The share of respondents, expecting dollar growth during the month has significantly increased: from 26.6 to 34%. All this was a consequence of a sharp increase in the volatility of the exchange rate in August. Nevertheless, expectations of dollar growth did not transform into inflation expectations of respondents. But the following questions remain open is this phenomenon temporary and will we see an increase in inflation expectations in September?
The consumer confidence index in Uzbekistan was 136.4 points, which indicates a monthly growth of 2.3 p.p. Also, as in the case of Kazakhstan, we can notice a deterioration in assessments and forecasts of personal financial situation and a parallel improvement in assessments and forecasts of the country’s economic situation. Although the Uzbeks, unlike their northern neighbours, gave a more positive assessment of the favourable conditions for large purchases.
While in July the greatest optimism among all components of the satisfaction index was evoked by the indicator of expectations of changes in personal financial situation, in August the sub-index on expectations of the economic situation in the long term took the palm of superiority.
The share of people who believe that their financial situation will significantly improve has sharply decreased from 50.6% to 40.7%. But if the answer “will improve a little” is taken into account, the overall positive result fell slightly: from 71.9 to 70%. Estimates of changes in personal well-being over the last year have also declined, but not so noticeably. In July there were 25.5% of people who noted a significant improvement in this component, and in August their share dropped to 21.5%.
In July, 52.7% of respondents thought that the economic situation in five years will be good, and in August the share of respondents with a positive forecast rose to 58.8%. The situation with the annual forecast is similar: the number of optimists increased sharply from 46 to 55.2%. The number of respondents who said that the situation will significantly improve has not increased significantly over the past year: in August, 21.3% of respondents said so, which is 0.1% higher than in July.
Annual inflation in Uzbekistan in August remained virtually unchanged at 8.96% against 8.94% in July. This indicator is one of the lowest for the last seven years. Over the month, prices rose by 0.54% on average, while inflation expectations of Uzbeks showed a decline.
The share of those expecting strong price growth during the month fell from 20.3% to 17.2%, and during the year from 33.2% to 29.2%. The proportion of respondents who highly estimate price growth over the past year also decreased significantly: from 46.3 to 42.7%, while in the assessment for the month people rather expressed the opposite opinion.
The percentage of those who noticed a perceptible increase in cost over the month rose from 24.3% to 25.4%, which is probably due to July’s monthly deflation of 0.2%. In August, the price increase was already by 0.54%.
In terms of assessing the cost of individual products, the leaders are still meat and poultry: 61.3% of residents noticed an increase in prices for this commodity. Official statistics indicates an increase in the cost of beef (15%), mutton (14%) and poultry (22%). About 30% of respondents chose the following goods: vegetables and fruits, medicines, construction materials, petrol, sugar, salt and vegetable oil.
According to the Agency of Statistics under the President of Uzbekistan, today we see an acceleration of the annual growth of petrol prices over the month they increased by 2.2 p.p., and medicines and medical products by 0.8 p.p. On the other hand, prices for sunflower oil decreased by 19.1% over the last year, and sugar prices increased by only 3.9%, but residents still note the prices for these goods as one of the fastest growing.
On the similar issue of price growth for individual goods and services, the results of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan and Freedom Finance Global surveys were quite similar. Uzbeks noted strong price increases for meat and milk (45%), petrol and fuel (40%), construction materials (33%), footwear and clothing (29%), fruit and vegetables (25%), medicines (25%), eggs (23%), and sugar and chocolate (23%).
On 10 August, the dollar-to-sum exchange rate rose sharply by 3.5% in one day: from 11,667 to 12,075 soum per $1. This situation probably led to a sharp increase in the number of residents who could not answer the question about the change in the dollar exchange rate. At the expense of this, the share of those who now expect the weakening of the soum has paradoxically decreased: from 54.8 to 47.4% in the horizon of a month and from 69.5 to 62.7% in the horizon of a year. The number of optimists who expected the soum to strengthen against the dollar decreased from 8.1 to 6.1% in the month horizon and from 6.5 to 5.9% in the 12-month horizon.
In Kyrgyzstan, the consumer confidence index stood at 125.4 points, down slightly from July. The fall can be seen in all six sub-indices. The assessment of the current economic situation decreased most strongly by 3.1 points. Expectations of personal financial situation within a year and economic situation within five years have also noticeably worsened by 3 points.
If in July 29.1% of Kyrgyz people assessed the changes in the economy over the past 12 months very positively, in August the share of such people decreased to 25.8%, while the number of pessimists increased from 8.8 to 10.8%.
If we talk about economic expectations within five years, the decrease in the share of such respondents was only 0.2 p.p., but the main change was a decrease in the percentage of cautious optimists from 15.9 to 13.3%. The situation is similar in the issue of expectations of personal financial situation. If the drop in the share of those expecting a significant improvement was 1 p.p., the share of those expecting a slight improvement fell more significantly: by 2 p.p. In general, the sub-indices of Kyrgyzstan showed the most noticeable decline by 3-3.1 points.
Estimates and forecasts of inflation in Kyrgyzstan slightly increased compared to July indicators. Thus, expectations for strong price growth increased by 0.8 p.p. within a month and by 0.5 p.p. within 12 months. Also, the share of those who believe that over the past year prices have grown faster than before has increased by 0.3 p.p. But in the assessment of strong price growth over the last month there is a slight decrease in the share of respondents: from 40 to 39.1%. Annual inflation in Kyrgyzstan continued to decline: from 10.3 to 9.5% in August. It was due to the seasonal fall in fruit prices: by 13.3%. Non-food inflation in Kyrgyzstan remains high and reached 14.6% in August against 14.1% in July and 10.9% 12 months ago.
Among individual goods and services, residents note a strong increase in prices for vegetable oil (56%), fruits and vegetables (54%), cereals and pasta (49%), sugar and salt (48%), meat and poultry (+46%). It can be seen that Kyrgyz people are more concerned about food than non-food products, although official statistics partially disagrees with the opinion of residents, given the 13.3% decrease in the cost of fruit in August. Nevertheless, the annual growth of prices for vegetables continues to remain at 18.2%, having decreased only by 0.6 p.p. in comparison with July. In addition, fruit prices rose so strongly in July (+19.6% mom) that it still influences the opinion of residents.
On the other hand, the prices for bread, cereals and meat on average increased only by 6.7% and 5.5% over the last 12 months, which clearly contradicts the survey results. Although the same rice has increased in price from 86.2 to 142.8 som on average over the last year. Strong growth in the cost of rice is also observed in the rest of Central Asia. Among non-food items, Kyrgyzstani people (20.1%) noticed the most increase in prices for fuels and lubricants, which is not surprising given the 5.5% increase in the price of AI-92 petrol during August.
In August, expectations for weakening of the KGS exchange rate against the dollar changed insignificantly. The share of respondents expecting the dollar to grow during the month increased from 16.7 to 17.6%, and in the horizon of one year such people, on the contrary, became less: from 29.2% in July to 28.8% in August. In general, the dollar appreciated by only 0.5% against the som during August, unlike in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, where the weakening of the national currency was more noticeable. Consequently, the devaluation sentiment of Kyrgyz citizens expectedly remained virtually unchanged.
Consumer confidence index in Tajikistan in August totalled 140.8 points, having significantly increased compared to July, when the first indicator was 134.5 points. In general, all sub-indices, except for the assessment of favourable conditions for large purchases, showed growth.
The assessment of the current economic situation grew most significantly by 14.1 points. Also, the index of expectations for changes in personal financial situation during the year increased by 11.2 points and the assessment of personal financial situation increased by 7.4 points.
In August, the share of respondents who noted the improvement of the economy over the last year increased sharply: from 40.1 to 54.4%. This increase was possible due to a decrease in the share of cautious optimists and neutral respondents. Also, the share of people expecting a significant improvement in their personal financial situation during the year increased significantly: from 36.8% to 46.7%. However, the share of residents who believe that their financial situation improved in August increased insignificantly: from 24.6 to 31.1%.
Inflationary assessments of Tajikistanis have sharply increased compared to July. Thus, the share of those who noticed a very strong rise in prices over the last month rose from 21 to 34.9%, and in the last 12 months from 26.4 to 37.4%. Inflation data for August are not yet available, but annual inflation in Tajikistan fell from 2.4% in June to 2.3% in July. It is still unclear why August’s sharp rise in inflation occurred.
Tajikistanis note the strongest price growth for such goods as: fruits and vegetables (36.6% of respondents), vegetable oil (35%), bread and bakery products (30.4%), meat, poultry (25.8%), petrol (18%), cereals and pasta (17.7%).
For some goods, the official statistics partially coincides with the data obtained by Freedom Finance Global. For example, rice prices for 12 months rose by 58.4% on average, and the annual growth in fruit prices accelerated from 13.9% (June) to 23.2% (July). The magnitude of the price increase for vegetables also remains relatively large at 14.9%.
In general, the low inflation is rather a consequence of a significant reduction in the price of certain goods, such as flour or vegetable oil, which fell in price by 32% and 30% respectively. The decline in flour prices was made possible after the provision of tax and customs incentives, while the phenomenon of vegetable oil, which, despite such a strong fall, still occupies the leading positions, is probably due to the inertia of the residents’ perception.
In 2020, vegetable oil prices rose by as much as 42.3%, and by a further 20.8% in 2021. And even though there is a 10.6% drop in 2022, prices have risen by a cumulative 54% over these three years.
The expectations of Tajikistan’s residents regarding the exchange rate of the dollar to the somoni have changed slightly. The share of those who expect the national currency to weaken during the year increased from 27.4 to 29.6%, and in the horizon of one month such people became more from 20.4% in July to 20.6% in August. The exchange rate itself remained virtually unchanged over August, just below 11 somoni per $1.
Overall, the ranking of the four countries has not changed since July: Tajikistan has consolidated its leadership, while Kyrgyzstan has slightly narrowed the gap with Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, continues to show the lowest score, remaining in the positive zone.
In August, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan showed an increase in consumer confidence, while the other two regional neighbours, on the contrary, showed a slight decline in the CCI index. According to the survey results, we noticed a synchronised decline in estimates and forecasts of personal financial situation in all countries except Tajikistan. However, in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan people are more positive about the prospects and current assessment of the economic situation.
Inflation expectations and assessments have noticeably decreased only in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. High inflation in previous months and its long-awaited reduction in the summer had a positive impact on the residents of these countries. However, respondents still note the growth of prices for some types of food products, some of which have actually increased.
Separate surveys of the central banks of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan indicate similarities in the aspect of goods and services that showed the largest price increases. Analysing Kazakhstan, we notice a difference between the National Bank’s surveys and ours in the issue of inflation estimates and expectations. This is probably due to differences in the sample of respondents and a one-time phenomenon when food prices on average showed no increase, while the cost of paid services rose sharply.
In Uzbekistan, on the other hand, annual inflation fell to a six-year low, and the population showed an increase in optimism on this issue. In Kyrgyzstan, inflation expectations and estimates have changed little, and the first indicators remain the lowest in the region. Most likely, the reason is that the country’s historical average inflation rate is relatively low, while the current inflation rate continues to decline and has reached 9.5%. In Tajikistan, data for August have not yet been released, but in July annual inflation was at a low level of 2.3%. The August survey showed a sharp increase in inflation estimates and expectations of Tajikistanis. Next month we may understand the reason for this phenomenon when the inflation data for August and the survey results for September are available.
The dollar’s appreciation in August on world markets affected only the tenge and Uzbek soum, while the exchange rates in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan changed little. Against the background of dollar growth in Kazakhstan and exchange rate volatility, more people began to expect weakening of the tenge. It should be noted that in Uzbekistan the effect was somewhat different: weakening of the sum caused an increase in the number of people who found it difficult to give an answer.
In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, against the background of stable dynamics of the dollar exchange rate, the local population did not show a significant change in expectations to the dollar.
The second wave of the survey of consumer confidence of residents of four Central Asian countries provided an opportunity to compare indicators in dynamics, including together with official data.
One can notice similarities of varying degrees between the survey results and official statistics, Central Bank surveys and exchange rate dynamics. The next waves of the survey will complement the current picture and will be able to provide a more objective assessment, which may be useful for investors, businesses, government and monetary authorities in Central Asia.
Finally, it is interesting to note the consumer confidence points average 125.7 in the four Central Asian countries featured. This compares with 106.1 in the United States for August 2023 and 47.6 points in the EU during September 2023.
Source: Daniyar Orazbayev for Kursiv. US and EU comparison data by Chris Devonshire-Ellis