Growing disappointment with government policies and anxiety over the future is reflected in this month's consumer confidence index (CCI), which dropped to its lowest level since Dec. 2001, according to a survey released by National Central University yesterday.
The index this month edged down 0.26 points from last month to 67.67, the university's Research Center for Taiwan Economic Development said in the report.
The monthly survey gauges the public's expectations on stock performance, household finances, durable goods, job opportunities, consumer price fluctuations and the economic outlook over the next six months.
Among the six sub-indices, only that for durable goods rose, by 0.3 points to 117.3, the report said. Consumer sentiment for the economic outlook showed the biggest decline, down by 0.7 points to 52.05, it said.
A CCI figure of less than 100 points indicates that the public is pessimistic about the outlook for the next six months, while a score of between 100 and 200 points demonstrates optimism, the center said.
"The result is alarming," said Day Jaw-yang (戴肇洋), deputy director of Research Division III at the Taiwan Research Institute (台綜院), in a phone interview.
The weakening sentiment is mainly attributed to the failure of the Conference on Sustaining Taiwan's Economic Development, which concluded late last month, to reach any breakthrough, especially on much-anticipated cross-strait relations, he said.
"Cross-strait issues are closely related to Taiwan's future development. But the government failed to deal with them [at the conference]," he added.
The report showed that 70.4 percent of the respondents expressed concerns that the domestic economy would get worse over the next six months, compared with 24.5 percent saying it will remain unchanged and 1.1 percent saying it will improve.
The survey interviewed 2,689 people between Aug. 18 and 21 with a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points.
The ongoing political turmoil has eroded people's confidence, Day said.
On the employment front, consumer sentiment for job opportunities declined by 0.65 points to 74.95, according to the survey.