ECONOMY: Global Public Backs Major Reforms

  • by Ali Gharib (washington)
  • Tuesday, March 31, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

Majorities in 20 of the 24 countries polled said that they support 'fundamental reform', according to the study.

The survey of nearly 30,000 people was conducted for the BBC World Service by the polling firm Globescan with the Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.

Averaged across all respondents, only 4 percent thought that no significant reforms are necessary.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to the survey said that they had been affected at least 'a fair amount' by the economic downturn, and half of those said that they have been affected a great deal. The press release accompanying the poll results noted that these numbers have hardly changed since a BBC poll in the middle of last year.

In the G20 countries, a group of the 20 most industrialised nations whose leaders are set to meet at a London summit this week, 15 of which were included in the poll, nearly two-thirds thought that the global economic system will require major changes. Sixty-two percent thought changes are in order for the economic systems of their own countries.

'The poll reveals a global mandate for bold action at this week’s G20 leaders’ summit,' said Globescan’s chairman, Doug Miller, in a press release. 'Results suggest most people see the global economic system as flawed.'

Across all the countries, majorities in most - averaged out to 68 percent - also thought that their own countries needed a major overhaul.

Despite a recent drop in global food prices after a spike last year that raised major concerns, many respondents to the poll said that rising food prices were still affecting their families. Miller called this 'the ‘forgotten crisis’' and said it was 'still having the most negative impact on many people’s lives.'

Majorities of the four countries polled in Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Brazil, and pooled responses from Central America), the two Middle Eastern countries (Turkey, Egypt), and three in Africa (Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana) all had majorities that said they were affected 'a great deal' by food prices. In Kenya, a staggering 91 percent responded this way.

This fits the trend revealed by the survey that people in developing countries are being hit harder by global financial woes than their counterparts in richer countries.

Kenya had the largest percentage saying they had been affected 'a great deal' by the economic downturn, with three-quarters of those surveyed answering this way, and another 18 percent saying they were affected 'a fair amount.'

Ninety-five percent of Egyptians said they had been affected at least 'a little' by the financial slowdown, as did 90 percent of Turks.

In contrast, of the 15 G20 countries included in the survey, an average of only 25 percent said the downturn had affected them 'a great deal', though 80 percent said it had affected them to some degree (30 percent picked 'a fair amount' and 25 percent 'a little').

Remarkably, in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, only three percent of respondents said that the economic downturn had 'a great deal' of effect on them.

In addition to the call for a global economic overhaul, respondents in seven of the 24 countries felt more strongly about fixing their own financial systems at home, responding more often that their own national economy needed major reforms than on the same question for the international system. In Russia, the same percentage of respondents answered for 'major changes' in both questions (47 percent).

India and Japan were the only two countries where less than 40 percent responded for national reforms, and both were among the four countries who did not think that the international economic system needed 'major changes' (though in India, a plurality favoured major reforms).

Of those who said that they or their families had been affected by the economic downturn, 45 percent said that they thought the crisis would last more than two years and 46 percent thought that the economy will recover sooner than that. Five percent said it would never recover.

Respondents in Indonesia were the most optimistic, with 60 percent of those surveyed replying that they thought the economy would improve within the next six months. China, where 50 percent of respondents gave the same answer, was second in that regard.

Of those who said they were affected by economic troubles, respondents in Japan (33 percent), Kenya (29), Germany (28), and Portugal (24) were the most pessimistic, saying that they expected the downturn to last more than three years.

In an average of the 15 G20 countries, 19 percent thought that things would get better in less than six months, a quarter chose within a year, 30 percent said they expected recovery to take two to three years, and 13 percent said more than three years.

One of the major catalysts for the now wider economic downturn, the so-called credit crunch, where banks were no longer lending, has itself significantly affected a large number of people, according to the survey. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said that the credit shortage has affected them at least 'a fair amount.' Of those, slightly less than half said it had affected them 'a great deal.'

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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