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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - The economic downturn appears to go down better with a meal and a glass of wine, with a survey showing consumers outside Europe and the United States do not intend to cut back on dining out and having fun.
The poll, conducted by MasterCard and released on Wednesday, said nearly 70 percent of people surveyed in 21 countries in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa see dining and entertainment to be their top spending priority in the next six months.
Fashion and accessories, fitness and wellness, children's extra-curricular education and electronic goods rounded up the top-five non-essential, or discretionary, purchasing priorities for the majority of more than 9,200 people surveyed.
"Socializing is important in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and it's a relatively small expenditure that's affordable in this global recession," Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, MasterCard's Asia-Pacific economic adviser, told reporters.
"Having dinner and drinks is not buying a car."
According to the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Purchasing Priorities, just over half the consumers said they would continue to spend on non-essential items over the next six months.
But nearly two-thirds said they would cut back on buying extras, with an overall 72 percent planning to increase their precautionary savings, or money set aside for lean times.
China, whose economy has not been as badly hit by the downturn as other nations, had the highest number of people still willing to spend at the same levels, followed by the oil-rich Gulf Arab countries of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Overall, a minority -- or under 10 percent in Asia Pacific and less than 12 percent in the Middle East and Africa -- were splurging more during these tough times.
"People are still spending on small and big-ticket items, but they're spending less, and are attracted by bargains," Hedrick-Wong said. "Belt-tightening is the order of the day."
The survey was conducted in March and April in Australia, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.