Belizean Economy shrinks by 2% in first quarter

The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) released a battery of economic statistics during a press conference today in Belize City. The big headline is that the economy shrank 2 percent in the first quarter, primarily due to a slowdown in agriculture, marine production and manufacturing, which form part of Belize’s primary and secondary industries. Statistician Jefte Ochaeta breaks down the bad news:

Jefte Ochaeta, Statistician S.I.B

“Belize produced goods and services totaling seven hundred and eighteen million dollars in the period of January to March 2016, vlcsnap-2016-06-30-17h15m41s649which is a decrease of fourteen point seven million dollars from the same period in 2015.  If we are going to represent that in percentages, that’s a two percent decrease.  So we had a drop in production of two percent.  So this graph here can show you a series of how throughout the years, in the first quarter we have a positive growth starting from 2011, 2014 and we have a minimal decrease in 2014.”

Meanwhile, inflation continues to rise against last year’s figures, according to statistician Angelita Campbell:

Angelita Campbell, Statistician S.I.B

“The food and non-alcoholic beverages category went up by zero point four percent, along with housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels going up by one point six percent, as well as we have the all other categories of goods and services going up by one point six percent.  We have the transport category going down by zero point nine percent, all contributing to a one percent increase in vlcsnap-2016-06-30-17h17m03s148inflation.  In the food and non-alcoholic beverages category we saw a variation across the prices of food.  For instance, we have beef going up by seven point two percent, pork going up by six point two percent; however, we had chicken going down by two point six percent.  We have cabbage going up by thirty-four percent, onion going down by minus eight point six percent, sweet pepper also went down by thirty-eight point seven percent and we have the continued downward trend of red kidney beans of two point three percent.”

All municipalities recorded an increase in consumer prices during the month of May 2016. Corozal Town and Punta Gorda had the highest inflation rates, both at 2 percent; San Ignacio/Santa Elena Town and Dangriga had the lowest rates of inflation for the month, at only 0.4 percent each. Meanwhile, after four months of poor performance on both sides of the trade balance, both imports, by 8 percent, and exports, by 17 percent rose in May. However, Belize’s “big five” exports have still performed poorly in the first five months of the year, as compared to only a slight decrease for imports, as explained by statistician Tiffany Vasquez:

Tiffany Vasquez, Statistician S.I.B

“For the period January to May of this year, Belize’s imports were valued at eight hundred and six point nine million dollars.  This represents a marginal point three percent or a two point three-million-dollar decrease from the same period last year.  Such a vlcsnap-2016-06-30-17h18m21s024negligible decrease was the result of large contrasting changes among five main categories.  Imports of minerals, fuels and lubricants and goods destined for the export processing zones and commercial free zones saw the greatest decline over the period, only to be offset by rising imports of food and live animals and machinery and transport equipment.  The minerals, fuels and lubricants category fell by thirty-four million dollars, despite an upward turn in world market prices, as fuel prices remain lower than those a year ago.”

 Imports slipped by just 3 tenths of a percent. So how is all of this affecting employment? In April 2016 there were a total of 146,918 employed persons in the country of Belize. This represented a considerable increase of 8,773 persons over April of 2015, when a total of 138,145 employed persons was recorded. The national unemployment rate stood at 8 percent, down 2 percentage points from April 2015, and was the first single digit unemployment rate recorded in almost a decade. The median monthly salary for employed persons was $1,192, almost unchanged from one year ago. The September unemployment rate was 10.2 percent. Continuing trends include more women being unemployed and underemployed; more men than women got jobs in the year since the last April Labour Force Survey.

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